Lone Stars: visit Houston’s havens of culinary excellence
Before you hit the town for Super Bowl Week, be sure to take in Houston’s local culinary excellence. Tell ’em we sent you.
Coppa Osteria is an Italian trattoria with a flair that provides guests with the perfect pairing of food and lifestyle. The Dough Room, where the pastas and pizza dough are handmade on a daily basis, takes center stage. Chef Brandi Key’s Neapolitan-inspired pizzas are some of the most popular items on the menu – the Coppa “Ham & Eggs” and Carnissima are crowd favorites. Diners also love the Steamed Mussels served in a white wine & garlic broth that you’ll be compelled to soak up with your crisp garlic toast. The tableside preparation of the Spaghetti Carbonara allows you to watch this classic dish come together right from your seat. The tangles of butter-drenched spaghetti are seasoned with salt, black pepper and parsley, and layered with salumi toscano and shredded Parmesan cheese, then topped with a raw egg yolk. Prepare to dig in after your server tosses everything together with hot Parmesan cream sauce until the yolk is cooked.
5210 Morningside Dr., Houston, TX 77005; (713) 522-3535; coppaosteriahouston.com
The culinary talents of chef and sushi master Tyson Cole are showcased at Uchi in Houston, as well as at four other award-winning restaurants in Texas. Chef Cole’s menu at Uchi expands on the Japanese tradition, blending seasonal ingredients with global influences to create an original menu that promises “the perfect bite.” Uchi maintains close relationships with local farmers and also flies in seafood every day from both Fukuoka and Tsukiji markets in Japan. Try a few items on the “Sake Social” menu (served daily from 5-6:30 pm) or treat yourself to the ten-course Chef’s Tasting for dinner. One of Chef Cole’s more fanciful – and popular – creations is Machi Cure (smoked yellowtail, yucca crisp and marcona almond) – also known to Uchi regulars as “Japanese nachos.” And, be sure to get an order (or two) of the Fried Brussels Sprouts, which are bursting with the polarizing flavors of caramelized fish sauce and Korean chili flakes.
904 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77006; (713) 522-4808; uchirestaurants.com
Imagine a 100-year-old log cabin restaurant on an acre of grounds right in the middle of Houston. That’s Rainbow Lodge. For over 30 years the restaurant has been treating food lovers to succulent wild game and regional Gulf seafood in its signature cozy lodge. The antique hunting and fishing collectibles highlight owner Donnette Hansen’s passion for fly fishing, the outdoors, delicious food and fantastic wines. Start your meal with the long-time customer favorite Smoked Duck Gumbo with Andouille sausage and wild rice pilaf, or the tantalizing Fried Texas Quail Bites served with white cheddar organic grits and bourbon bacon gravy. Save room for one of many delicious entrees such as Rainbow Trout with Lump Crab and Pecan Brown Butter served with crispy sweet potato curls and roasted garlic sautéed kale, or the Decadent Lobster Thermidor, which includes a whole Maine lobster and oyster mushrooms, Cognac, and asparagus finished tableside with Dijon mousseline.
2011 Ella Blvd, Houston, TX 77008; (713) 861-8666; rainbow-lodge.com
Underbelly tells the story of Houston food from the perspective of the city’s biggest cheerleader, Chef Chris Shepherd. Chris calls Houston the “new American Creole city of the South,” since it’s a city of immigrants that has become the most diverse place in the entire United States. Underbelly’s menu emphasizes local resources: seasonal produce, by-catch seafood from the Gulf, and under-utilized cuts of meat. Don’t miss the Korean Braised Goat & Dumplings, which is the Chef’s favorite item on the menu (and if you can’t make it to Houston, try making it yourself with the recipe in this issue of AQ). The menu changes daily, but a few things you might be able to try are Roasted Guinea Hen with Sweet Potato Salad and Red Eye Gravy or the Cha Ca Style Snapper with Dill, Peanuts and Rice Noodle. Sit at the 35-seat community table running parallel to the kitchen line, so you can swap stories with Chef Chris and the crew.
1100 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77006; (713) 528-9800; underbellyhouston.com