Monday, July 18, 2011

Sorrel, Radical Eats, Tepatitlan, Korean Noodle House

A few interesting meals lately:

Sorrel Urban Bistro (2202 West Alabama). Last night was their 2nd night. Very promising. This less-expensive, high-end restaurant features a Danish chef, daily-changing menu, and a farm-to-market concept.

Large plates are in the $20s and small plates are around $10. The wine list is a mix of small-producers and organic wines.

Bread service includes a deliciously bitter sorrel pesto. A small plate of cured halibut with sweet dill sauce and thinly sliced English cucumbers had a nice balance of sweetness, tang, and sea. Luscious butter-poached lobster and quail eggs sat atop a bitter arugula salad. A slightly over-cooked pork chop was covered in tangy cooked onion and tomato.

These are simple dishes, often with only 3 or 4 high quality ingredients. The kitchen is big on balancing contrasting flavors. Their minimalist approach to ingredients nicely fills a void in Houston's maximalist restaurant scene.

Radical Eats (3903 Fulton St.) Kudos for opening a restaurant east of I-45 and north of downtown. Apart from a few great Mexican restaurants, this area is a food desert.

This new dive is a work-in-progress that serves all-vegan Mexican food. Service is friendly and so laid back that you might think you're in Austin. The real reason to go is quality ingredients with interesting preparations.

A fried avocado taco is outstanding. The avocado chunks resemble cornmeal-crusted oysters. Jalapeno sauce is seriously hot and flavorful. A great mix of textures and flavors, this is one of the better tacos in town.

Chile Rellenos are a healthy version of one of the world's least healthy dishes. Here, a baked poblano is stuffed with mushrooms, onions, and tofu on a base of spicy tomato sauce. If you need batter, cheese, and fat, you'll be sadly disappointed. But if you are looking for an interesting preparation of vegetables, it's a success.

Enchilladas in nogado (walnut) sauce are slightly less successful. Although I dig the tortillas and the mushroom filling, the nogado sauce tastes like health food, not traditional nogado. As Pico's nogado sauce proves, sometimes you have to have cream -- which isn't an option for vegans.

Overall, Radical Eats is a godsend for vegans, and a nice alternative for the rest of us.

Tacqueria Tepatitlan (4720 N. Main location). I was previously disappointed. Then I discovered the trick -- skip the Tex-Mex plates and order off the tacqueria portion of the menu. (And it helps to speak some Spanish).

Tacos, gorditas, tostadas, huaraches, and sopes are served with a choice of 10 different meats. Birria (baby goat) was strongly spiced, but not too much to cover the delicious goat flavor. Picadillo had an earthy, spicy flavor. Carnitas were crispy and chopped into small cubes, which works well for tacos.

Best of all are huaraches, which have a masa base and an addicting texture.

It's not the best Mexican food in the Heights, but the tacqueria offerings are far better than your average taco truck.

Korean Noodle House is a funky Spring Branch restaurant in a ranch-style house (1415 Murray Bay). Half the fun is finding the place, then eating on long bench's in someone's house.

The #1 reason to go is homemade, handcut noodles. There is something inspiring about a bowl of noodles in which each noodle has its own individualistic shape.

The #2 reason is kimchi, easily the best I have had. It is spicy, funky, and addictive.

The menu consists of hot noodle dishes (mostly soups) and cold noodle dishes. Prices are mostly $10 - $12. For handmade noodles of this quality, it's a steal.