100 Favorite Dishes 2013: No. 82, Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire
This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of her personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston food-scape. It's a list to drool over.
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
In case you couldn't tell by the fact that four of my 19 favorite dishes (so far) come from food trucks, I'm just gonna say it: I love food trucks. I love the evolving menus and the revolving wheels. I love that sometimes I really have to hunt for them. And I love that the food from them always surprises me.
St. John's Fire is no exception. I feel like the new-ish Cajun/seafood/fusion truck isn't given enough credit for being undeniably delicious. From their inventive take on egg rolls to the manna from heaven that is a fried crawfish mac and cheese ball, St. John's Fire is doing some pretty hot stuff (pun intended).
My favorite recent menu addition (please, oh please, let it be here to stay)? The seared ahi tuna.
On the menu, it's listed as just that: Ahi tuna. You have to read the fine print to truly understand the supporting characters that make this tuna dish so spectacular.
First, there's the bed of savory bread pudding upon which the tuna steak rests. It's fluffy and eggy and provides just the right amount of mushy starch to counter the other crunchy and spicy elements of the dish. Tiny fried crawfish tails with a kick of heat surround the tuna, and when you gather both sea creatures in one bite, it's a perfect balance of substantial tuna and sweet crawfish. Then there's just a handful of wilted spinach (you know, to make it seem more healthy and provide color contrast) and a delightful creamy mustard sauce drizzled over the whole thing.
It's a Creole-inspired delight without being over-the-top or relying solely upon salt or heat to flavor the dish. The tuna is clearly high quality, as are the crawfish, and the fact that the savory bread pudding is so light and just barely salted tells me that Chef Joel St. John doesn't just know Creole or southern cooking. He know's how to craft a dish. This inexpensive food truck item could easily be served on a white tablecloth in a fancy restaurant.
Though the tortilla-crusted fish and the shrimp corn dogs, both seen on EAT St. on the Cooking Channel, are clearly the most popular dishes on St. John's Fire's short but sweet menu, I implore you to try this new offering.
Cause let's face it: You really can't go wrong with fried crawfish. The tender, flaky pink tuna and the fluffy bread pudding? Well that's just Creole gravy.
The list so far:
No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme
No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia
No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro
No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra
No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen
No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club
No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub
No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood
No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus
No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro
No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar
No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum
No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao
No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie
No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's
No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill
No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches