Friday, October 24, 2008

Pollo Bravo

6015 Hillcroft #2800, 1/2 block south of US 59

I first visited Pollo Bravo back in May when I was sampling pollo asado at various places on the Southwest side, hoping to find some purveyor close by so I didn't have to make the trip all the way up to Longpoint and one of the El Norteno buses/trailers up there. I had the Pollo Rostizado with Maduros and both were excellent with generous sized pieces. The staff was very friendly, the decor very appealing (brushed stainless steel, varnished pine, bright yellow and rich apricot colors). The other dishes I saw being served looked very good also and I resolved to return but never got around to it until recently.

I was in the mood for some ceviche recently and this place came up in a search for Peruvian restaurants on our local review site, I have a copy of the menu I picked up in May and nowhere on it do the words Peru or Peruvian appear but now the menu identifies some dishes as Peruvian, some as Mexican.

Once again I found the staff very friendly and helpful; there had been a minor language problem before but none this time.

I tried the Ceviche Mixto, one of two ceviches on the menu. It included fish, calamari and octopus that I could identify plus corn, Bermuda onion, cilantro, lime juice, camote (sweet potato) and iceberg lettuce and was appropriately spicy. It came with a small bowl of a very creamy, rich salsa verde which might have actually been intended to accompany the other appetizer I ordered, the Aguadito, the house soup.

The soup included chicken, corn, onion, tomatoes and peas and was rather bland until I observed another patron adding some of the salsa to it which improved it considerably.

I also tried the Chicha Morada, a popular Peruvian beverage similar to an agua fresca although it's not listed on the menu with the other aguas frescas. It's made from purple maize, pinapple and cinnammon in the classic formulation but I thought Pollo Bravo's version included pear. It's described sometimes as resembling Kool-Aid but it was not sweet at all. I was a little disappointed in it although it is said to be beneficial for blood pressure.

The two appetizers and drink left me so full I could not comtemplate a dessert as I had hoped. Besides the Helado de Lucuma listed on the menu a sign indicates Pollo Bravo now serves Helado de Chirimoya.

I'm looking forward to more visits. The only complaint I have about this place is the cramped parking lot.

UPDATE: I've enjoyed several more visits to this restaurant over the months. On one occasion I had the meal pictured above, a quarter chicken with Chilaquiles in Salsa Verde. The chicken remains amazingly moist and tender for roasted chicken and the restaurant (original location) remains an excellent alternative in the area if you don't want to hit up one of the ubiquitous Indian or Pakistani places.

Re: the top picture above. At least three years I've had this camera and I still couldn't take a decent close-up. The shot of the ceviche was blurred and out of focus so I have only the shot of the soup across the table with a little of the ceviche in the foreground. There are more pictures of the food on the website.

Pollo Bravo

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Local - Kitchen, Market, Bakery

120 Circle Way, Lake Jackson

I had to make a trip to my old stomping grounds, Brazosport, and was looking for some good eats and happened on this place in my hometown. I suspected from the menu and the food that it was in some way connected to Cafe Annice just down the street and a review on confirms that.

It's a sandwich shop (breakfasts, sandwiches, wraps, burgers, soups, salads) which also does rotisserie chickens and 'Premium' casseroles, which looked pretty good. Then there's the Starbucks coffee bar and Tazo tea, the pastry shop, and an eclectic market with imported African tableware, totes, coffee mugs, candles --- a hodge-podge one might expect to find in a sandwich shop in a touristy town, which Lake Jackson is not.

I tried the 'Upper West Side' sandwich (sandwich names are a little strained) - thinly sliced pastrami with melted Swiss cheese, fresh coleslaw and Creole mayo grilled on light rye. Mayo and pastrami? Yes, it worked for me. The sandwich was very satisfying, especially after an earlier visit to a local tamale shop where I left most of the food on the plate. I was not very happy with the potato salad side, however. Was that Thousand Island dressing instead of mayo? Next time I'll try the fruit salad side.

I've never been to Cafe Annice but heard nothing but good things about it and have been to a reception in town once catered by the restaurant at which the food was very good. I'll have no hesitation about visiting The Local again.

There's some interior shots and full menu on the website.

The Local

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Boogie's BBQ, Chicago style - UPDATED AUGUST 20, 2010



I have really been into home-cooking and comfort foods since Ike and have been eating out only about once a week and sticking close to my neighborhood, trying a couple of new places without much luck until I found this place.

On my first visit I tried the sliced beef sandwich. This was served open faced on white bread. There was about 10 oz. of beef and it was very, very tender. They use oak and pecan wood and although you can smell the smoke wafting out of a window on the trailer the brisket was not very smoky tasting. The sauce was like a glaze and very, very, very sweet; somewhat to my surprise I found myself liking it. It tastes a little to me like it has pineapple in it and is reminiscent of a ham glaze. No onions or pickles were offered or served which seems at the very least un-Texan if not un-American.

On a second visit I tried the rib and sausage plate, a very generous amount of food for $10. The sausage, which they make themselves, is pork and beef and I thought it was very good and needed no more sauce or seasoning. The ribs on this occasion were very, very fatty and a little underdone and in need of perhaps just a skosh more seasoning but they have a lot of promise. The smokiness of both meats on this occasion was just fine.

The potato salad is an institutional product and too creamy for my taste; the baked beans were very sweet. The sauce, which they make themselves, seemed darker and heavier than before and still very sweet; I used very little of it on the meats. I sure could have used some dill pickles and raw onion to cut some of the sweetness.

Besides baked beans and potato salad, green beans are offered as a side and extras include french fries, baked potatoes, turkey legs, boudin and cake. Beverages include Sweet Tea and pop. I understand rib tips are a delicacy in Chicago and their Chi Town Special is tips, chips and a pop for $6.00.

Besides the meats I’ve tried they also have chicken, ribs by the slab, rib tips and a pork chop sandwich.

They’re open only Thursday thru Saturday, 11 a to 8 p, and advised me to call ahead on Saturday as they stay pretty busy with call-in orders and the wait can be lengthy.

I’m really glad to have discovered this place as my barbecue options in this end of town are limited. There’s another new place nearby called 3P’s Barbecue which hasn’t gotten its act together but isn’t very promising so far so this is probably my best option for que in the neighborhood and I’ll have to cope with the sweetness or just order a la carte; hopefully the green beans aren’t sweet.

UPDATE 5/09: In addition to all the comments below there have been very positive comments made about Boogie's on eGullet and Roguefood. I don't eat a lot of barbecue these days so I've just gotten around to going back to try this place again.

I think this was better than what I had before. I got the sauce on the side this time, the better to appreciate the meats by themselves. It's been pointed out they apparently finish off the ribs on the grill to give them a little finishing crispness which is outstanding. The potato salad and beans were both much better this time than what I had before.

Be sure to check out hrushing's pictures in his comments below. I've got to get back over here and check out the boudin.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Suya Hut

11611 W. Airport, about ½ mile west of 59S

The Houston International Festival this year focused on Africa and listed some of our city’s African restaurants. I learned that most of them as well as most of the African food stores in Houston are in my corner of town (southwest) and decided to try them out. I had never heard of Suya Hut but picked that one first.

This is like your typical Houston hole-in-the-wall ethnic eatery but it is located in a rather new strip center and is spic-and-span. The lady was very friendly and helpful. I tried the chicken suya (kebab) and found it was very good, very juicy and flavorful with all the spices. I also had the masa, a fermented rice cake that puffs up when fried and has a mild sour taste - very good. And I tried the lansir, the green salad which is nothing but chopped cilantro, kuli-kuli (defatted groundnut flour) and some diced tomatoes and onions. The picture on the menu looked like a moist green salad but it was quite dry owing to the groundnut flour and could have used some dressing. I thought this would be fine as a small side accompaniment to some of the plates but was a bit much as a full salad.

The words peanut and groundnut seem to be used interchangeably and groundnut flour is used a lot in the foods here (and other West African eateries) so I think if you had a peanut allergy you might need to avoid this place.

There are shakers of cayenne on the tables and toothpicks, which are used for eating some of the foods, apparently. Among the beverages offered (not listed on the menu or on the website) are Bud Lite, Heineken and Guiness plus Star Lager, a Ghanaian brew that is produced by Guiness. There were what I assumed to be bottled waters also but as I was leaving another customer was asking about the alcohol content and I learned they include Emu, a Top Palm Juice according to the label but palm wine according to the sign on the cooler door.

On a second visit I tried the jollof rice with lansir and beef suya with the masa asa side. This is only a 4 table place and I decided to get this to go. The beef was cube steak I believe and there was still a little pink in some of the pieces but the exterior was somewhat pasty from the powdered groundnut that is part of the coating. I think the chicken suya is better.

The jollof rice is made with tomatoes, tomato paste and red pepper and there was a very generous portion. I have read that West African foods can be quite spicy but I could barely detect any pepper in this dish.

On this occasion the lansir was not as dry, probably because of being moistened by a little steam closed up in the box on the way home. Lime and EVOO helped a little, especially with the passage of a little time. Maybe some more chopped tomato would be good, too, but as I expected this worked better as a side salad.

On another visit I tried the Pepper Fish Soup. Pepper soup is a staple of the region consisting of a thin, peppery broth in which various other ingredients including vegetables and meats are served. The fish choices are catfish and tilapia and they are served as steaks, not filets. I really liked the peppery broth but tilapia is a very bony fish and it was tedious dealing with all the small bones. I have since found a spice mix for this soup at Makola Imports, a Ghanaian food store on South Gessner, and have made it at home with filets.

I have also tried the shrimp suya; it proved to be very tiny shrimp, coated with the groundnut flour and with that pasty exterior but very spicy, the spiciest thing I’ve had at Suya Hut.

I’ve since discovered several African food stores sell suya also; I’ve observed many customers at Suya Hut buying them in quantity to go.

So far the real winners have been the chicken suya, masa (also called waina on the menu) and the pepper soup.

The website has a menu and some helpful pictures.

Suya Hut

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Friend's Kitchen menus

Prices and dishes may differ at the restaurant.