Friday, November 27, 2015

Getting Well!

Thanks to the writing skills of my Senior Editor, Sally Tyler, my blog and Houston Eats Facebook page haven't stopped and some posts have been written by her. Thank you! Cancer treatments will be over in two weeks (13 of 45 left) and a spinal operation will be done two days after the cancer treatments. I'm starting today with a couple of posts to get me back on track. Happy Thanksgiving!

Some homemade smoked Salmon from Amalfi

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kasra Persian Grill - Persian Perfection

The Cyrus Cylinder (the first attempt we know about running a society and a national symbol of Iran) and this restaurant are a couple of great reasons to appreciate Iran. Kasra Persian Grill is yet another cultural treat available in Houston.

Feta, Parsley, Spearmint, Basil and Radishes To Start

Hottest of Bread Greets Each Diner

Tomato Cucumber Salad Refreshes With a Squeeze of Lemon

Cherry Rice With Butter, Roasted Tomatoes and Filet Mignon

Lamb Shank Extraordinaire - Eggplant Sauce

Adam Parsa and his father, Morty Parsa, and mother, Cyndi Parsa have swept the restaurant location of any bad vibes of previous owners. The lunch crowd on a weekday was constant - business and family combined, and happily sated with the luxuries of graceful, peaceful Middle Eastern dining. The service is friendly and solicitous - each customer's needs are attended quickly and with a smile. The team of waitstaff obviously support one another by removing plates and offering tea and more bread - all making sure that all diners come back. 

When you are one of Houston's (Allison Cook's) Top 100 Restaurants (and the only Persian one), you try harder.  Moving up year after year has been a point of pride and accomplishment. After over 20 successful, hard-won years in the business and serving such a wonderful variety of unique dishes, this restaurant deserves a try from you. Iranians savor saffron and Zereshk, a unique tart barberry that is believed to limit your cholesterol intake; the dried barberry flakes are tucked on every table to help you keep your waistline in check throughout the seasons' eatings.

By Culinary Houston Senior Editor, Sally Tyler

Kasra Persian Grill
Morty & Cindi Parsa
9741 Westheimer
Houston, TX 77042

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Going With the Flow at FLO Paris Bakery and Cafe

A delicious little corner restaurant on Westheimer near the Galleria just popped up. Sally is a sucker for a pretty typeface sign. She spotted it on a frequent drive-by a few months back and wondered if it was a hair salon. On closer inspection, she reported happily that it was a new French cafe, Flo Paris Bakery and Cafe, tucked nearby Cafe Lili, another favorite lunch-spot. A little late for her recent birthday celebration and in the mood for butter and perfection, I decided we'd better try it.

The gleaming counters and crystal clear display cases beckon with amazing patisseries, confections and a crepe station. Old standbys like Salad Nicoise, Chocolate Eclairs, gorgeous breads and French Onion Soup....cleverly topped with a removable lid of Gruyere and fresh crisp Sourdough bread that could be dipped or submerged into a flavorful dark and comforting "liquid lunch".

French Onion Soup

Followed by a Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Quiche

A Salmon Mille-feuille layered with Avocado, Wasabi Cream was so light, fluffy and thinly, flakily crisp as to have us both moaning with pleasure. A neighboring diner asked if it was as good as it looked - we just smiled and glowed.

To close the meal, I chose a Strawberry Cream Puff which carried home handily while we devoured the complimentary multi-colored, multi-flavored Macarons (Vanilla, Cherry, Lime).

good-natured solutions
The comfortable modern chairs and wide open seating make it a family-friendly, upscale training ground for young diners. The food is so pretty that two little girls were perfectly well-behaved with the hope of returning to the counter to choose their desserts. A small outside area allows those who wish to, enjoy the last of our beautiful fall weather.

A lovely experience from start to finis! Merci beaucoup for opening so near our house!

Flo Paris Bakery and Cafe
5757 Westheimer #105
Houston, TX 77057

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Himalaya... Indian and Pakistani Cuisine

I always thought that Indians and Pakistanis didn't get along very well. Well that's NOT the case at Himalaya... a small restaurant in a mostly Indian-American strip center at Hillcroft and SW Freeway. While I've eaten here before, it was a surprise for Sally. 

The restaurant is small and casual and you must be 
impressed by the awards and rave reviews on the wall!

The restaurant is small and casual and there is plenty of attention from the owner, Kaiser Lashkari. This trip, we decided to eat rather lite and asked Kaiser to order for us. Hard to do, as food from this region is not easily "diet-ized."

Garlic Naan.

Our lunch consisted of regular Naan and Garlic Naan. The Garlic Naan was spectacular and we decided that it could be a destination dish. All crispy and you could taste the garlic before it reached your mouth!


Aloo Chana Masala

The Aloo Chana Masala (chick peas and potatoes) was delicious and was not one of the dishes that made it to the doggie bag. It was an a vegan Punjab Indian dish simmered in a piquant curry sauce.

Chicken Achaari 

Chicken Achaari was cubed chicken simmered in a tangy smoky curry sauce. Delicious.

Goat Masala 

The Goat Masala was bone-in goat cooked in a tomato and onion sauce. It also had a rich garlic curry sauce. The meat was tender as can be and the bone-in treatment is testament to the fact that nothing is wasted in that part of the world.

Indian Rice

The Indian rice was cooked perfectly and not the slightest bit of stickiness such as in Japanese or American rices. Himalaya is certainly our go-to restaurant for Indian/Pakistani food... and just may become a hang-out for me! Himalaya is a must-go experience!

Himalaya Restaurant & Catering Houston, TX
6655 Southwest Freeway, Houston 77074

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar

A Chef's Journey... From Salerno on the Amalfi Coast of Italy to Sardinia and back to the Amalfi Coast!
Born and reared in Solerno on Italy’s beautiful Amalfi Coast.  Chef Giancarlo Ferrara was immersed, as a child, in his fourth generation cheese makers family’s love of and contribution to the foods and cuisines of the area. He attended Centro Professionale Albergiero cooking school in Salerno, then furthered his training at Scuola Arte Culinaria Etoile. Upon completion of his studies and apprenticeships, he built upon his experience at various of the finest resorts and restaurants in Italy (receiving such awards as finalist in Barilla’s Prima d’Italia contest and winning the honor of Best Restaurant in Veneto from the Veronelli Guide in 1998).
Chef Giancarlo and Lisa Ferrara

In 2002, Giancarlo joined Arcodoro in Houston as executive chef and quickly became well-known in Houston for preparing the cuisines of Sardinia for eager Houstonians who raved about his expertise and creations from that area.  He represented Arcodoro at the prestigious James Beard House in 2003 and won the “People’s Choice” award at the 4th annual Risotto Festival.
Not a sports bar... but a good place to watch NBC Nightly News
while enjoying a cocktail!
After 11 years with Arcodoro, Giancarlo is now fulfilling his dream of opening his own restaurant. He has come full-circle to the cuisines of his homeland of the Amalfi Coast of Italy with his new eatery, Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar.
The Wine Room Doubles as a Private Dining Room
So, with that in mind, noting that the new restaurant had opened in my neighborhood in Briargrove Center, I dropped in for lunch with a friend (more dishes to taste and write about if I liked it… which I did). Also, it is important to note that the Amalfi Coast of Italy and Sardinia have important similarities… the main daily occupations of the citizens are dining, drinking, relaxing and enjoying life… hence, Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar seems to be an oasis of casual relaxation, wine and (in my opinion) great food. So, we weren’t pushed along with each course bumping the previous one out of the way.
Salmone Maritato Agli Agrumi
We started with a daily special, which was Salmone Maritato Agli Agrumi. Giancarlo smokes Scottish salmon in-house, then marinates it with sea salt, lemon, orange zest and raw sugar. It’s topped with a julienne of carrots, zucchini, micro greens, an orange-infused dressing (and some strategically placed salmon roe). I know that it looks like it was delicious, but it was better than that.

Tartar di Mezzancolle e Caviacole

Our server suggested a Mediterranean red shrimp tartar, Tartar di Mezzancolle e Caviacole, as a second antipasti. It was at once gorgeous and tasty and photogenic (important!). The shrimp were marinated in lemon-infused olive oil, chives, basil and pepperoncino, then served over a zucchini carpaccio with Servuga caviar and a shrimp dressing.

Ravioli di Zucca Aragosta e Tartufo

This house-made ravioli, Ravioli di Zucca Aragosta e Tartufo, was filled with creamy butternut squash then topped with LOBSTER and a black truffle sauce. The pasta was perfect and I am qualified enough to say that the truffle sauce, while it may have been made with truffle oil... it was house-made from black truffles. It was a sophisticated presentation of rustic ingredients with a musky, sexy aroma... really nice!

My dining companion ordered a custom-built pizza... that's not a problem here, as they even have a granite counter for customer-involved pizza crafting. There are specialty pizzas on the menu, such as Margherita, Prosciutto di Parma, Salame, Funghi (etc., etc.), but from what I could see, if they have it, they will put it on a pizza for you. It was delicious with a perfect crust and I noticed that they also have Calzones and Focaccia on the menu.

Ossobuco al Taurasi con Risotto al Timo e Burrata

The king is in the house! My rule has always been that if there is Osso Buco on the menu, I look no further. Of course, it has to be prepared by a chef who knows how to do it. When the dish arrived, braised in Taurasi wine with thyme risotto, it had the marrow fork already inserted in the bone, indicating that Chef Giancarlo knew why I order Osso Buco and what I wanted to do first. Tender, rich and juicy with creamy marrow, this veal dish is as good as I've had in Houston. The aromatic aroma of it wafting behind the server, as he glided through the tables, drew the admiration and comments from a table-full of "ladies who lunch" next to us (one of whom came over to our table to gaze at it).

Trilogia di Nocciola

Dessert was a creative and decadent Trilogia di Nocciola (Is "decadent" overused in dessert reviews? Certainly it is.). It's like Hazelnut three ways. A warm cake, creamy smooth and melted in the center... a panna cotta... and a smooth gelato. There was even a macaron perched on the plate. Our server suggested a Frangelico Cappuccino to be paired with it and it worked beautifully. 

Frangelico Cappuccino

We found Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar to be comfortable, unhurried and elegantly casual. All of the dishes we ordered were delicious and I, for one, recommend it without reservations. But I recommend reservations (today).

 Amalfi Ristorante Italiano & Bar
6100 Westheimer
Houston, Texas 77057