Katharine Shilcutt's 10 Favorite Dishes in Houston

Categories: Top 10

oxheartaspic.JPG
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
3. Smoked beef leg with aspic at Oxheart

You don't come to Oxheart for a steak dinner and a nice bottle of Cab. You come for an experience - and only you can determine whether or not that experience is ultimately worth it. This is what New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells meant when he recently wrote that Oxheart is "one of the growing number of places around the country that are rearranging our notions of what fine dining means."

Oxheart is not simply one of the best restaurants in the city, but also one of the most distinctly Houstonian. It challenges people -- both within and without -- to reconsider the way they view our rapidly-growing city, or simply the way they view sunflower seeds or tomatoes. It takes all comers with an egalitarian attitude, and offers civility and culture in an unexpected setting. It's stubbornly idiosyncratic and committed to a vision all its own. There's sprawl here, too, but in the extended rhythm of a seven-course meal instead of the physical space itself, which is all whitewashed walls and tall, airy ceilings.

My favorite dish to come out of my visits at Oxheart is one that challenged me the most: cubed beef under a large, jiggly coin of aspic. I've always viewed aspic warily, noting with disdain that there's a reason the consomme-based gelatin hasn't been a prominent dish since before I was born. But you could very well be witnessing the rebirth of aspic at Oxheart right now, thanks to a dish of smoked beef leg and kombu aspic that's currently showing on the $79 tasting menu.

The tiny cubes of cold-smoked beef are served tartare-style, except that there's no mustard or raw eggs to be found here. Instead, the sweet-hot spike of mustard is replaced with a scattering of brightly flavored Vietnamese herbs and vegetables: basil, rau ram, cucumber. Acid comes courtesy of lime juice, and all of it is bound up in a crystal-clear aspic with a final sea-sweet, briny note of kelp from that kombu. It's a truly masterful display of how to combine so many disparate influences into one dish, elevating each one in turn and leaving the diner gobsmacked by it all.


Location Info

Hobbit Cafe

2243 Richmond Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Roost

1972 Fairview St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Bismillah Restaurant

5702 Hillcroft Ave, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

LA Crawfish

1005 Blalock, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Teotihuacan Mexican Cafe

1511 Airline, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Spanish Village

4720 Almeda, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Thanh Phuong

3236 E. Broadway, Pearland, TX

Category: Restaurant

Oxheart

1302 Nance St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Gerardo's Drive-In Grocery

609 Patton St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Rainbow Lodge

2011 Ella Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


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24 comments
texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

ahhhh, the #31 @ Spanish Village never lets me down....

adricas35
adricas35

Really good list! You'll be missed! Also, Sammy's WIld Game Grill Camel Burger and the Pheasant hot dog are to die for...so yummy. I've never thought that I would say "yummy" and "Camel" together lol

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

The one dish I emplore everyone to try, especially due to their departure in June, is the Scallops St. Jacques at Feast.  Truly one of the best dishes I've had in the past decade.  A very simple and decadent dish.  All it is comprised of is Scallops, mushrooms, Brandy and cream sauce.  

Don't miss getting to try this before it leaves!

BobbyFreshpants
BobbyFreshpants topcommenter

No mention of La Macro? I thought you would have given them an honorable mention

HTownChowDown
HTownChowDown

Excellent list, Katharine. You're going to be missed here. Thank you for so many fantastic articles.

Loona_c
Loona_c

I choose the Gandalf at Hobbit Hole instead!  And I don't get the love for Spanish Village.  I know they are beloved by so many, but the margarita was melted and bitter, the chips were thick and chewy and the food overpriced and meh.

But others on the list sound interesting!

eudemonist
eudemonist

Thanks for all the good stuff in your time here, Katherine!  Found some great food because of this column.

Brazos
Brazos

Loved reading your articles. You'll be missed. 

I used to go the the Hobbit Hole back in the 80's as well. Thanks for  the trip back in time.

 Oh and thanks so much for the article on the lobster roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches.  It's a drive for me but worth every nickel. Their bread is perfect.

kagan34
kagan34

Some good stuff on here...gotta try it! You've done a remarkable and memorable job, and I will join in your farewell ceremony tomorrow when they cast your handprints in the cement adjacent to the Houston Press building.

conebaby
conebaby topcommenter

Great list--just totally rearranged my "top 10" (Urban Swank gals inspired me to get list-y with my must-trys) as a result. Good luck, Katharine!

ekhilton
ekhilton

Madame: you are so tremendously good at what you do. Thank you for all the education, enlightenment and insight.  I'll be following you still and wish you the best.

Houstess
Houstess

Nice list.  But I wish you had chosen a different format for your penultimate day.  It took forever to look at each page.

stgeorge4
stgeorge4

katharine...is the snapper at teotihuacan boneless?

mgaspard
mgaspard

This is a great list, congrats on the new gig!

VStilton2
VStilton2

@FattyFatBastard  

Sounds delicious! One of the best dishes I've had at Feast is something I rarely order at a restaurant: chicken. Theirs is truly amazing, roasted and served with a velvety sauce that's spiked with Pernod or Ricard, something anise scented anyway. Nearly as tasty as your Chinese Cottage Cheese I should think.

J.A.Justice
J.A.Justice

@Houstess No shit right?  Stop giving us actual content and information and just shovel a pointless useless list into our faces!  Reading is for idiots!

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