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Monday, August 16, 2010

All about texture

Amidst the restaurant wonderland in the southwest portion of Houston, the restaurant Fufu Cafe enjoys a particularly good reputation. Aside from consistently delicious food, they offer the killer combination of low prices and late hours. Despite having almost no advertising outside of word of mouth, the place is so popular that long lines of people waiting for a table at 11pm is not unheard of. Recognizing the opportunity, the owners expanded to an additional space in the same strip mall, and dubbed it Fufu Restaurant.

The new space is definitely tailored for larger parties, and higher end decor, and the presence of aquaria of live seafood. The menu is quite similar to the Fufu Cafe, which unfortunately leads to people making direct comparisons to the original. And the impression I hear often is that it's more expensive, and isn't as good. Which mostly means that the diner ordered the same item and the new chef doesn't prepare it in exactly the same way.

In my opinion, this is doing the new place a disservice. This isn't a question of improvement or loss, it's about consistency. And the key is that it is a different restaurant. To wit, one should order things that are specific to the new place.

For example, the sea cucumber and beef tendon hot pot. Not particularly strong in flavor, it is a celebration of texture. If you haven't had tendon before, just be aware that it's the primordial source of gelatin. It's stewed with the sea cucumber in what is obviously a starch thickened sauce, and presented with crisp carrots and broccoli. I thought it could use some spice and salt, but I really liked the textures.

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