Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Catfish Station


7903 Beechnut

The Frenchy's Fried Chicken at this location has closed and been rather quickly replaced by this new outpost of another home-grown mini-chain.  According to their website they started out of a trailer in Third Ward only a little over a dozen years ago and the website now lists six brick and mortar locations  It falls a little more into the fast-casual category rather than fast food as the food is prepared to order.

I tried the 2-piece catfish plus 2 shrimp snack basket which came with one hush puppy and some very good battered fries.  The coating on the fish is similar to Capt. Benny's, a mix of corn meal and corn flour, I think, but a little bit thicker.  The hush puppy was sweet - they're described on the menu as sweet corn hush puppies but I didn't find any kernels of corn in mine.

The chicken and sausage gumbo was very good with a good rich, medium thick roux and lots of Cajun sausage; the chicken pieces were mostly shredded in my first sample but I got chunks the second time I tried this.  There was a chunk of tomato and the menu indicated there also should have been okra although I didn't find any pieces in my samples. Pictures posted online from in-house diners with this dish look a little better than my take-home sample - the rice settles down to the bottom in transit.  It has a mild amount of heat but there are bottles of Cajun Chef on the tables.

There are grilled dishes, chicken tenders, seafood tacos and po-boys plus one pasta dish.  House specialties include shrimp and grits, Cajun sausage with red beans and rice and more.  A link of boudain comes with a very tangy remoulade sauce and crackers.

The crawfish pie comes as an empanada stuffed with mostly shredded or minced pieces of crawfish and is served with a home-made etouffee sauce which is an onion gravy.

Besides the desserts listed on the website the in-house menu board offers Stonie Clark's Tea Cakes, an Austin specialty.

Dining-in accommodations are not plush but they're clean and the staff has been very friendly.

Catfish Station

7/30/17 - Per the Chronicle, four more Frenchy's are converting to Catfish Stations.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Flying Idlis

9411 Richmond

This business started out as delivery only, I think.  Hence the slogan 'You Order, We Fly' and the name I suppose. They've built up such a following they've moved into a big strip center on Richmond across from Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant, sharing the center with Mi Pueblito and Dodo's, two stalwart Colombian restaurants, long-time Cuban venue La Vina, and a new West African spot, Mea's African Cuisine and Lounge which features Nigerian and Ivorian dishes.

The menu centers on idlis and dosas but has begun to expand beyond that.  I started with the Magic Idlis and some Chai.  The basic rice and split black lentil steamed dough is dressed with butter, salt, onion, gunpowder and coriander (cilantro), served on a section of banana leaf and accompanied by a peanut chutney and sambar.  I was delighted.  I love finding little places like this and the fact that portions are modest only adds to its appeal for me.

I went back a few days later for the Magic Masala Dosa which challenges my long-time fave at Shri Balaji Bhavan as best Masala Dosa in town. Most of the dishes listed on the menu as 'coming soon' are now available so the menu offers close to a dozen varieties of idlis and dosas.

Just the mention or sight of the word thali and I start salivating.  It's perhaps my favorite way to partake of Indian food so I had to check out the weekday lunch thali.  Clockwise from the top this was lentils and spinach, eggplant, sambar, yogurt (curd/dahi), a buttermilk curry with vegetables, a small gulab jamon and wheat chapati, plus a more than adequate portion of rice.  The server (owner?) said the buttermilk curry included a  little bit of sambar as I understand and various vegetables.  I could only identify a small portion of onion.  Everything was very tasty; I loved especially the first two dishes and the buttermilk curry.

The staff lacks a little bit of polish (they've only been open a few weeks) but more than make up for it with eagerness to please.  A wall poster indicates on weekends the thali is a special Andhra thali.  The place has been sparsely populated when I've been in on weekdays but I stopped by on a Sunday to try the special thali and discovered there'd be a wait for a seat.  I've never developed much appreciation for standing in line so I'll try again another time.

This stretch of Richmond has always been interesting for the variety of cuisines offered.  The strip center across the street where Blue Nile is located is getting a sprucing up and a couple of Colombian restaurants in there have changed hands; one specializes now in Colombian empanadas and the other is a second location of Paisa's Twin.  I can't remember what each of those were before, though.

Flying Idlis

Masala Munchies

6692 Southwest Freeway @ Hillcroft

I've seen this place many times before, right next door to London Sizzler, but never been in.  The little storefront offers a dizzying array of snacks from the subcontinent.

I'm not much interested in the 'Betcha can't eat just one' food group (thanks anyway, Bert) and I wouldn't know where to start with the variety offered here.  I prefer the more substantial snacks that offer both some nutrition and taste as well as filling the stomach.  I got, top row, a couple of their vegetable samosas (about 2 oz.), curried potatoes, peas and carrots with a coriander/chile chutney; second row: kachoris, minced green peas with garlic and spices and a tamarind chutney; and, third row: Katta Dhokla and a couple Khandvi.  That's actually 2 pieces of dhokla.  Katta means it was made with yogurt, I think.  This was the moistest, heaviest and best dhokla I think I've ever had, despite the tired looking cilantro.  A little dash of red chilli powder certainly didn't hurt.

I went back two days later for more dhokla and to stare at the shelves full of snacks until my head started to hurt.  People were walking out with large bags full of the treats and I'm sure I would too if I started trying to make choices.

Masala Munchies

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Nukkad Dhaba

10707 W. Bellfort

I happened to spot this restaurant while I was waiting on my Chicken Shwarma from the Halal 5 food truck across the street. Driving west on West Bellfort from 59/69 at this point the sign for Nukkad Dhaba is almost completely blocked by a tree and I hadn't noticed it.

Nuddad means corner so I understand and dhaba is a term for a roadside eatery in India, particularly one catering to truckers.  This is a counter-service diner type place with booths along one wall and tables along another.  Parking is limited in front (and most of the building is currently unoccupied) but there is an expanded lot in the back, kept watch over by security cameras.  There's even a mostly enclosed patio on the rear of the building, making this one of the very few places in this part of town with al fresco dining.

Reviewers online rave about the Butter Chicken here while others complain about the oiliness of the curries. I've never cared for Butter Chicken so I passed up yet another opportunity to see what I'm missing and went for Chicken Seekh Kabab, Channa Masala, which is one of my favorite dishes from the subcontinent, and naan. The kababs were fine; nothing outstanding but okay.  They came with a very good coriander/chile chutney.  The Channa was both very oily and very tame.  When I make this dish at home, I'm aiming for a spice level like a bowl of Texas Red and this didn't come close.  There are shakers of a masala mix on the tables at the restaurant so I got mine out at home and shook generously.  The naan survived the almost 15 minute ride home tightly wrapped in very thick foil and was excellent for sopping up the oil.

A specialty of the house is Bombay style Chinese food, offered on a separate menu beginning at 5 pm and available until 1:45 am, seven days a week.  I had picked up a package of Ching's Secret Veg Hakka Noodles at Indian Spices and Snacks in Sugar Land recently but didn't realize I needed the Secret Szechuan sauce mix packet, too, so had never done anything with them and here was a version on a restaurant menu staring me in the face.  Well, minus any reference to Szechuan.  This is a stir fried noodle dish that had onions, bell pepper and I believe green beans in it, as I recall.  Interesting, but again very bland. I added the masala spice and some soy sauce to kick it up some.

I also picked up a couple of Keema Samosas which came with a very potent garlic chutney. Compared to this concoction, they might as well put Sriracha in 2.5 oz bottles and slap a Gerber label on it.  I gobbled it like a side dish and regretted it (just a little) the next couple of days.  I think the hole in my stomach has mainly healed, now, though.

My third visit I went just for the snacks - a couple of the Keema Samosas, an Aloo Vada and Chicken Patise

I have seen these Chicken Patise before but never tried one.  From here on, I'll be trying every one I come across.  This was the best thing yet - nicely spiced shredded chicken meat in puff pastry (and I had some of both the coriander and garlic chutneys left over to dress it up a little).

The place is very clean on the inside, better looking than the outside of the building, and the counter people have been friendly and welcoming, energetic even.  I plan to go back to try more of the Chinese food.

Nukkad Dhaba