Tuesday, October 27, 2015


220 Post Oak Blvd
Houston, TX 77056

I was thoroughly impressed with Hugo's simple, yet refined Mexican cuisine.  The food was so well executed and nothing too over the top.  I don't think Houstonians or even Texans would fare well with anything that was in the style of Alinea or Eleven Madison Park.  Maybe I'm being unfairly simplistic in my view of Texans, but I think its fair to say BBQ, tacos, and kolaches reigns supreme there.  I am glad there are places like Hugo's and Caracol to brighten up the scene a bit.  Both restaurants are from the same chef/owner Hugo Ortega.  Caracol serves up Mexican coastal cuisine that is very seafood centric.  Who does not like seafood?  If you don't we cannot be friends.  Once upon a time, I went on a date with a guy who had a shellfish allergy.  I knew it was never meant to be.

Ceviche de Caracol conch, pineapple, ginger, red jalapeno
It's not often you seen conch on a menu stateside.  It was everywhere in the Bahamas.  The conch itself was nice, but I found the seasoning of this dish to be too sweet.  I guess what was I expecting with pineapples right?  I like my ceviches to be acidic.  The Annoyer liked this one a lot.

Ensalada de Pulpo spanish octopus salad, roasted potatoes, celery leaves, pumpkin seed dressing
We were hesitant to order this one because it didn't sound all that spectacular.  But our neighboring solo diner gave it very high marks.  I am wary of the recommendations from a lone stranger, but I think The Annoyer and I didn't want to insult him by not taking his advice.  This turned out to be my favorite dish of the night.  The texture of the octopus was not too chewy or tender.  The tentacles got the best char.  Calling this a salad is a misnomer, there being as much starch and protein as there were veggies.  There were 3 different kinds of potatoes, I think some onions and leeks.  The dressing was like nothing I ever tasted before.  I did not see anybody on Yelp order this.  Definitely an underrated dish for sure.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar

Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar
1050 Studewood St
Houston, TX 77008

It's amazing how looks can be deceiving.  Food can be made to look and play the part of the delicious and delectable star of the show, but can turn out to be a disappointing and uninspired performance.  The analogy might apply to Liberty Kitchen.  The Yelp pictures dazzled me.  The mounds of mac and cheese and the heaping bowls of gumbo drew me in.  Alas, only the oysters stood out.  

Crazy Roasted Gulf Oysters
I am always a little hesitant to order cooked oysters.  I figure that only the least fresh and least desirable oysters are left to be cooked, while the best are eaten fresh and raw.

garlic, lemon butter
To my surprised, these were actually really tasty.  The herbs and lemon added the brightness you normally expect when indulging in these oceanic delights.

bacon jam, butter, jalapeño
The Annoyer (formerly known as BHD) liked the savory sweetness from the bacon jam in this one.  It was too sweet for my liking.  Both had nicely cooked oysters that weren't lost in the crunchy batter.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Mala Sichuan Bistro

Mala Sichuan Bistro
9348 Bellaire Blvd.
Houston, TX 77036

BHD doesn't really like spicy food.  What a wuss!  Just kidding.  No, not really.  Well, ok he has bad reflux so spicy foods really exacerbates that sometimes.  Alright, I'll give him a free pass for health reasons.  Maybe he'll do something else one of these days that warrants him a one way ticket to Pansyland.  In any case, he did oblige me by taking me out to the well regarded Szechuan restaurant in Houston, Mala.  It's even on the Eater's Essential 38 Houston restaurants.  This isn't the kind of place you go solo or even in pairs.  You need an army to tackle this place because the portions are family style.  We came with 2 other friends, so we did our best with 4 people.   It turns out our 2 friends don't eat pork!  I totally was anticipating this, but BHD was like "Naaahhhh."  So we had lots of left overs at the end.

Red Oil Wontons red chili oil, ground garlic, sweet and spicy soy paste, sesame, green onions
I'm not sure why this dish was so popular.  The sauce and spice were tasty, but the actual wonton itself was mediocre.  I think I could probably whip together a better wonton.  They might even have better wontons in your local frozen aisle.

Dan Dan Noodle mala spicy sauce, sesame paste, boiled spinach, yibin preserved vegetables, spiced ground pork, green onions
This was pretty tasty with just the right amount of salt, sweet, spice, all balanced out by the chewy noodles swathed in delicious oil.  This and 2 other dishes would be sufficient for just 2 people.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Yu Chun Bunsik

Yuchun Bunsik
10031 Garden Grove Blvd.
Garden Grove, CA 92844

I wasn't much of a foodie back in college.  Probably because any meal over $10 was kind of a lot of money back then.  I didn't really seek out the best of the best as I do now.  I think I was just discovering different kinds of cuisines and building my own palate.  One cuisine that was really new to me back then was Korean food.  My mom does not like spicy food and my dad disliked the "strange" flavors of Korean food.  Thus, it wasn't until I struck out on my own as a college kid and/or dated a Korean guy that I discovered what Korean food was really about.  It probably also helped living next to the biggest and best destination for Korean food outside of Korea, LA's very own Koreatown.  One of my very favorite Korean dishes is naengmyun, cold spicy noodles.  The best naengmyun can be found at Yu Chun Chic Naengmyun.  Nowhere else are the noodles as chewy, the sauce as perfectly balanced between salty, sweet, tangy, funky, and the pickled accoutrements as flavorful and crunchy.  My favorite part might actually be the icy chilled broth.  So I was literally over the moon when I heard there was an outpost opened in Garden Grove.  LoMa Linda and Big Head Talks-A-Lot are also Yu Chun fans so were happy to come along.

Pretty standard fare.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Playground

The Playground
220 E 4th St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701

Jungle Fever has been fighting the good fight against the most unfortunate of things...cancer.  It super sucks of course, but he has been exuding a positive attitude and living life to the fullest these days.  A full life for anyone who is really living, of course, involves eating well.  Before his taste buds went all awry from chemotherapy, he planned a lovely dinner to celebrate a fun tennis season together.  We went family style at The Playground for their weekly "Sunday Supper."  The "Sunday Supper" at The Playground is an awesome deal.  For $55 (inclusive of tax and tip), you get 13 (14 if you include the cornbread) courses of anything goes food.  By the end of the night you're totally stuffed with food you're not gonna find anywhere else.  They're constantly pushing the boundaries here.  The Playground is definitely my top recommendation for any OC visitor.  Of course our team captain, Mama-Cracks-That-Whip, and Potty Pie were in attendance, as well as some others who will probably never make another appearance on this blog, so my laziness is trumping my creative nicknaming at the moment.

Fried Brussels Sprouts jalapeño caesar dressing, cotija cheese 
The Brussels sprouts at The Playground never fail to disappoint me.  They are perfect everytime.  Crispy and golden fried on the outside, still firm on the inside.  I can't stand a mushy sprout.  Their take on a Mexican caesar was very nice.  Seriously, most things on a fried brussels sprout is hard to mess up.  Great way to start the meal.

Mixed Green Salad hatch chili buttermilk dressing, walnuts, tomatoes, red onions
Mixed green salad?  Really?  Well it was a tasty one, with lots of different textures, which I always appreciate.  It was surprisingly VERY spicy.  Never had a mixed green salad so spicy.

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