Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Grotto

Been going to Grotto a lot lately for work.  Just because it's pretty centrally located for the offices in the area.
 Got the antipasto plate again, this time we were sold by our server to get the seafood platter.  Which has calamari, shrimp with white sauce, clam, and crab legs.
 For entree, I got the sea bass, mainly because it came with the lobster ravioli.  The ravioli was good, definitely did not skim on the lobster meat.  The sea bass, amazingly is not bad either.  It was nice and well done.  Seasoned perfectly well, laying on top of a bed of spinach for balance, it was nice and not too heavy.
To top off the evening, I got the tiramisu, which I heard it on Rick Steve's NPR show, that it meant 'pick me up'.  And I know why, with the coffee and the chocolate, it should be picking you up.  It was delicious, and I sadly did not finish it.  Just too much food, but sure was delicious.

Grotto
4715 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77027
713-622-3663
http://www.grottorestaurants.com

Monday, May 22, 2017

Ramen Jinya

Went to have a meeting at Ramen Jinya.
Since it was Ramen themed meeting, it's only appropriate.  Now, granted the place is really not good for more than say 6 people to converse because the place just not conducive for that.  But the place is so centrally located and the food is good, why not.
We shared the brussel sprouts.  Seriously, had we have those growing up, I'd eat more of it.  They are tempura-ed and it's nice and crunchy.  Having truffle oil on top of it helped too, luckily not drenching in it, but definitely helped boost the taste buds.
Ahh.... the bowl I'm here for...
I got the Cha Cha Cha, actually, this is the first time of me getting this.  This is more garlic friendly.  The broth is lighter than the pork broth, per the menu it's a pork and fish broth.  They give you a full egg, which I love, and not many places do.  They have chopped onion, green onion, bean sprout and cha siu.  I ordered extra cha siu since I always felt like not enough meat.  That said, I really need just one more slice but an order comes with 2, then I'll take it!

Their service, despite however busy they are, still keep up with the crowd.  We were at no point neglected.  They come and check on us, make sure our food gets there together.  We don't feel rush even though I know they're dying to turn the table over for more people to be seated, mind you, we were there on a Monday night and they're pretty busy.  Go early, right before dinner prime time, and you'll be able to get seated reasonably.

Ramen Jinya
3201 Louisiana
Houston, TX 77002
832-925-8596
http://jinya-ramenbar.com/


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Yokushi Robata

Heard about a new Japanese place, as it turns out, it is owned by the same folks that runs Sushi Wabi.  
That's super convenient, since they're right down the strip center.  This is more Izakaya style, bar with snacks... so most all the food is in tapas style.
First up, fries.... cute looking, eh?
They are actually purple yam fries.  Basically sweet potato fries, but with some texture to it.
This is eel skewers, very filling, especially with all the sweet eel sauce.
Here's the pork belly.  Very filling, and nicely marinated, by the time they put the accouterment on top, it came together nicely.
Chicken skin, sounded good, as I also have experience with them but this robata version wasn't worth writing about.
Scallop skewers, they're actually much smaller than I expected or from the picture.... hmm.
Bacon wrapped asparagus... of course, bacon wrapped anything can't go wrong.
This is an off menu item, it's onigiri (rice ball) with salmon inside and fried.  So, lesson learned here, it looked good on paper, but not really in actuality.  The rice fried is stickier than usual, and as the outer shell formed, it is hard to bite into it without all the food sticking to you.  So, execution was difficult.  I just ended up opening up the ball and ate the salmon.

Overall, this is a neat experience, they make it super easy to order the skewers one kind at a time, so you can try a variety of food.  Now mind you, they do come in small doses, so you ended up ordering more than your tummy can fit because in your mind, you think they're small portion but they do add up.  

The menu also has ramen, rice, poke bowl and curry rice, which is what I'm coming back for.  Let's just say with that variety, there's something for everyone, you won't go hungry.  They don't have any special for Happy Hour like Sushi Wabi, but heck, the entire place is a happy hour bar... prices aren't bad, you just need to make sure your eyes aren't bigger than your stomach is all.

Yokushi Robata
3837 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77027
832-933-6888
http://www.yokushirobata.com/

Monday, May 15, 2017

Yauatcha

Went back to Yauatcha for Mother's Day.
I was smart and made reservation on Open Table far in advance.  As a matter of fact, overheard the hostess trying to help someone but they were fully booked.
Got the Grape Cha again, it was very delicious and refreshing last time... 
... and this time too.  I just love how pretty it is.
 Got the Venison Puff again.  This time the venison is more like a stew consistency than the last time, which last time reminded me greatly of pork.  That said, the shell is still very well made and delicious.
 And also repeat encore for the beancurd and prawn rice noodle.  It is very much like the fried Chinese donut wrapped in rice noodle, but the beancurd skin fried stuffed with shrimp inside and then they wrap the rice noodle over it.  Very good, not a tad soggy.
 Here's the XO Scallop Dumpling.  I like the skin of these dumpling, like glass you can see thru the filling... of course not literally.  The sauce has a tad of spice to it, from the XO sauce.  The inside are all chopped up with scallop and veggie.  Nice and steamy.
 Got the Shanghai Soup Dumpling, and they brought us side dishes too.  Don't remember those last time, but the little green one was house made pickle.  The soup dumpling is pretty meaty.  It has yummy soup inside.
 Three mushroom and hand pulled noodles.  It's very well done, so much so that the table next to us were asking what it was and ordered it.  It has heat from the wok for sure.  And while I didn't count the mushroom, you can taste it, and along with scallion, sprout, it was very nice as a top off.
For Dessert, I got the Raspberry Delice, it is a chocolate mousse cake with raspberry shell on the outside.  It's nice, the raspberry shell gives the chocolate mousse a little zing and you grab a bit of the ice cream for balance.  The ice cream is lychee flavor, and it tasted more fresh than I had expected.  Now granted, I don't get a lot of lychee flavored anything.  Not for any reason, just not widely available wherever I go...

This time the service is not as top notch as the first time.  After we had sat down, we waited good 5-8 mins before we got someone's attention to give us a menu and water.  That's very unusual, plus it was not busy yet.  You see staff available, so we were quite confused about that.  Once we placed our order, food started to come and that worked out much better after that.

Yauatcha
5045 Westheimer Rd
Houston, TX 77056
713-357-7588
http://www.yauatcha.com/houston/

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ritual

Happenstance that brought me to Ritual, been meaning to give them a try.
I've heard a lot about their burger, but was very curious about their steak.
But first, let's get a glass of wine.
Per our server's recommendation, we got the hush puppies, but this is like no other hush puppy I've ever had.  First off, this is made with sourdough, and then it has this jalapeƱo sauce that combined with it is more like a sweet and sour sauce.  So, you soak some of that sauce and the hush puppy is not super fried, it was actually pretty good.  I was surprised.
For that night, they were having the off menu 60 day aged tomahawk steak.  This is the before photo
This is the after photo.  You really want to take the bone home as a souvenir and show off to your friend that you ate that.  Don't worry, we split it so I didn't hoard it all.  That said, per butcher and chef's recommendation, they cooked it medium and it was not chewy at all, and delightfully delicious.  Because they cut it for you, you don't realize you're consuming all that steak, especially when that was not super filling until you're done eating.
And you need some veggies, right?  We got the seasonal veggie which was grilled brussels sprouts with bacon and walnuts.  If they have this growing up, I'd eat more brussels sprouts. 
To end the meal, which we did save some room for dessert, we got the apple oatmeal pie.  It has vanilla ice cream ala mode with caramel sauce on top.  Totally awesome, and not too over the top.  Perfect end of the evening.  I thoroughly enjoyed that meal.

Basically, we have an awesome server who guided us with the entire order.  He would tell us what the butler has on top shelf (just like alcohol, the good stuff), and while it is off menu and you pay a bit more, it's definitely worth its weight on quality.  They also are so well verse that you can tell them your preference and they can make the appropriate pairing or recommendation.  We just loved the experience so much.  Definitely go back.  We lucked out as we just walked in, but for a prime time dinner time, reservation is highly recommended.

Ritual
602 Studewood
Houston, TX 77007
832-203-5180
http://www.ritualhouston.com/

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sonoma Wine Bar

Met up with the Mom friends for a much needed Happy Hour.
This time we gathered at Sonoma, last time I was here was then they first opened.  That's been quite some time.
Got the popcorn, I saw that they have parmesan figured give that a shot.  Turns out, they just put parmesan shaving on top, the popcorn wasn't warm enough to melt any of it.  So you're essentially grabbing a handful of cheese and popcorn, as opposed to popcorn that has cheese already melted on.
The baked brie with honey was a good dish to get.  The honey is melty with the cheesy gooey on top of a cracker, and a bit of the fig jam, it's a delight.  Definitely recommend this.
Yummy artichoke dip, basically you cannot mess this one up.  It's good for what it is, a sip of wine, a bite of dip.  I will say that I was surprised to see kale and bell pepper in there, but it wasn't bad at all.
Lastly, we shared a dish of the meatballs, have to have some protein and call it a meal.  It's not bad, the sauce is great for the bread soaking.  And it does fill you up with the cheese.  This is a mix of beef and pork and kale.  (Man, they're very into kale for some reason)  But I appreciate the melted mozzarella more than anything for sure.

Sadly, this is also a not-so-great Happy Hour experience.  Even though our table is next to the bar, we weren't really attended to when the bar started to get busy and the tables started to fill.  We were essentially in no man's land.  The servers all thought our table is someone else's.  We ordered wine and food and at one point they just didn't remember it.  I ordered Moscato by the glass and basically by the 3rd glass I was informed that that was the last one that they had.  Hmm... And forget trying to get our check, that took just as long.  The only person that attended to us well was the person that was filling our water.  Sigh.

You can park in front, and during Happy Hour, you can park next door at the home decor's parking lot, since they're closed.  They do have tables out front to enjoy the weather, couldn't hurt to get there early either way.

Sonoma Wine Bar
2720 Richmond Ave
Houston, TX 77098
713-526-9463
https://www.sonomahouston.com/sonoma-in-upper-kirby/

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Coco Crepes

I love going to Coco's.   First of all, parking is convenient, no meter in the village.
You can always catch the owner working hard.  He is one of the friendlier owners I've seen.  Plus, I like supporting local and small businesses.
I got the Nutella with banana... it was simple and easy.  No frills, straight forward and done well.  That said, I can get the gluten free version here for an extra 1.50 but the batter is done well and not heavy and tasted good.  I highly recommend that as an alternative!

Of course, I got a Mocha to go with my personal chocolate fest.  With the nice weather, the doors open, enjoying a cup of coffee, a crepe, can't ask for more in life.

Coco Crepes
2339 University Blvd
Houston, TX 77005
346-980-5525
http://www.cococrepes.com/rice-village/