Sunday, September 24, 2006

Top 10 Revisited

Six months ago, I listed my 10 favorite Houston restaurants. In half a year, so much has changed. Two of my four favorites closed. Some others seem to be coasting. Houston has some delightful new additions. And in some instances, I just changed my mind. So, here is my current top 10.

1. Da Marco. Although Da Marco is far too expensive, every dish I have had there has been creative and perfectly executed.

2. Mark’s. Mark’s may not be consistently creative, perhaps because it is too eager to please everyone. But I have had some of the most innovative dishes in Houston there. See my Aug. 29, 2006 post.

3. Noe. My recent visit showed a drop-off in creativity, but excellent execution. The wine list is greatly improved. See my July 19, 2006 post.

4. Indika. Despite some service problems, Indika is serving Houston’s most innovative fusion cuisine in its new, hip location on lower Westheimer. It blows away the best Indian fusion restaurant in New York. See my June 26, 2006 post.

5. Le Mistral. Still my vote for Houston’s best real French food, followed in a close second by Café Rabelais. See my December 17, 2005 post.

6. Benjy’s. From Sunday brunch, to incredible salads, to thin crust pizzas, to Asian fusion dishes, Benjy’s is a fountain of food ideas. The reasonable food prices and a mid-priced list of small production wines also helped boost benjy's into my top 10. See my September 23, 2006 post.

7. Pico’s. Still Houston’s best Mexican food. The interior dishes are the best.

8. Bistro Moderne. Hip and stylish French-American restaurant with a great chef.

9. Hugo’s. Houston’s most creative Mexican food. Hugo’s is a sister restaurant to Backstreet Café, which made my last top 10. Hugo's gets the nod this time because Backstreet seems like it is in a rut. Hugo’s doesn’t. The wine list is by the same guy, and it is great in both restaurants.

10. Pizzeria Enoteca. Yes, it’s just a pizza joint -- but an authetic Italian, gourmet pizza joint. I love the simple and unusual dishes, like truffle egg toast and shaved raw fennel with anchovy oil. I love the specialized, low priced Italian wine list. See my September 15, 2006 post.

Who fell off the list and why:

laidback manor. Houston's best restuarant closed. (whimper, whimper, sob).

Aries. Ditto. See "Mad About Aries" my June 22, 2006 post.

The Strip House. I came to my senses. It is just steak. Even if the steak is really good, the food is not that creative.

Backstreet Café. I love the wine list, but in my last few visits, the food has been a little dull, and the menu seems unchanging. See my September 23, 2006 post.

T’afia. This would have to be # 11. The restaurant is based on some great ideas, and I never turn down a chance to go there. But the food is a little too austere and lacking in big flavors. The creativity seems to be waning a bit. See my September 23, 2006 post.

Ibiza. The wine list remains Houston’s best value. The menu doesn’t change enough to stay interesting. And I’m tired of them serving my least favorite food -- brussel sprouts – as a side on over half the dishes on the menu. See my February 11, 2006 post. If they cut the brusel sprouts, they might make my next top 10.

25 others who come close: Kubo, Rouge, Bank, Pesce, 17, Gravitas, Cafe Rabelais, Mockingbird Bistro, Shade, Glass Wall, Simposio, Sorrento, Quattro, Arcodoro, Damian's, Nino's, Masraff's, Rioja, Cafe Annie, Saffron, Americas, Pappas Steakhouse, Fung's Kitchen, Mai's, Tony's.


Anonymous said...

OMG when did laid back manor close?? what's the scoop? this is a damn shame. maybe he will reopen somewhere beside downtown..

anonymouseater said...

Randy Rucker sent an e-mail in which he said they plan to re-open outside of downtown. No details on where or when. He said they had an offer on their downtown space that they couldn't refuse -- although I am not quite sure what that means.

Anonymous said...

At this time I feel that this city simply is not ready for my food styling. Peoplr can bitch about location and parking but Houston is the only city that people cant drive 5 minutes or walk somewhere. Its very sad, but it is reality!!! Houston wants to be a great city but will never be becasue it is too pretentous. People here think they are too special to try something new. Call me bitter? Sure! Simply take a look at the scene now. Tycer (Houston's best chef in my opinion) had to chenge his concept to make it work. The food writers are always praising taco trucks and buffets!!! Houston will always be 15 years behind the rest of the US when food is the focus. It's sad and I dont think it will ever change unless a revolution occurs and we flush out the writers, the chefs without integrity, and the people who feel they have to know everything when at the table. Take a look at the so-called top tables in our city and put them next to others in other cities - there is no comparison!!! Believe me, I could go on and on but I need to go pack my bags so I can go back where people can think for themselves!!! Jay, keep it up man!!! Your alone in this city!!!

anonymouseater said...

Randy -- I am completely bummed that you have decided to leave town. I can't blame you. Maybe, someday, the atmosphere will get better, and you will return. Thanks for the short but wonderful ride.

Oh, I'm not Jay Francis. My name is Robert. I'm not a real food critic. I am just a lawyer who loves food.