Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sauté World Bistro: Where Are They Going with their Food?

I was thrilled when I got the invitation to attend a free sampling dinner for food bloggers at the two-month old Sauté Bistro. I have drank excellent free-trade tea and eaten at their first Houston restaurant, Té. Therefore I was looking forward to eating at one of similar ilk with a more expanded menu.

The place is pretty, built originally as a house and added on to over the years, it left its domestic heritage behind and has been used as a restaurant for a while. The venue, albeit a bit noisy where we sat in the front room, is charming.

On a frigid Tuesday evening, about twelve of us bloggers gathered to try Sauté‘s menu and a few new dishes which the restaurant choose for us. As I entered, I was greeted warmly by one of the owners, Kevin Lacobie and we were later joined by his wife, co-owner Connie Lacobie. The chef, Garry Hollie, who comes from New Orleans, presented and explained each course.

I wanted to love this restaurant for many reasons, most notably the graciousness of the owners, their philosophy of using local ingredients and the comfortable interior of the building. The location on Richmond near Kirby and next to Blue Fish and the Hobbit seems like a place that would get a decent amount of traffic.

First of all the place was fairly empty. A scene I am starting to notice more and more as I dine out during the week. Perhaps Houston is finally feeling the consequences of the current economic slide and people are starting to eat out less. If this is so, it is now a more difficult time for new restaurants to survive.

At Sauté the eclectic menu features dishes influenced by a variety of food cultures including; Asia, the Mediterranean, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United States.

But instead of feeling like I was on a journey through variety of world cuisines, I felt like I was sampling a hodgepodge of highly or not spiced foods. There was not one dish, beyond the Mexican chocolate cake, that married the flavors of a particular cuisine seamlessly with all the ingredients. Additionally the menu we sampled was heavy on spice, protein and starch – where were the vegetables?

Please keep in mind that as guests of the restaurant, the menu was chosen for us. I personally would not have picked the mix of dishes we had for a group like ours and this may had been one of the fatal flaw of the evening.

We began with an aperitif, a “Teatini” called Aloha Sunrise Waikiki, made with tea, tequila, orange juice, and simple sugar. It was yummy, with a good balance of flavors that were not overpowering. This drink worked.

During our meal we tasted two reasonably priced wines one a Casa Nostra, a French Rosé ($32) and a Ca ‘del Santo, Italian Pinto Grigio ($28). They both paired nicely with the food, but we could have used a wine bucket to keep them cooler.

Our first course was a current menu item, the spicy chicken pastelitos with salsa verde and sweet chili sauce on the side. The pastelitos tasted mainly of pastry and spices, I could hardly make out the flavor of the meat and if there were any other ingredients stuffed inside.

Next we were presented with two small pieces of bread with melted gorgonzola cheese and honey drizzled on it. I found it tasty but too sweet. It was curious to me why we received them as a separate course, as a piece of the bread shows up later as an accompaniment to a pasta dish and no bread was ever served during the meal.

I truly disliked the cold Crab Salad with Crispy Wonton. The crab meat tasted fishy, the melted Parmesan cheese was cold on the top of the crab meat mixture and it was served in a fried wonton. The taste of the crabmeat was more similar to canned crabmeat than fresh, perhaps it was old?

The chef’s love affair with fried food continued, I was willing to say stop – none of the fried foods I had so far were worth the extra calories frying adds, but no we were continuing. Voila, the cheese steak eggrolls.

I found them soggy. I could hardly taste the mushrooms or make out the flavor of the cheese. It is served with a cheese dipping sauce on the side and had the flavor of the kind of sauce one expects on Fettuccine Alfredo.

At this point, I am getting hungry. I have not finished a course yet and I thinking when are we are getting a green salad or a vegetable dish to balance the protein and carbohydrate heavy meal we have been consuming. Perhaps I should be eating the leafy green vegetable under the eggrolls? But I choose to drink a little more wine, which is fruit, is it not?

The Creole Pasta had one piece each of shrimp and crawfish. The dish comes with a somewhat over the top peppery cream sauce. That overly sweet bread with cheese and honey has returned, sitting on the rim of the bowl.

Now I am starting to think what kind of vegetables do I have at home and will I have the energy to cook them? I pray silently to myself, asking the gods of food to provide us with some sort of vegetable or salad for the next course.

But no, what comes next is a real surprise, Alligator Piccata with Forbidden Rice , a Cajun-Chinese fusion dish. I taste lemon, as I should, but the dish is garnished with lime. The picatta breading is cooked perfectly. Tell me, what was the point of using alligator when it did not add anything special to the dish? Tasting a bit more, I could tell that the picatta was a little to salty for me and the rice is bland. Some of the plates around me have capers on them; my plate looked like it had one, although the rest may have ducked under the rice.

The dessert choices were more of a hit with me. The Banana Layer Cake with fresh fruit was decent.

I really enjoyed the Mexican Spice Cake.

My advice is simple; do what you do best. Té on Fairview works well. Ask yourself why?

The menu at Sauté is all over the place. I could not really click with the what the meaning of world bistro theme was in any positive light. The owners and or chef of Sauté need to figure out who their clientèle is and cater to them.

Furthermore, upon reflection, Sauté left me confused. Confused as to what the intention of calling the restaurant a "World Bistro" really meant? Confused as to who are the target customers? Confused about the meaning of the web tag line: Dining Drinks Dancing?

I want to support restaurants that are committed to using local fresh foods, and local chefs who are taking a chance but at this point I am not ready to support Sauté.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Asia Market - Sometimes You Need to Find the Right Things to Order

At Bedford on Monday, Elizabeth and Bao said that they loved Asia Market in the Heights and thought I should give it another chance.

Despite the fact that I am over a month behind in writing anything about restaurants, I wanted to tell you right away that I picked up some great Thai food this evening. As I drove to Asia Market in a surreal (because it is Houston) snow storm (okay light flurries but real snow), I thought this is crazy, but I was driven to go.

I ordered everything medium Thai spicy, which was very much to my liking. I had the Aythaya Pad Thai with tofu, dried shrimp, and chicken. The menu said there were fresh shrimp in the dish, but I never found them, Perhaps they are in the leftovers? Pad Thai use to be my bellwether when it came to measuring up the quality of Thai food, but over the years I have had such lousy, overly sweet Pad Thai, I gave up up on this notion. Asia Market's version of Pad Thai has restored my faith. It was perfectly cooked and a flavorful blend of spices meat,

By the way Aythaya or Ayutthaya was a Thai Kingdom from the 14th - 18th centuries. It incorporated many of the Shan states, including parts of modern day Thailand, Myamar, Laos, Yunnan provence in China, Cambodia, and Malayasia.

For the second course, I had the Kang Ped Nor Mai, a red curry with just enough after burn to tickle my palate. It was a flavorful mixture which included eggplant, bamboo shoots and pork. Next time I need to order the sticky rice instead of the white rice, as I enjoy the consistency of sticky rice for a change and I do nto make it at home.

For the last course I had Som Tum, a spicy shredded papaya salad with tomatoes, dried shrimp and whole peanuts. Tum rhymes with yum and I think it may be a synonym for this dish!

To drink, I decided I did not want tea and instead had my new favorite soda: DRY Lavender. With it's subdued sweetness and slight effervescence, it works very nicely with spicy Asian food.

Once again I over ordered, as I think I have enough left over for at least two more meals.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Less Ambitious

I give up, I'll never catch up with the restaurants I have been to in the last month. Although, I will try to write something brief soon.

There is just too much going on and not enough time. I am glad to complain about that, rather than being bored!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Life is Delicious, But I Have Been Very Busy

My apologies that I have not written in such a long time. I have a few outstanding meals that I need to write-up. Including a seven course meal by an weekend only local Chef and blogger, who cooked up an exciting array of delectable treats a few weeks ago, my first visit to Rainbow Lodge with Chef Randy Rucker at the helm, and a fantastic chowdown and fundraiser at Himialya put together by Chef Kaiser Lashkara.

I suspect you will not hear form me until Thanksgiving next week.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pig Roast at Feast: The Story of Deux Petits Cochons Joined by a Bunch of Houston Chowhounds

Last night I had the pleasure of dining with my Houston Chowhound friends at Feast. There were about thirty of us at four different tables in the private rooms upstairs. We were fortunate to have a cool Houston evening to accompany the festivities and we were able to hang out on the balcony as well.

We gathered to celebrate the birthday of fellow HouCHie JavaPeg. What a celebration we had, sampling, or should I say stuffing ourselves with food from Feast.

Feast: 219 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77006 713.529.7788



(top to bottom) Pork Back Fat, Chicken Liver with Gherkins, Welsh Rabbit or Rarebit,Sweetbreads with Horseradish and Sweet Potatoes

First Course:

Baked Scallops


Garden Salad (not pictured) and Pork Cheek Salad with Dandelion Greens and Pork Fat Croutons


Roast Pig and Braised Lamb Shanks

Side Dishes:

Brussel Sprouts, Carrots, Kale with Anchovies, Mashed Potatoes and Stuffing


Peach and Date Crumble with Vanilla Custard

Quick Critique -

I like the slightly spicy Welsh Rabbit (no rabbit in it) or Rarebit, loved the Chicken Liver, the sweetbreads were overpowered by the horseradish and so difficult to eat that I saw one go flying across the room and Pork Fat - very different and tasty.

The baked scallops in a cheesy béchamel sauce served on scallop shells were delicious, but could have been a bit warmer (despite the fact that I went back for seconds and thirds.)

The garden salad was fresh and crisp but slightly underdressed.

The pork salad was outrageous, crunchy from the pork and earthy from the greens.

The roast pig was moist and delicious. We had a lot of fun eating through the head, I got to eat one of the ears and some of the check, other were diving in for parts unknown to me as edible in the past (let’s leave it at that.)

The lamb shank was a winner, spiced with mace and juniper and so delicate the meat fell off the bone.

The side dishes were wonderful. We all were raving over the brussel sprouts and the kale with anchovies. The stuffing and mashed potatoes were also good, just not the center of attention at my table. The carrots were pretty and cooked simply.

By the time the dessert of Peach and Date Crumble with Vanilla Custard came around, I could hardly eat another bite. Despite the fact that I was disappointed it was not a chocolate dessert, I loved the warm, fruity and not to sweet taste of the cobbler, the way the flavors blended together, as well as the silky texture of the dessert.

The service was excellent and of course the company, it can not get much better.

Now I am forced to go eat the leftovers, sorry you can not join me in my second feast in two days.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Kooce Foodie Fundraiser Coming Up Thursday, 10/23

Do you want to eat well and donate money to a worthy cause?

Join fellow Houstonians at The Beacon for a benefit for James Koonce and his 4-year old daughter who were both badly burned in the fire at Brennen’s in September.

Date and Time: Thursday, October 23, 4:30 to 7:30

Cost: Suggested donation: $100

Enjoy the cuisine from some of Houston’s top Chefs, all under one roof as they join together to help raise money for the Koonces:

  • Ojan Bagher: 360
  • Jeff Boudreaux: Brasserie Max & Julie
  • Brian Caswell: Reef
  • James Cole:Flemmings
  • Mark Cox: Mark’s
  • Levi Goode: Goode Company Seafood
  • Jeffrey Everts: Olivette - Houstonian
  • Mark Holley: Pesce
  • Jonathan Jones: Beavers
  • David Lunas:Shade
  • Hugo Ortega: Hugo’s
  • Wes Morton: 17 at the Alden
  • Ryan Pera: The Grove
  • Monica Pope: Tafia
  • Chris Shepherd: Catalan

The Beacon is located at 1212 Prairie Street

Free Parking is available on-site at 515 San Jacinto Street

For more information: or email:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Congratulations Voice on Making Esquire's Best New Resturants of 2008 List

I am glad to see that Voice made the list. To see more details go to Cleverley's Blog.

Houston is fortunate to have such innovative chefs like Michael Kramer. When you get a chance head on over to Hotel Icon and make a visit to Voice . If you do not want a full meal, do what I do, stop off at the lounge for some yummy drinks and appetizers or splurge go for the full meal. I do not think you will be disappointed.

For a treat, award winning chef Albert Roux will be cooking a special dinner with Chef Kramer at Voice on Thursday, October 23, for details go to Voice Box. The dinner will take place in Voice's wine cellar with a view of the kitchen.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sawadee Ka (Welcome) to Asia Market: Restaurant and Grocery Store

I had read and heard many good things about Asia Market, a Thai Grocery Store and small restaurant in The Heights. Today I ventured out to see what it is all about. Having been to Southeast Asia a half a dozen times and on many of the trips I visited Thailand, I am quite familiar with authentic Thai cuisine. I am use to eating street food and at low end restaurants, so when I read all the reviews I was expecting something akin to that quality.

I drove to Asia Market all excited because I was expecting a little bit of Bangkok in Houston. What I found was a very friendly Mom and Pop Thai grocery store, a small cooking area in the back and six tables for customers to eat at. It did feel a little bit like a small town store outside of Bangkok, and it had have some of the items that I buy in Thailand, both on the grocery side when I am cooking there and some of the medicine I always bring back.

There was a limited supply of food on the shelves and in the refrigerated cases, but I know that they recently got their power back after Hurricane Ike, so I expect that a stop there in another month would be enable me to better judge what they carry in the fresh and frozen area of the store.

My visit today was to take out food. I was warmly greeted by the man at the register and which is where you order your food. They have a wide variety of dishes, from Thai salads, soup, noodles, rice, curry, and stir fry. Most dishes cost between $5.95 and $7.95. With three pages of items to choose from, I decided to limit myself to two today.

I ordered B2. Tom Yum, hot and sour soup, with shrimp and C4. Kee Mao Noodle, flat rice noodles with pork, basil, garlic and chili sauce. I asked for both medium hot. The dishes were well prepared, but more on the cautious side of medium hot, which means they were not as hot as I expected (the degree of spice, obviously is personal, I would rather err on the side of not enough on my first visit.) The portions were decent but not overly generous. The food was authentic, fresh, and decently prepared but nothing spectacular – it was good enough for what it is suppose to be, that is a good value for the price.

The Tom Yum came with small shrimp and had strong overtones of lemon grass. It had a great aroma and a wonderful taste. I was reminded why I do not order that soup often, it is always more broth than ingredients to eat and I like a more “meaty” soup. My rice noodles, Kee Mao Noodle were perfectly cooked slightly chewy with sliced pieces of pork and I think some egg. I liked this dish better than the soup, which was a personal preference for the noodle dish over the soup and not reflective of the quality of one dish over the other.

They are open Tuesday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

I definitely plan to go back and try different things in the near future. The portions were decent (but not overly generous), the food was authentic, fresh, and well prepared but nothing spectacular – it was good enough for what it is suppose to be, that is a good value for the price. As I mentioned earlier they were very friendly, which is something I have enjoyed on all my visits to Thailand and that made me think about when I was heading back to that part of the world again…

Update 10/09/08: I went back and ordered for take out Laab, Papaya Salad and Stir Fried Greens. I also picked up a Mung Bean dessert. The Thai Papaya Salad and dessert were good, the rest was so-so, the best I can say about the food, is that it was fresh and cheap, $21 for the whole meal and it is enough for at least three meals for me. They are close by and friendly, which means I will keep trying things on their menu, hoping I found the best things there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tenacity Supper Club: Thursday September 4, 2008

I will continue to say, as much as you are willing to listen, that if you are looking for some of the best and most innovative food that Houston has to offer, look no further than Chef Randy Rucker's Tenacity Supper Club. Certainly, I am not the first to say this and I am sure I will not be the last.

On Thursday, September 4, I once again attended a delicious Tenacity dinner. But the experience is more than well preparded food, it is the presentation, Randy's description, and the venue, which this time was Modern B&B.

As I began each course, the flavors of the foods burst with freshness and combine to make a symphony in my mouth. I am grateful that the dinners are not rushed, so I have time to recover from the assault of the wonderful sensations that wash over me as I eat each course.

If you have not tried one of the Tenacity Dinners, there are several coming up soon.


Menu and Pictures

location – modern b&b

japanese hamachi, daikon radish, watercress consommé & ruby red grapefruit

live scallop, badia a coltibuono olive oil, preserved papaya puree & candied kombu

composition of tomatoes, fromage blanc & shaved bonito

local corn soup, miso, gulf shrimp & malabar spinach

confit of louisiana frog’s legs, fennel, smoked potato gnocchi & foamy parmesan water

crispy pork rillette, celery branch, almond cream, green apple & kecap manis

soft bittersweet chocolate, basil seeds, sweet & sour hijiki & cherimoya soup

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Beaver’s Ice House – What’s Going On?

Last night I stopped by Beaver’s located at:

2310 Decatur Street Houston Texas 77007
Sawyer @ Washington Avenue
713-864-beav (2328)

after the symphony for a drink and a chat with the new Chef JJ (Jonathan Jones).

JJ has quite the pedigree, having recently worked at Cordova’s Americas in the Woodlands (which I never made it to) and he was founding chef at Max’s Wine Dive (know for its Texas inspired upscale comfort food), amongst many other accomplishments.

I asked JJ what we can expect from Beaver’s as he puts his signature on the place.

Initially, JJ plans to go back to some of the basics, that is Monica Pope’s (founder of t’afia and co-owner of Beaver’s) original recipes designed for Beaver’s and learn what his customers like and do not like. He also plans to add many specials to menu and pump up the desserts a notch or two. JJ and I discussed his admiration for the variety of types of cuisine that represents the Gulf Coast. As JJ said, Beaver’s was never meant to be known as a barbeque place but it got that moniker and it stuck. He plans to continue to tweak the menu with Gulf Coast specialties, representative of the variety of cultures from European, Asian, Creole, and Texan with fresh locally produced food.

Oh - my cocktail was great and strong – to bad I do not remember off the top of my head which one of the special cocktails I had, but I hear they are all delicious (which would be fun to find out myself.) I stopped by with a vegetarian friend and he had Chickpea Two Fry, which he enjoyed. JJ mentioned that the menu will continue to include many vegetarian options, and he is always ready to accommodate vegetarian customers.

I think it is time for me to give Beaver’s Ice House another look see, I suspect something wonderful is happening in the Sixth Ward and I for one, do not want to miss it.