Review: Hubbell & Hudson Has Lost Some of Its Spark Along With its Market
You can't see inside the market at Hubbell & Hudson anymore. The expansive windows that allowed pedestrians to view the bounty of fruits, vegetables, breads and meats are now fogged and glazed. The elevator that used to drop you off at the floral department now dumps you out onto the Woodlands Waterway. There isn't anything left inside; the only thing that remains is the Hubbell & Hudson Bistro next door.
Photos by Troy Fields The delicate sea bass and beautiful chunks of crab rest atop a cloud of tangy goat cheese whipped potatoes.
Dishes using local ingredients and in-season produce still dominate the menu. A chef-inspired cheese board that once included fromage from the deli is a popular starter among patrons who begin their meal with it and a glass of wine while seated at the bar.
Dry-aged beef is still offered, and is accompanied by other local Texas cuts of beef, like the tender, but sadly underseasoned, eight-ounce Akaushi Texas Wagyu tenderloin. The New Bistro Burger reminds guests of the original burger bar situated inside the market. Not all the burgers that were offered in the grocery portion remain on the menu, but the upgraded cheeseburger known as the New Bistro Burger is the only option you need.
We ordered the awkwardly named Shellfish in the Style of Ceviche, which sounded enticing with its combination of rich Maine lobster tail, jumbo lump crabmeat and succulent shrimp marinated in a combination of yuzu (an East Asian citrus fruit) and cilantro. But the bowl of shellfish drowning in too much juice was not a beautiful presentation; the crabmeat should have been served in large chunks rather than finely shredded pieces. There wasn't enough shellfish mass to soak up all the marinade.
"It is refreshing," my dining companion noted. She was correct, but the pool of yuzu juice at the bottom of the bowl only left me wishing for more shellfish.
It's hard not to compare the bistro to what it once was, a restaurant connected to a specialty market serving dishes prepared with ingredients sold just steps away from the kitchen.
Hubbell & Hudson used to have something special. Being connected to its own market filled with a direct supply of signature meats, an international selection of cheeses and locally sourced produce made it a unique place for Woodlands residents to frequent. But now that the bistro must source all its foods elsewhere, H&H has lost some of its spark.
Hubbell & Hudson opened as a market and bistro in November 2008. More than five years later, on March 12, the grocery portion and Viking cooking school both officially closed, but the attached bistro and off-site kitchen remained in business.
Originally, the bistro served dishes featuring the market's offerings. The menu was much larger, and meals were deconstructed on the plate with wisps of sauce strategically placed in corners and on the sides of the dish. By day, it was a place to grab a juicy burger or hearty sandwich, and at night, it transformed into an upscale fine-dining establishment where patrons could select any cut of meat offered from the butcher shop, a seasoning rub, sauce and two sides.
The bistro appealed to residents of The Woodlands seeking a "downtown Houston" restaurant in the suburbs. More often than not, these diners would end their meal grocery shopping on the other side.
In 2012, H&H's menu was upgraded and modified by the then newly promoted executive chef, Austin Simmons. Simmons gained experience at the now closed Tesar's Modern Steak and Seafood in The Woodlands before joining the culinary team at the bistro. Now that the restaurant no longer has a symbiotic relationship with a market, it must get its ingredients from other providers. Simmons purchases seafood from the Gulf Coast, East Coast and other countries; he tries to use as much local produce as he can, buying in-season items from Hardie's Fruit & Vegetable Co. The menu changes more often now that Simmons has taken the reins; he maintains an offering of dishes using the freshest ingredients he can get his hands on.
A Fog & Parm starter demonstrates his culinary abilities. Creamy and salty Parmesan cheese (Parm) drapes perfectly over a beautiful circle of firm goat cheese (Fog) sitting atop tender avocado slices. A finely diced herb-seasoned tomato compote adds an extra dose of salt; I cut a chunk of goat cheese covered in melted Parmesan, then placed it on a slice of sweet, toasted walnut cranberry bread with avocado and tomatoes. The salty compote and Parm elevate the subtle flavors of goat cheese and avocado, but it all comes together with a bite of the chewy, fruity toast.