Thursday, April 17, 2014

Delicious Dozen 2014: Fish & The Knife's Bento Box Lunch

It's been a little while and I'm finally hitting another one of my Delicious Dozen for 2014.  This time it's Fish & the Knife Sushi Bar & Lounge.  I am fond of sushi.  When done right it is totally wonderful.  When done wrong, it can taste meh but then hit you like the gas station variety hit Howard Wolowitz in a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory called "The Relationship Diremption" and earning him the nickname of "Clogzilla."   Fish & The Knife was under construction for about three years.  Many of the food writers and food lovers in Houston were watching  the 13,000 square foot restaurant take shape and more than a few times it seemed like it wasn't going to happen.  The restaurant finally opened a couple of months ago and many of the local foodsters were ecstatic about it.  Even a little controversy surrounding its design didn't hurt things at all.  I swung by for lunch recently after hearing about their Bento Box special to see what the buzz was all about.

When I first entered, I was quite amazed at the intricate design of the interior--it was a mixture of inlaid stone, metal, wood, glass, some rope, some of it clearly reclaimed materiel.  It reminded me of a mixture of a Frank Lloyd Wright home, coupled with a Zen garden, and crossed with a reclaimed industrial space and parlayed with an Architectural Digest shoot.  However you want to phrase it, it looks beautiful and elegant but has warm elements to it as well.  A hodge podge of all things to everyone much like the city of Houston.  Very nice and is the work of Ostap Rudakevych and the team at Clouds Architecture Office in New York.

Although I had to wait a little for a seat, two servers helped me at different times--Jason took my initial order and Michael actually delivered the food as well as did follow ups.  This particular Wednesday was neither excessively busy nor excessively slow and things were well timed once I was seated.    Although I'd read their menu previous times, a couple of friends had told me about their $10 lunchtime Bento Box deal.  Some folks may cringe and wonder about the price, but when you see the selection and the small yet tasty portions, it makes sense fairly well.  You get a selection from one of 3 soups, 3 salads, one tempura, one teriyaki, 4 pieces of sushi or sashimi, a choice of rice or noodles and one roll.  If you're inclined towards a cocktail, you can get a nice sized martini (several flavour choices) for 99 cents as well.  Personally I went with Crab & Brie  bisque, chopped salad (Jason recommended it), pineapple fried rice, rock shrimp tempura, beef teriyaki, 4 pieces of sashimi, pineapple fried rice & a harumaki roll.  I also had a Lemon Drop Martini (Citron Vodka, Cointreau & Lemon Juice in a sugar rimmed lowball glass).

The soup and salad came out with my cocktail and these were quite nice.  The Bisque was creamy, salty and had a nice herb garnish while the salad was loaded with crunchy pecans, bleu cheese apple, balsamic vinegar and bacon bits with mixed greens.    The Lemon Drop was like a sweet and sour vodka lemonade, a nice treat--even though I usually don't go for sweet cocktails. The only problem would be the temptation to drink about 3 or 4 of them and then need to call a cab...

When the Bento Box arrived, I was quite happy.  This was a nice colourful mix of different dishes that gives a first time diner a chance to sample the different dishes that Fish & the Knife produces.  The bright yellow of the Pineapple Fried Rice, the fluorescent green of the wasabi, the off white pink of the pickled ginger and so forth on down the line.  The hand roll and sashimi were quite fresh and tasty.  The Beef terriyaki was meaty and served some sauteed peppers, onions and veggies.  The tempura shrimp with the sweet potato and green been were crunchy and satisfying.  The wasabi was potent, even when diluted a little with the low sodium soy sauce.  It was nice to have the mixture of several small bites of everything in the Bento Box/Cafeteria plate setup.  I think I need to come back and try them during Happy Hour or Dinner....

Report Card for Fish & the Knife:
Food & Beverage: 
     Lemon Drop: A  
     Bento Box:
          Chopped Salad: A
          Bisque: A+
          Sashimi: A
          Beef Terriyaki: A-
          Tempura: A
          Roll: A-
          Pineapple Fried Rice: A-
     Speed:  B- for seating time,
                  A for wait staff
     Friendliness:  B- for hostess
                            A for wait staff
     Bar area: A
     Dining Area: A
     Men's Room: Incomplete
Atmosphere--Fusion of styles: A

Overall Grade: A-       

Fish & the Knife is located at:
7801 Westheimer Rd
Houston, Texas 77063
(713) 677-0220

Mon - Thu: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm
Fri - Sat: 11:00 am - 11:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm

Eat Happy, Y'all!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Event: Goose Island Preview at Hay Merchant

I've had some folks ask me when I was going to be doing some more Craft Beer focused posts.  And to be fair, it's come up here and there.  However, I was recently contacted by the folks at Goose Island Beer Company from Chicago.  They were coming into town with some uncommon beers of theirs.  Christina Perozzi, their Goose Island Educator was there as part of a tap takeover they were running at Hay Merchant in Montrose.  Just FYI--it was part of a week's worth of events at several local Houston craft beer bars as part of their Migration into Texas, if you will, to use Ornithological references.  While 312 and Illinois IPA are available pretty well in Houston, they had a couple of great beers I'd not had the chance to try before, but I hope they will be back in Houston VERY SOON!

Although I was running late, thankfully they still had plenty of this great beer on tap.  I got a chance to meet with the Goose Island team, as well as talk with a couple of beer bloggers/radio show hosts from the Houston area while enjoying 3 very distinct beers from Goose Island.  I snacked on a great soft pretzel with Redeck cheddar cheese spread and shared some Nacho Fries from the Hay Merchant while these beers were responsibly enjoyed.  So feast your eyes on these glasses and read my tasting notes on the 3 Goose Island beers I quaffed, if you please!!!

Sofie--A Belgian Style Saison
Sofie:  This beer was particularly interesting to me as it's classified as a Saison yet it has a citrusy nose much like a Belgian Witbier.  It's more clear than cloudy though and you do get a hint of yeast in the nose.  The front note is definitely more citrus, followed by a bit of a twang.  Although it's not aged in wooden barrels, it reminds me a bit of cured wood.  The finish is clean, mellow, and is an overall refreshing beer.
Grade: A

Dark Wheat Ale 
Rasselbock:  This beer is a lovely dark and cloudy liquid that appeals to the eyes immediately,  with a decent head too!  The nose has an air of malt, plums and wood.  The front note has a fruity ester essence that's followed by a malty, woody note.  The finish is all Bock--reminds me of Shiner back in 1989, but a little bolder at the end.  Although it's classified as an American Wheat Ale, it's like a fusion of Bock, Belgian and Trappist per my palate.  Liked it quite well!  Grade: A

Bourbon County Stout
Bourbon County Stout with Intelligentsia Coffee:  I unfortunately missed out on the Bourbon County Stout when there was a very limited supply available at Spec's Downtown last year.  This elusive beer has been on my list ever since and I was beginning to wonder if I would have to haul myself off to Chi-town in order to drink a few of them.  There were 3 kinds of Bourbon County Stout--two different years on Draught  plus the Coffee stout in the bottle.  The Draught was all out by the time I ordered, so I got a bottle of the Coffee version.  As Goose Island allegedly originated aging stout in Bourbon barrels, I found this one to be A LOT like Saint Arnold's Bishop's Barrel 1, mixed with espresso--very bold, very sweet, strong bourbon notes, with a huge hit of mellow, well brewed coffee in the mix.  My fave of the bunch, just wish more were available in Houston.  Grade: A+++

Besides the Goose Island Crew, I also ran into a couple of the producers of Drink of Ages on 92.1 FM who were hanging out and enjoying Goose Island's wares as well!  That show is on Saturday Evenings from 7 til 8 PM and has featured many great folks from Houston's Craft Beer Community.  I'll be listening for sure!!!

I want to thank Christina Perozzi and the Goose Island Crew for having me come out and enjoy their beers, and I also want to add, Hay Merchant has some great grub!  I'll be giving them a proper review VERY SOON!

Drink Craft Beer, Y'all!!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Event: Houston Press Menu of Menus 2014, Presented by Stella Artois, on April 8, 2014

Tuesday April 8 rolled around and I found myself at Silver Street Station near downtown for what has become one of Houston's Premiere food events of the Spring:  The Houston Press Menu of Menus.  This event has gone on for many years and includes the infamous Iron Fork Competition among local chefs to see who can prepare the best meal for a team of critics, this year headed up by the Houston Press's own food editor, Kaitlin Steinberg.  Numerous Houston area Restaurants came out to have some of their wares featured, along with a fairly healthy crowd of food writers, food media, diners and sponsors alike.  I was there, just one of the crowd, but was quite happy to be a part of this fantastic shindig celebrating all things food in Houston.

When I first came on in to Silver Street Station near Downtown, the place was packed, and it was like a cross between an art gallery and a warehouse.  As we entered, we were issued a special plastic plate that included a break-off plastic fork, knife and spoon, as well as a plastic wine tumbler.  The special plate included a hook for easy carrying of the tumbler.  We were also issued a wooden token to cast our vote for the favourite restaurant/dish.  The event had a VERY HEALTHY CROWD--and as per usual Houston, you had folks in Suits and fancy dresses, jeans/cowboy boots or sundresses, and T-shirts/gym shorts/yoga pants all milling around and sampling the different wares.  I knew when I got in there  I was in for quite a sampling of food and beverage.

The art gallery consisted of all kinds of fancy dessert places, coupled with different liquors and other items.  Oui Desserts on Kirby had a nice selection of Macarons and Tarts for our enjoyment.  Orange Leaf Yogurt in Memorial City Mall had tasters of different flavours of FroYo.    And I also ran into a couple of demo models from Izkali Tequila, one of whom I'd seen at Goody Goody Liquor not too long ago, and they were handing out some peach flavoured margaritas that included Izkali Tequil in them.  Boom!

As I made my way into the Warehouse area, I bumped into Shayne Hurst Newell, the winner of the ticket giveaway I had for the event, along with her husband.  Like me, they'd just gotten there and were grazing their way through the 40+ restaurants that had set up booths inside.  Like me, they'd only visited a couple of booths, but the night was early on and there'd be plenty more to come.  I also had the pleasure of running into Lily Jang of KHOU-11 again.

Lily was hanging with food writer Mai Pham in great ringside seats to watch the Iron Fork Competition between returning Champion Kevin Naderi of Roost versus Kevin Bryant of Eleven XI, using the secret ingredient of Citrus in all the dishes.  I swung by a few times as the event progressed and wished I'd been one of the judges.  Randy Evans of Haven was the MC and was totally working his schtick as such.  Kevin Naderi won for a 3rd time though, but it was a ton of fun to see and the large montors on the cameras over the cooking area were a nice help for us out in the crowd!

The mixture of restaurants mirrored the mixture of Houston--folks dressed up, folks dressed down, folks barely dressed.  You could find Lisa Carney of The Cajun Stop right next to Niko Niko's fancy Greek style desserts.  Raising Cane's chicken fingers was doling out fingers and their unique sauce and Deep Eddy Vodka from Austin was slinging creative cocktails.   Along the way I ran into Shanna & Felice from Urban Swank hanging with Eric Sandler from Culture Map parked close to the Byjoe Spirit of China Cocktail booth and we chatted it up with some other folks along the way.  One real highlight was a new place just opening in Houston called Vertskebap--an Austin based donair kebab sandwich place that was about to open next week in the Heights area off of Yale St. and I-10.  They served up a sample of a sammy like I'd had a few times in Toronto or Halifax, but had not seen in Texas, well ever.  They let me know that they were opening up by Friday, April 11th and would be doing a grand opening special on Saturday April 12th.  That gave me ideas for my weekend plans, to say the least!

Judges in the Iron Fork
Overall this year's Menu of Menu's was well run--there was enough food for everyone, folks were having a good time, and even though it was heavily attended, I want to commend the Houston Press and the other event organizers for handing the crowd and all the logistics so well.  I'm already looking forward to next year's event!

Eat Happy, Y'all!!!