|Beef leg carpaccio, Oxheart, Houston, TX|
|Salt roasted turnip, Oxheart, Houston, TX|
I had a pleasant enough experience with a couple of standout moments and a couple not so stellar items. However, I am in no hurry to return. Despite the homey comfortable image presented on the website, dining at Oxheart is a fairly formal affair. Given the popularity of the restaurant, arranging a reservation was enough trouble that I am willing to wait for that special social event to go back.
On a recent visit to San Diego, though, I encountered Okan and couldn't help comparing the dining experience there. The tiny restaurant, a barely labeled door in a strip mall, is actually similar in seating capacity to Oxheart, right down to a central bar area surrounded by small table tops. Okan also attempts a homey feel, a casual gathering around a large sake selection, and small plates of intriguing food. In fact, that drew me in was the promise of Japanase tapas - it is even called that on the menu (printed by laser printer and tacked casually on the door). The difference: the place is all ala carte. No set menus, and it was an impressively diverse and intricate menu (hamo eel tempura and kamameshi were specials that day). Sadly, I could only try a few dishes that day before filling up.
|Rice burger, Okan, San Diego. Two sushi rice patties are grilled, and used to sandwich teriyaki beef and Kewpie mayo. It's remarkably good.|
|Ankimo (monkfish liver). A standout dish, the unctuous foie gras of the ocean was dressed in a perky melange of sauce, salad and seaweed that balanced beautifully with flavor and texture.|
|Tempura brussells sprouts. The crispy coating was a delicious foil to the vegetal flavors of the sprouts, without being bitter.|