An ideal marriage
For years, I have called Randy Rucker my favorite chef in Houston. Randy knows who I am now, but I was calling him my favorite chef long before we ever met.
Randy's cooking has transformed from the chemistry-lab aesthetic of laidback manor to the home-grown pure flavors of his tenacity home dinners. His progression has been fascinating to watch.
Rainbow Lodge is a fantastic venue for Randy. It has a history of game and regional food, a large outside space for growing regional produce, and a large dining space for customers in various rooms and on an outdoor patio. It is a perfect vehicle for his creativity to reach a wider audience.
And Randy is a fantastic chef for Rainbow Lodge. The location is in a charming lodge, now located at Ella near TC Jester. It sits on top of a rolling landscape of beautiful gardens. Its patio is perhaps the prettiest in Houston.
In my last few visits to Rainbow Lodge, the food was uninspired. The kitchen served high-quality game and local seafood, but did not do much with it. I even spent the last New Year's Eve at the Lodge. The atmosphere was fun, the wine was fantastic, but the food was little better than banquet food.
Randy is going to change that.
Before the menu changes
Before you rush over to Rainbow Lodge, know that Randy has not had time to change the menu. The new menu may not be unveiled until the end of the year. And the old menu is a bit dull.
But if you call in advance, you might be able to line up a chef's tasting menu, especially if you go during off hours.
Last Friday, I arrived with a friend after the lunch hour. When Randy saw me, he grabbed the menu and asked me how many courses we wanted. The resulting five-course meal was an amazing impromptu tasting experience, comparable to Houston's very best restaurants. That was after Randy had been in the kitchen for only four days!
One highlight was a flounder crudo with radishes, apples, Meyer lemon zest, and fresh herbs. These clean flavors sums up Randy's recent cooking philosophy and points to the direction in which he will be taking the Lodge.
Another fantastic dish was a Randy Rucker classic -- sauteed compressed pork served with a deconstructed potato salad and barbecue sauce. (Pictured at top). This strikingly modern dish is loaded with smoke and local flavors that remind me of East Texas pot luck church dinners.
The pairing of Randy Rucker and Rainbow Lodge makes so much sense because both believe in high quality local ingredients and a regional, Gulf Coast-based cuisine.
I will have much more to say about Rainbow Lodge in 2009 after trying the new menu.