Tuesday, April 7, 2015

All Bengal Sweets & India Coffee House

5901 Hillcroft Ave, suite C2-A

One of the most visited pages on this blog for a long time has been my original post on All Bengal Sweets and Restaurant on Bellaire.  Hits have come from all over including the Sub-continent where I'm sure some chuckles have resulted from reading my stumbling attempts to appreciate the cuisine.  Recently I've noticed an uptick in traffic on that page nudging it from 4th on the all time list of most accessed pages to 3rd.  I finally discovered the reason:  the owner has opened this new place in the Hillcroft Plaza in the Mahatma Ghandi district and people are landing on my blog looking for information about the offerings here.  So of course I had to try it out myself.

I knew they had snacks to accompany coffee and chai and their Bengali sweets but didn't realize they also had a small menu of daily specials.  The beef haleem sounded more appealing than a samosa so I opted for that on my first visit.  A small portion, a little over a cup probably and only $3.99, it was topped with lots of crispy fried onions, cilantro, and a generous sprinkling of spices.  There were some unexpectedly large chunks of fatty beef and a couple of large pieces of bone.

I first encountered India Filter Coffee at the shuttered Heritage India restaurant in Stafford after an impressive meal of their specialties from the Spice Coast state of Kerala and I loved it at first sip.  It can be produced at home in a device somewhat similar to that used to produce Vietnamese Iced Coffee but uses scalded milk and sugar to taste instead of sweetened condensed milk and is served hot.  Characteristically it should have a lot of froth on top, produced by pouring the coffee mixture back and forth between two cups.  Three kinds of coffee are offered here, Kumbakonam Degree Coffee associated with the town of the same name in Tamil Nadu and brewed with chicory, Madras Coffee and Mysore Coffee.  The latter is said to be the strongest brew.

There is also Chai and Masala Chai and a brew called Eye Eye Tea which is a blend of coffee - oops, masala chai and espresso.  I have only tried the first.  Everything I had was served in disposable containers with disposable utensils including the coffee and I didn't bother to get a picture of the coffee.


After finishing the haleem I started sipping on my coffee and dug into some Bangladeshi sweets.  I tried the rosgulla and chom chom.  The pale cream colored sweets photographed very poorly against the white of the disposable bowls but I also grabbed a ladoo and my favorite from visits to the original shop, a kala jamun, to go.  As noted in my previous post, Bangladeshi sweets are known for being very moist.  I think the chom chom has nudged the kala jamun and become my favorite. Now I only have about a half dozen other varieties to try.

Dining accommodations at the original shop were somewhat rudimentary but this shop has more style. I think it had a previous incarnation as another short-lived India coffee house and perhaps the decor is a remnant of that.  There are graphics on the wall including sayings about coffee from literature and a brief history of coffee cultivation in India.  I got distracted by the artwork and missed seeing my coffee being prepared.  Two large screen TVs are kept at low volume, making conversation very possible.

We tend to stereotype India as a tea drinking culture but coffee is popular in South India.  You can also find Indian Filter Coffee on the menus at Sri Balaji Bhavan and Udipi Cafe in the same neighborhood and at other places around town.

Ishita Unblogged, which I linked to earlier for it's excellent article explaining Bangladeshi cuisine, also has an excellent post on Bengali sweets.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Taco Loco II

2501 S. Velasco (288 B), Angleton

Perhaps inspired by the Bronco Burrito of the Donut Shoppe and La Estacion in Galveston, Taco Loco (all the signage said II or 2) offers the Hippo, a breakfast taco with potatoes, egg, bacon, chorizo and shredded cheddar cheese on a flour tortilla.  The chorizo was very mild and amazingly greaseless - perhaps the grease was all absorbed by the other ingredients - and more like an American breakfast sausage than a Mexican chorizo, leaving the predominant tastes of the bacon and cheddar.  It all held together amazingly well.  Weighing in at almost 9 ounces, the Hippo lives up to its name. Nine ounces is a lot of taco.

An interesting brownish tinted salsa containing both tomatoes and tomatillos added some welcome heat. 

Roadside stand? Check.  There are a couple of weathered picnic tables on a concrete slab just off to the right, sans any shade, the slab itself a remnant of another structure rather than specifically constructed.  Signs tacked to a pole point to a restroom out back.  I didn't check it out but they may have been indicating the structure in the background that resembles an outhouse.

There are other tacos on the menu and some plates but it's the Hippo that is building this place's fame, with nothing but 5 star reviews on Yelp right now.   The taco was $3.50; extra cheese is available for an additional cost but it certainly isn't needed. 

Open until 2 pm, six days a week.  The Hippo is available until closing. I neglected to take a snapshot of the menu board.



Thursday, April 2, 2015

Trudis gone, Aldi coming - UPDATED


The Robindell Shopping Center at the corner of Beechnut and Bissonnet is all fenced off and demolition equipment is on scene.  According to Swamplot, everything is going except the Baskin Robbins.  In it's place, a new Aldi has been announced.  Aldi is a German discount grocer related to Trader Joe's featuring mostly their own store brands.  If you're not familiar, see this story from Business Insider which I posted on the sidebar some time ago.

While I, and other readers of this blog, will miss Trudis, the best birria in town, the addition of an Aldi is at least some good news.  Hopefully Trudis will find another location near by.

Elsewhere I've also seen where Taqueria Arandas is not abandoning our part of town completely.  The former Taqueria Cancun on S. Gessner, south of Beechnut, will become a corporate-owned outlet for the Houston-based taqueria chain.

UPDATE:  THIS TAQUERIA ARANDAS IS NOW OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

My earlier report on Trudis.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Asha's Roti Shop

1000 N. Alexander (Texas 146 B), Baytown

A few years back I happened on a West Indian bakery and roti shop on the east side of Baytown called Nio's.  When I checked it out for lunch I found myself in line behind a group of people in scrubs talking animatedly in a 'Caribbean' accent about rotis and how spicy they like them.  When I asked the proprietor why there was a roti shop in Baytown, she told me one of the large medical facilites there has a lot of employees from Trinidad.

Nio's is gone now but just up the road a bit is Asha's, a walk-up stand with a couple of tables under a carport in a grassy area out back.

I went around 1:30 on a Saturday afternoon.  The parking lot was nearly full but there seemed to be only one other person there to order food.  I wanted to try the Hot Doubles but they were all gone so I settled for two Beef Patties and I apparently got the last two of those.  Whether they make more for later on I don't know.


These were hefty patties, about 6 ounces each, with a dense flaky pie crust-like exterior colored with annato or turmeric, probably, and a surprisingly mild ground beef filling. There was only a little bit of heat to the whole thing.

I hope to be able to try the Hot Doubles next time or one of the rotis.

Asha's menu on Yahoo