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Monday, December 27, 2010

Favorite food discoveries of 2010

Last week, the leading food critics of Houston ( and posted their respective lists of "best new restaurants" of 2010. Aside from the fact that both lists aim to be a list of 10 (one doesn't quite make it to ten, the other chafes under the restriction), I noticed that the two share a lot of restaurants in common. The overlap is blatantly significant, with at least six restaurants named to both.

I note this because one of the things much lauded about the Houston dining scene is diversity. Granted, the criterion of being new restricts the range of candidates for the lists a bit, but the dynamic nature of the restaurant industry probably ensures that a number of new restaurants open each week (balanced out, sadly, by closures). Which leads me to suspect the other criterion as being the culprit: that despite the wide range of available cuisines and styles available in the city, the in press definition of "best" is remarkably narrow.

A meat stuffed duck neck sausage with nori mayo from the potent imagination of Chef Seth Seigel-Gardner (currently of Kata Robata).

So, here's my year end list. I reject the idea of lauding whole restaurants all the time - like people, there are good points and bad points to knowing restaurants, and by dealing with them coarsely, I fear we often throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, these are the most memorable restaurant based dishes or food-related experiences I've had this year in Houston, experiences that I'd like to return to, and to share with others. Because, after all, cuisine is really a cultural experience, and one of the most potent bridges between people.

Bihari kebab at Bundu Khan. A Pakistani favorite, this spicy grilled meat has a distinctly new texture that is wonderfully complemented with naan. Other Pakistani restaurants in the city also offer it.

Dahi Puri at Sweet N Namkin. I actually went around and tried four different renditions of this savory-sweet-crunchy-spicy-explosion in the mouth snack during the year, and settled on the carefully constructed puri here as my favorite so far.

Kinutamaki at Sushi Miyagi. Here, fish is wrapped around a core of cooked burdock root, roe, avocado, and seasoned cucumber, before the whole thing is wrapped in pickled daikon radish. A wonderfully flavorful take on the traditional seaweed/rice combination.

Smoked boudin at Pierson's BBQ. Redolent with smoke, skin taut and rice tender, the smoked boudin here is unlike any other version I've had before. And very delicious.

Mexican chocolate cream bun from Desir Bakery, 99 Ranch. I'm not sure how this is done here, but at $0.99, these things are somewhere between bread and pastry. A soft bun is covered with a sweet crunchy coating, and filled with chocolate custard. A great way to end a meal or start a day.

All these places are in Houston. I'm sure a search engine will let you find them easily enough.


  1. Thank you for some great food ideas, will certainly have to try some of these! Finally, a list that I actually like :-)
    I already know and LOVE the Phuri at Sweets - they are highly addictive... and problematic when after a few orders down i still don't feel anything in my belly!
    i am in love with 99 Ranch Market, but have never saved room for sweets so will be trying those chocolate buns! also, not sure if you like roast duck, but 99 Ranch Market has the best in town and the best price!!! if ur a duck fan, do try. Cheers!