Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Event: Nabi Houston Grand Opening Sat. Nov 19, 2011

As I have stated in my 411 on the DL block, I love to try different foods, both traditional and experimental, and of all ethnic varieties.  Little did I know that my love of this would lead to a pleasant suprise on Nov. 19th with an invitation to the grand opening of a Korean/Texas Fusion place in Lower Westheimer/Montrose called Nabi. Rachel Kim informed me that Nabi is Korean for "butterfly" and is also Executive Chef & Owner Ji Kang's Asian Fusion concept. As I found that evening, much like a butterfly goes through a chrysalis and metamorphosis, Nabi's food is in many ways Texas food and Korean food that have been mated and after time in a cocoon has reached a new chrysalis of flavour, and I am dubbing it "TexAsian Fusion."

Nabi is located at 1517 Westheimer, tucked right next to Bambolino's Pizza by the Slice.  The interior has the look of a Spartan Industrial Hip restaurant, with wide open spaces where you can see the bar, the kitchen and service area easily from just about any booth or table inside.  The interior is also blended with various touches that suggest Asia, Texas, the University of Texas at Austin and other such places.
(l to r) Janie Kang, Rachel Kim, Isabel Cho of NABI

Rachel Kim, Isabel Cho and Janie Kang of Nabi were greeting the guests and happily answering questions as well as answering questions about the menu and other attributes of the restaurant.  These three young women are very social media savvy, which was reflected in that the house was quite full of Houston Food bloggers and a couple of reporters from Fox 26.  The crowd also included scores of folks from young 20 something hipsters to 20 something business types and folks older than me from the neighborhood.  A typical diverse Houston bunch doing one of the things Houstonians love best:  eating great food!!!

The announced Menu and descriptions were:

  • Whole roasted suckling pig

  • Hippie Roll: soy paper/avocado tempura/diakon salad

  • Braised Brisket Potstickers: 24hour brisket/green chile/citrus ponzu

  • Fish Takos: hamachi/crab/tuna/white soy/cilantro

  • Fried Chicken Skewers: sweet chili/pickled red onions/mint/cilantro

  • Tuna Pizza: crispy rice/spicy tuna/white tuna/shishito/gold tobiko

  • T3 Roll: spicy tuna/torched tuna/white tuna/tobiko cucumber/avocado

  • I had a chance to try some of all of this glorious TexAsian Fusion and was very impressed with the food quality, presentation and flavour.  So, here is a breakdown of my thoughts on each sample dish that was offered:

    Whole roasted suckling pig: This was the big dish--very well seasoned with veggies laid out, skin was chewy, all the various parts of this little piggy were very tender, juicy, sweet, meaty and full of flavour. It reminded me a bit of roast pig I'd had at a Filipino Christmas party, but since it was a suckling pig, it was way more tender and juicy.

    Hippie Roll: This was a nice veggie roll with fresh avocado that was cool and creamy. The diakon salad was a bit savoury, had nice crispness and worked well with the other ingredients.

    Braised Brisket Potsticker
    Braised Brisket Potstickers: This was a favourite of mine. Being a proud, beef-eating Texan, I like a slow cooked brisket better than a lot of other things. The wait staff circulated and offered these to sample--hot and fresh and crunchy on the outside. The chewy, beefiness of the brisket, the crunchy potsticker wrap, the subtle spiciness of the chile and the acid of the citrus ponzu melded together to make a very satisfying eating experience. This item here could be mass produced, frozen and sold at HEB's all over Texas and would be a Recipe to Riches winner, in my opinion.

    Fish Tako
    Fish Takos: This particular appetizer gets tons of bonus points from me for creativity as far as frying the rice cake into the shape of a mini taco shell, filling it with the crab and tuna--all having very fresh, delicate flavours, complemented by the white soy and the subtle bitterness of the cilantro. This was one of the more beautiful dishes to eat as well as look at. They also had a soft version as well that was served with cucumbers and cilantro.

    Fried Chicken Skewer
    Fried Chicken Skewers: This was another creative winner in my book. Southern style breaded fried chicken done on a skewer almost like Chicken Satay, and then coated with a mixture of Srirachi sauce, onions, mint and cilantro. These were brought hot and fresh by the wait staff, while the breading was still crispy. The Srirachi sweet chili sauce and the herbs/veggies all work well together. This is a great appetizer and I highly recommend ordering it on your first visit.

    Assortment of items:
    Fish Tako, T3 Roll, Tuna Pizza
    Tuna Pizza: Still another creative bonanza that the kitchen staff at Nabi whipped up for us to try. The crispy rice with seaweed for the crust was a nice start, but adding the tuna (either spicy or white) and the veggies/sauces were a nice twist on Pizza, Okonomiyaki and Handrolls. Another winner for Nabi.

    T3 Roll: Three different types of Tuna served with cucumber and avocado, in a seaweed wrap. While it might be the tamer of the dishes served that evening, it would satisfy your average sushi eater looking for something familiar to nosh on before eating the main dish.

    Since this was a grand opening, it would not be proper to do my usual Foodie Professor Report Card. However, as an "Individual Assignment" Rachel Kim, Isabel Cho and Janie Kang earn a solid A+ on Nabi's Grand Opening. I seriously advise all my Houston area readers to drop by and give their TexAsian cuisine a serious try. I will be visiting again after they've been open a month or two in order to give them a proper review.

    Nabi Houston
    1517 Westheimer Rd
    Houston, TX 77006
    (713) 526-8866

    And remember:
    Eat Happy!!!
    Zao an, Y'all!!!

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Review: Coal Burger Coal Fired Burgeria in The Woodlands

    Update:  I just found out last week (week of May 13-19, 2012) that Coal Burger has closed and that Grimaldi's Coal-fired Pizza will be expanding and taking over their space.  While I'm sorry they've closed, I'm leaving this review up because I did like the concept.  

    Grimaldi's Coal-Fired Pizza is a high end, limited run chain that sells awesome Brooklyn Style Coal Fired pizzas.  I've reviewed them and they are a regular pizza stop for me. Now they are experiementing with burgers in their high temperature coal-fired ovens and have 3 locations open so far, one that opened in The Woodlands a few months ago, under the name Coal Burger.  I've actually visited there twice in order to get a real feel for the place, and I can tell you right now, this is a good burger. 

    Green Chili Burger
    Their menu has a nice selection of different burgers, chicken sandwiches and salads.  They serve only Boylan's all natural sodas, tea, and a fine selection of wines and beer.  They also make thick Gelato milkshakes.  The restaurant,  much like Ruggles Green, is specializing in serving their food in an environmentally friendly, sustainable manner.  For those of you who consider that important, this place has put its money where it's mouth is by using corn-based compostable plastic cups, recycled paper napkins, and even fixtures and plates made from sustainable bamboo.  They even use the tagline "Eat Green. Live Green."

    The first time I came I had the Green Chili Burger.  This time I had the steakhouse burger.  Both times I had sweet potato fries seasoned with sea salt, and enjoyed sampling different Boylan's natural sodas.  So without further ado, here are your burger blueprints:

    Steakhouse Burger and Sweet Potato Fries
    Green Chili Burger:
    1/4 lb All natural Niman Ranch Beef Patty
    Roasted Green Chiles
    sweet jalepenos
    provolone cheese
    Brioche bun

    Steakhouse Burger:
    1/4 lb All natural Niman Ranch Beef Patty
    horseradish sauce
    Sautéed Mushrooms & Onions
    Swiss Cheese
    Brioche Bun

    The 1800 F Degree Coal Fired Oven at Coal Burger
    First of all, this beef tastes sweet, has a wonderfuly chewy texture and if you order it medium, it is quite juicy.  Coal Burger defaults to medium well unless you specify otherwise, FYI. When I ordered the Green Chili burger, I defaulted to what was suggested by Coal Burger, but found it a little on the dry side.  Though the cheese and toppings were very fresh and complemented the meat quite well.  I was much happier with the Steakhouse Burger that I ordered medium.  The crew running the coal fired oven had a good idea of how long to broil the burger and it came out true medium:  Pink Centre, Hot and Juicy throughout the burger.  The mixture of the savoury flavours of the creamy horseradish sauce, the umami of thesautéed mushrooms and the acid tartness of the onions and the creamy pungent Swiss Cheese meshed well with the juicy smokey sweetness of the beef for a great burger from start to finish.  Make no mistake folks: THERE WERE NO LEFTOVERS.

    The restaurant has a Green, Recycled, Ikea-like, Modern Decor, with an open feel thanks to all the glass that looks out over the Woodland's Waterway.  It has a casual feel to it, but the fact that much recycled material and sustainability were incorporated into its design, it is nice though a tad sterile.  It reminded me a little of Ruggles Green in Design.

    The Foodie Professor's Report Card for Coal Burger:
    Green Chili Burger: B+
    Steakhouse Burger: A
    Sweet Potato Fries: A-
    Boylan's Sodas: A
         Friendliness: A
         Speed: A
    Cleanliness: A
    Atmosphere: A-

    Overall Grade A-

    Coal Burger Coal Fired Burgeria
    20 Waterway Ave, Suite 150
    The Woodlands, TX 77380
    PH: 281-292-6385

    And remember:
    Eat Happy!!!
    Zao an, Y'all!!!

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Review: Breakfast Tacos at Tejas Taco House

    One of Houston's great advantages is its ethnic diversity.  Thanks to our proximity to Mexico, we have some of the best Mexican food of any variety you can think of.  This includes what is a comfort food to many, Tex-Mex.  A favourite kind of Tex-Mex food is the Breakfast Taco or Taquito if it's very small, and there are tons of great places to get them in Houston.  Heck, even Whataburger serves them up during breakfast hours!  But I want to take you to a local place in my Southwest Neighborhood called Tejas Taco House.  And as their tagline says "Nobody Does it Fresher!"

    My brother in law, Bill, has his offices on Corporate Drive just down the street from Tejas and took me there for the first time years ago.  Tejas Taco House is located in the heart of SW Houston's Chinatown, but have done brisk business over the eyar.  Gina Castillo operated the reastaurant there for years as "Sunrise Taquito" but a few years ago they changed their name because many customers thought they only served breakfast.  Oddly enough, I am reveiwing their breakfast, so with that, let me tell you about what I ordered. 

    Migas & Chorizio Breakfast Tacos
    Chorizio Breakfast Taco
    Spicy Mexican Chorizio Sausage
    Scrambled with Eggs and fresh veggies
    and Cheese (Extra, but is worth it)

    Migas Breakfast Taco
    Scrambled eggs
    with peppers, tomatoes, onions
    and crispy Tortilla Strips
    and cheese (Extra, but is worth it)

    Tejas Taco House has Sodas, Different Aguas Frescas (fruit drinks), coffee/cappucino, and juices as well.  I had orange juice with my breakfast tacos. Gina Castillo's home-made green tomatillo salsa is available to add to your meal and really adds some kick and flavour to it all.  Mmmm!!!

    First of all the Chorizio is quite spicy and flavourful.  Plenty of Chili powder, cumin and other seasonings, and sweet pork flavour with a kick.  The white steamed flour tortillas and cheese balance it nicely.  A real winner if you love spicy chorizio.  Second of all, the Migas was wonderful.  It was like an omeltte in a tortilla with cruncy to it from the crispy tortilla strips added to the eggs.  I was very satisfied with my breakfast and I understood WHY the place is always busy every morning I have gone there. 

    I won't be grading the ambience, as it follows standard taqueria setups with colourful tables and walls, ethnic decorations and such. 

    The Foodie Professor's Report Card on Tejas Taco House:

    Chorizio Breakfast Taco: A
    Migas Breakfast Taco: A+

         Speed:  B+
         Friendliness: A
    Cleanliness: A-

    Overall Grade: A-

    One location only:

    9545 Town Park Dr (SE Corner of Corporate and Town Park)
    Houston, TX  77036

    And remember:

    Eat Happy!!!
    Zao an, Y'all!!!

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    November Odds and Ends

    Greetings Readers!

    November has come in along with colder weather and US Thanksgiving, and then Winter Holidays like Christmas, Chanukkah, Eid and New Year's Eve.  Unfortunately, this Foodie blogger has also battled a bad case of stomach flu and a few other items, which have prevented me from blogging as I would like.  But fear not:  I have two reviews I will be posting within the next day and some other items on tap as well thanks to the Holidays coming up.  So with that, some odds and ends I would like to share:

    1.  Results of The Houston Pizza Poll For Sept/Oct 2011

    Star Pizza (a favourite of mine) won the poll with 26% of the vote.  I'm really not surprised on this score.  It's not New York or Chicago Style pizza, it's Houston-style pizza and it is GOOOOOOOOD.  My favourite pizza from them is the Starburst on their Whole Wheat Crust. I've eaten at their 211 Norfolk Location ever since I first came to Houston as a Rice University Grad Student in 1991. Their menu is among the best I've had and it's one that I will be posting a review of this month.

    The only thing I found disconcerting was that 8 votes were cast in the "Other" category but none of those voters posted an Email or Comment as to what other Pizza Place was the best in their opinion. If you were a voter and didn't share it with me, please be so kind as to click that Email link in the previous sentence and share with us.

    2. Upcoming Events Round-up

    The Houston Press has a list of some cool food events coming up in the Houston area.  The one on Keeping Thanksgiving Heart Healthy at HEB's Central Market really got my attention and it sounds very worthy to me.

    HBW-tiny.jpgHouston Beer Week is Back!  Right after Veterans Day/Remembrance Day in fact.  On Nov. 11th, is a pre-Beer Week Happy Hour at Ziggy's Downtown.  It also includes a Monster's of Beer Charity Festival and other cool happenings as well from Nov. 12th through the 18th.   A HUGE selection of Craft Breweries from around Texas, the US and the World are coming out for the various events so please, if you are a Craft Beer Lover, pick and event and get your drink on!!!

    The Downtown Location of Phoenicia is now open.  Alison Cook did a write up on them recently and here's is a link for it.   Those Moroccan Lamb Sliders are making my mouth water.

    3.  New Poll For Nov/Dec 2011

    I am polling these next 2 months on Favourite Winter Comfort Food.  After discussing this topic with several fellow foodies, I came up with this list, along with the OTHER category for you to Email me your answer.  The named items on the list are: Chicken Noodle Soup, Chili, Hot Cocoa, Hot Oatmeal, Mac & Cheese, Poutine and Tamales.

    4.  Movember Is Here!!!

    I'm adding a new pic with my Movember Moustache.  It's Men's Health Awareness month.  This includes such issues as Heart Disease, Prostate Cancer, Testicular Cancer and other Maladies that affect men.  Your Brothers, Husbands, Boyfriends, Sons, Fathers, Uncles, Grandfathers and other Men you love need to make sure they take care of themselves and this involves annual medical checkups and screenings for these various maladies.  The National Hockey League has been a long term champion of these causes and instituted Movember a few years ago to raise awareness for Prostate Cancer and other Maladies that attack men.  This was in response to the fact that while Women's Health Issues, such as Breast Cancer, have been championed for many years and have produced tangible results in fewer deaths due to Breast Cancer in women.; Men's health issues had been largely overlooked.

    A lot of Hockey players will grow cool Moustaches in November to remind everyone to be aware of Men's Health Issues and to donate to research into treatment of prostate cancer, testicular cancer and other illnesses that primarily affect men.  Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks did a tribute to great NHL players with great Moustaches on his Goalie Helmet recently.

    Any donations to this foodblog (see left hand bar) will be sent to the American Cancer Society to be donated towards Prostate Cancer Research.

    And Remember:

    Eat Happy!!!
    Zao an, Y'all!!!