Chef Chat, Part 3: Greg Lowry of VOICE

Categories: Chef Chat

VOICE - Caprese Salad.jpg
Caprese salad.
Before last week, I had never eaten at the restaurant inside the Hotel Icon - not when it was Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Bank, and not when Michael Kramer was the executive chef of VOICE. So I can't comment on what Houston may have lost in the way of fine dining. All I can say is that based on the dishes I tried on the new spring menu, Greg Lowry is doing amazing work. (See this week's chat here and here.)

We began with the caprese salad, which Lowry described as "simple and straightforward." Perhaps so; when the ingredients are this good, simplicity is the best policy. The house-made mozzarella was sturdy and smooth; the heirloom tomatoes from Bluebonnet Farms bright and fresh, and the micro basil sweet and surprisingly strong, with the mango vinegar providing a tangy accent.

VOICE - Tai Snapper Ceviche.jpg
Tai snapper ceviche.
Lowry then brought out a tai snapper ceviche. The mild-tasting fish is flash-marinated -no more than two-and-a-half minutes, according to Lowry--and every bite is a delightful medley of hot, sour, salty and sweet, with a flash of bitterness from the watercress. What's most striking about this dish is the progression of textures, from the tiny, just-barely-resilient spheres of tobiko (a wasabi-flavored caviar) to the crunchy dice of cucumber, shallots, and roasted jalapenos, to the nubby tapioca pearls, all of which play out against the glistening backdrop of the fish.

VOICE - Grilled HawaiianTuna.jpg
Grilled Hawaiian tuna.
Next up was a grilled sashimi-grade Hawaiian tuna, coated with pepper, and served with a toothsome array of spring vegetables. Like the caprese salad, nothing fancy, but impeccably executed. The tuna was loaded with flavor, and so tender you could cut it with a fork with almost no pressure.

VOICE - Creme brulee.jpg
Creme brulee.
To wrap up the tasting, pastry chef Joy Vreeland brought out a sneak preview of the new dessert menu, which will be available next week. Vreeland's desserts are homey and comforting, and that's by design; she wants her desserts to evoke the best kind of memories from childhood. I only wish I ate crème brûlée like hers when I was growing up! It's thick and custardy, with a strong vanilla flavor enhanced by the vanilla bean-infused whipped cream on top.

Vreeland then brought out a small vanilla malted milkshake, accompanied by an even smaller serving of french fries, and observed that her mom had taught her how to dip fries in her milkshake. Who dips their fries in a milkshake? I wondered, but in the spirit of scientific inquiry gave it a try. Not bad, but I'll stick to ketchup. That said, the malt was outstanding, with both the vanilla and malt flavors front and center. When the dessert menu comes out, this dessert will be accompanied by a homemade candy bar: something like a peanut buttery Snickers, according to Vreeland.

My tasting ended with some light ladyfinger cookies, a small mound of macerated berries with yuzu juice, and a light, almost floral-tasting aloe vera snowball. In Vreeland's words, it's a "crisp, plate-cleansing way to end the meal without feeling loaded down." Yeah, right. For me, that ship had long since sailed.

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Blah blah pedanticakes
Blah blah pedanticakes

Are you seriously calling tobiko 'a wasabi flavored caviar' like that's what it IS? No, this is wasabi-flavored tobiko, and tobiko is flying fish roe.


vanilla creme brulee with vanilla whipped cream on top?


i've been dipping french fries in my frosty since i was a kid. get with the program!

Matthew Dresden
Matthew Dresden

Thanks for the clarification, pedanticakes. I didn't know what tobiko was when I interviewed Chef Lowry, so I asked and he said it was a "wasabi flavored caviar." I then asked what kind of fish the roe came from and he said sturgeon. But I should have confirmed independently. I guess it's an open question as to whether VOICE is serving wasabi-flavored caviar (which is not tobiko) or wasabi-flavored tobiko (which is neither caviar nor inherently wasabi-flavored). I suspect it's the latter. In Chef Lowry's defense, he was at the tail end of a 14-day stretch in which he worked 200 hours without any time off and was also taking sinus medication. I am certain he knows what tobiko is and that he just misspoke.

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