Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Today's News and Forecasts

This latest edition of restaurant news from greater southwest Houston indicates the Bellaire restaurant scene continues to evolve.

Saltillo Mexican Kitchen,  5427 Bissonnet @ Chimney Rock

I was watching carefully for this one to open and it's been open almost a month now.  I went in by the end of the first week and the place was already packed for evening service.

This is the new place by the owner of the short-lived but acclaimed Mexican steak house La Casa del Caballo in Montrose.  The menu is beef-centric and includes the 4 pound plus Tapa de Lomo rib-eye cap for $190 but the former eatery was famous for it's enchiladas, too, and that's what drew me in.

I had the Enchiladas Saltillo, 3 chicken enchiladas in a sauce made from 5 kinds of chiles, with chihuahua cheese and sesame seeds.  I also had the Hearts of Palm Ceviche with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice and olives, with hearts of palm substituting for any seafood and looking just like scallops.  Service was virtually flawless, remarkable for a new eatery.

This is not the type of Mexican restaurant where you get a huge basket of chips and salsa.  There are four salsas brought to the table to use as you wish and they are meant to be used more as garnishes or relishes than as dips, though you can get a small saucer of warm, thick chips by asking for it.  I passed on the chips but some were brought to my table anyway; I wasn't charged for them.  The salsas range from a mild tomatillo salsa verde to a tomato and red jalapeno based one with a little more heat, then a minced red onion and habanero with lime and orange juices and olive oil, and at the most intense end of the scale, one made with green papaya and habanero.  The servers were explaining the salsas to each table.

Judging by the crowd I experienced, I'd say Bellaire is ready for this kind of upscale Mexican place and it's certainly a very welcome addition to my grazing grounds.

Saltillo Mexican Kitchen

Tapester's Grill, 4520 Beechnut @ Newcastle

This is a new family-style neighborhood eatery across from the Southwest Houston Police Station on Beechnut.  It's a very welcoming modern space with a patio on the back side, away from the traffic on Beechnut.  When I went in there were lots of families with small children and a few tables with older couples.

I had the Bratwurst on a Housemade French Roll with housemade chips.  The online menu describes this as thin sliced turkey pastrami for some reason.

I didn't get a good look at any of the other menu items except the 1/3 pound burgers which were obviously a popular choice; they looked pretty good.

Tapester's Grill

Suzie's Grill, the kosher (meat) restaurant that has operated out of a tiny space in a Chevron station at Beechnut and Hillcroft for the past few years, has closed.  The website indicates the menu is available at the new kosher steakhouse Genesis on Bissonnet at Chimney Rock, in the same strip center with Saltillo.



Enoteca Rossa, 4566 Bissonnet @ Avenue B, just inside Loop 610

The former much-loved Daniel Wong's Kitchen, which has been closed for over a year now, is about to open as an Italian restaurant with wood-fired kitchen.  The building is hardly recognizable.  A banner announcing they're hiring staff has gone up so the opening must be soon.

I haven't been able to find anything about this online but will add a link when I find one.

(The picture was taken through the windshield on a rainy day).

Salt 'n Pepper Indo-Pak and Mediterranean Restaurant and Banquet Hall, 9619 SW Freeway @ Bissonnet

The banner indicates it's opening soon.  A url given in a sign on the front door leads nowhere and I have not been able to find anything for this online except a white pages listing but will add a link when one becomes available.

Philippine Community Center, 9101 West Bellfort @ Riceville School Road

The exterior cladding is all but complete but the weeds have gotten so tall I couldn't get a decent picture from the front.  These pictures, from a blog on the northwest side, appear to me to be more pictures of this one.

Gujarati Samaj Center, W. Bellfort @ Beltway 8

There hasn't been anything going on at the future site of this sports complex, unfortunately, but someday no doubt.

Indo American News article from last February

And just what are these items about cultural centers doing on a blog that's supposed to be about food?  I keep hoping that all of these cultural institutions will spur some sort of restaurant activity in the immediate vicinity.  Of course the Raindrop Center, Istanbul Conference Center and India House, all along this same stretch of West Bellfort, haven't had any such consequences but I can still dream.  Maybe a food court with stalls from each -- or a couple of food trucks?????

Friday, September 18, 2015

Peru Gourmet

10804 S. Post Oak @ Willowbend, Suite 375

This is the second Peruvian restaurant along this stretch of S. Post Oak.  A half mile away, Super Chicken has been open for a couple of years serving Peruvian style charcoal rotisserie chicken, Pollo a las Brazas.  This new place is smaller but more nicely appointed and with a broader menu including seafood plates and ceviche, Creole plates and sandwiches, plus a very small menu section (8 items) of Mexican food.  There is no rotisserie chicken on the menu here.

I've been on a ceviche kick of late and I tried two of the four offerings here.  The Tostada de Ceviche, on the appetizer menu, came with a pile of fresh fish marinated in lime juice and Peruvian spices, with red onions, cancha (Peruvian roasted corn) and steamed camote (sweet potato).  Though it was on the appetizer menu this could have served as an entree it was so large.

Ceviche de Tres Pasiones featured fresh fish marinated with Peruvian spices and lime juice three ways, with aji amarillo, Peruvian yellow pepper, on the right, aji rocoto, Peruvian red pepper that is supposed to be pretty spicy but wasn't, and a house made cilantro sauce on the left.  This was garnished with hominy and camote.

I also ordered the Empanadas de Carnes appetizers and was taken aback when they arrived completely coated in powdered sugar.  I thought there had been some mistake and didn't remember any dessert empanadas on the menu.  But there was no mistake, this is the way they are served.  The filling of ground beef also includes raisins so it is slightly sweet itself.  This came with a sauce that is a variation of the Argentine Salsa Golf or British Marie Rose sauce, the basic ingredients of which are mayonnaise and ketchup.  You can see the leftovers of that sauce in the upper left corner of the Tres Pasiones picture.  I was initially hesitant but these were really good.

Chifa is a term which indicates dishes which are the result of a Chinese influence on Peruvian cookery which came about as a result of an influx of Chinese laborers to fill jobs once slavery was abolished in Peru.  It also denotes restaurants which serve these dishes.  They have their Chifa just as we have our Chinese American food and it is very popular.  One of the most popular dishes is Arroz Chaufa, a Peruvian version of fried rice, and another is Lomo Saltado.  I had the Lomo Saltado sandwich and never would have guessed the dish had Chinese roots if I hadn't read it.  This is tender chunks of been tenderloin, stir-fried with tomatoes, aji amarillo and red onion, in a red wine sauce, on a light and lightly toasted baguette.

Beverages include Chicha by the glass or pitcher and Inka Kola plus the usual American soft drinks, coffee and tea.  Desserts include Flan and Alfajores plus Pionono de Manjar Blanca, a sponge cake roll with the same filling as the Alfajores.

Yelpers have claimed the restaurant is the same owner as the Peru Gourmet food truck and that is confirmed by the Facebook page.  I don't know if the food truck is still on the road.

This section of South Post Oak just below the corner of the Loop is not a street one drives down expecting great culinary discoveries.  Peru Gourmet is a big addition to the dining out options in the S. Post Oak/Willowbend area and convenient also to Meyerland and Westbury.  It's an unpretentious, very small hole-in-the-wall serving up some very good food.   I hope there are enough Peruvians and at least mildly adventurous eaters otherwise to sustain it.

Peru Gourmet on Facebook.  Note many of the pictures on FB were apparently taken at a catering event and do not show the interior of the restaurant.