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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nobu - Chef's Tasting

A while ago I bought a deal on Living Social for a 6 course chef's tasting at Nobu Dallas for 4 people. I've been to the original Nobu in NYC and was not impressed at all but this deal was pretty damn good. Plus I had an additional discount on Living Social so that knocked the price down even more! Turned out to be about $46 a person after tax and tip. I think we saved over 50%!

400 Crescent Court
Dallas, TX 75201
(214) 252-7000
Price: $$$$$+

I have never been to the on in Dallas. It's inside the Crescent Court Hotel (beautiful btw, if you haven't been). You can either park in the self parking garage and get your ticket validated at the restaurant, or you can do valet... I think it's like $4 if you are dining there.

Our reservation was at 7:30, and we got seated immediately once we checked in. The place is much bigger than I imagined and the decor is great. A lot of great accents on the walls and dim mood lighting.

I went with my fiance and 2 other friends. One of my friends was running late so we ordered our drinks and waited for her (for as long as we could... haha). My fiance got a hot tea. I loved the teapot. 
And my other friend got some sort of cucumber drink.

Finally we told the waitress to start serving, we were too hungry to wait any longer! XP

1st Course: Yellowtail Sashimi (jalapeno slices, soy sauce). 
Very nicely presented. We were a little worried about the portion size since we were all very hungry. And usually tastings have smaller portions, right? The yellowtail was super fresh. The waitress recommended us eat a piece with a slice of jalapeno and a cilantro leaf. I don't like cilantro, but the combination works. It was a good start.

My friend made it before the 2nd course came out. Seared Salmon (Japanese spicy sauce, shaved radish). 
Really good salmon. Fresh. I loved the spicy sauce, even though it wasn't really spicy. And the super thinly sliced radishes added a nice crunch and lightness. I liked this better than the first dish.

3rd Course: Miso Cod (with eggplant). 
I love miso cod. So much flavor and usually melts in your mouth. This one met the expectation. It was delicious. I even ate the eggplant! (I'm not a fan, usually.) I said I would love to have some rice to go with this and others agreed. So we got a bowl of rice to share. Great combo. I ate very slowly to savor it all. Best dish of the night, although so far everything has been delish!

4th Course: Tenderloin (with Peruvian anticucho sauce and spicy sauce). 
We were all worried we would still be hungry after this meal, but this course started making me change my mind. haha. The tenderloin looks small but man, I was getting full! I would've liked the meat more medium rare, it was closer to medium. But it was still super tender. I really liked the flavor on the meat. The duo of sauces were interesting. I'm not sure if I liked either of them. I think the meat can hold its own without the sauces... The charred pepper was actually quite spicy when you get to the part with the seeds. It added a really nice heat to the dish.

5th Course: Tuna and Yellowtail Roll (with avocado and spicy sauce). 
For some reason I had it in my head that this was a 5 course meal. So I was a little confused when they served us sushi for what I thought was the last course. I quickly found out it was 6 courses. hehe. Score! I was officially full by now. This was a big course! I am determined to eat it all. haha. Really beautiful rolls with the thin slices of radish around the outside. The pyramid presentation is cool too. And the colors from the fish and avocado made me think of a painting. Delicious too. I loved the radish on the outside because it gave it a crunch and freshness. The only complaint is that their wasabi wasn't strong enough! :P

6th Course: Miso Cappuccino (milk chocolate miso brulee, vanilla ice cream, candied pecans, cappuccino foam). 
For our last course, we saw a waiter carrying these around earlier and peaked our interest. Miso cappuccino? How cool! It came in a cute little cup. I loved the presentation. The foam was puffy on top and looked so good. I kept forgetting it was foam and expected it to be more like a mousse consistency. But it really was foam. Super light. But to eat it, you scoop all the way down so you get all the layers. The candied pecans added a crunch, a much needed texture. The miso brulee at the bottom was the best layer. Rich and sweet. It was a really great, and unique dessert. I didn't get much of the miso, but I think it mostly added a slight salty element so that it brings out all the other flavors. Now give me a giant mug of it!!

This was a great meal. Completely different than my initial experience at Noby NYC. (Everything tasted the same there for some reason, and ridiculously overpriced.) I'm glad I got the deal. This is not a cheap restaurant and I don't know if I would pay $20+ for any of our starting dishes... I wonder if a la carte dishes are slightly bigger in portion. But anyways, I got a great deal. The food was delicious. I loved the decor. And we were all stuffed afterwards! Service was also really good. Sometimes the waiters bringing the food aren't very good about describing the dish but that's probably my only complaint. The manager came over after to scan my deal and she was super friendly. Asked for our opinion of each course and told us what the chef's thought process was for each one. I like learning about those things. Makes you appreciate the creations more.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hippo Ice - Houston Trip

I came across this place on Yelp while researching for places to eat in Houston. Snow ice, a Taiwanese dessert that is basically shaved flavored ice. It creates these amazing ribbon-ish shapes and it's almost like eating ice cream. But... it's ice! And probably less fattening. :P

I have it in Taiwan whenever I go back to visit. And in the past few years, Dallas started getting a few places that sell this. However, nothing is as good as what you get in Taiwan.

Hippo Ice
3737 Hwy 6
Sugar Land, TX 77478
(832) 532-7562
Price: $

I was excited because this place was close to Sugar Land where they live. Normally you'd have to go into Houston (Bellaire) to get good Asian food, so the short drive is nice.

We went on the Sunday before Labor Day, the place looked closed when we arrived, I got worried. Luckily it wasn't! We took a look at the menu and my fiance told me he was getting his own. I asked "are you sure?" since they're usually piled pretty high and he said yes. So I guess we're all getting our own! Sharing is for the weak. hahahaha. :P

I got the Genmai Matcha (Brown Rice Green Tea) $4.75~ Plus Ghiradelli Chocolate drizzle and sliced almonds +$0.50~ 
I love how snow ice looks, so whimsical, beautiful and weird. haha. This was yummy. I liked the dark chocolate sauce paired with the green tea. My fiance said the chocolate overwhelmed the ice flavor. For me it didn't. And the almonds were a nice added texture. It was a huge bowl. He was pretty shocked when he saw this. The texture of the ice is pretty comparable to Taiwan, although I think the one's in Taiwan is even creamier and fluffier. But this is definitely better than any of the ones I've tried in Dallas.

Genmai Matcha (Brown Rice Green Tea) $4.75~ Plus Condensed milk and red bean +$0.50~
 He also wanted green tea but with different sauce and toppings. Green tea and red bean are always a winning combo. The condensed milk added another level of richness. Also very delicious.

Almond $4.75~ Plus Tapioca (boba) +$0.50~ 
His sister chose the almond flavor. Which was my 2nd choice. The almond flavor was strong, yet the whole thing was light and refreshing. I think that was the winner, even though they were all good.

Watermelon Basil (to-go) $4.75~ 
His sister was meeting up with a friend after so she got this to go. So pretty. We got to try a bite. Very interesting. You can definitely taste the basil. And super refreshing. I'm just not sure how long it would last during transport. hehe. I hope her friend was able to enjoy the fluffiness of the snow ice.

My fiance and his sister both really enjoyed it. It was their first time trying snow ice. And guess what, none of us finished it... hahaha. Snow ice - 1, Us - 0.

This place is legit, for all you people in Sugar Land. No need to fight the traffic and drive to Bellaire! Now I only wish we can get this quality in Dallas...

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Cloud 10 Creamery - Houston Trip

This place has been bookmarked on my Yelp for awhile now. Even though we were super full from dinner, we still had to go. How often are we in Houston? And it was only like an 8 minute drive from dinner. They have rotating flavors for each season and some of them are super unique. I really had my eye set on the hazelnut miso.

Cloud 10 Creamery
5216 Morningside Dr.
Houston, TX 77005
(713) 434-6129
Price: $

Unfortunately they did not have the hazelnut miso, or half of the seasonal list actually... booo. But since we're here. Still gotta try something. It's a cute place. Bright walls/decor, fun.

My fiance's sister got the Mascarpone-Blueberry Tart (almond shell, mascarpone cream, blueberry compote, pink peppercorn) $5.25~? 
Very interesting looking. Although it was premade and prepackaged. It was kind of like a shortbread cookie with cream and compote inside. It was frozen so quite hard to bite through. I wonder if it would be better if it was thawed out a little. Cool looking, but eh.

I got a Small Scoop in Waffle Cone (2 flavors: nutella marshmallow and passion fruit with white chocolate). $3.85 + cone $1.35~
The small scoop comes with 2 flavors. Both of my choices were really great. I particularly loved the passion fruit. It was really refreshing yet still creamy. Still bummed they didn't have the flavors I initially wanted to try, but it was still good. Not the cheapest place though. I guess next time I will call ahead to see what flavors are available before going.

We also tried the Marzipan ice cream, which had an almond flavor. Delicious. We got a pint to take back to his parents. $10 a pint! OMG! In Dallas we can get a quart...

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Américas River Oaks - Houston Trip

Over Labor Day weekend, we went to Houston to visit my fiance's family. His parents live there and his sister from NYC also flew down. They wanted to take us out for a nice dinner to celebrate our engagement and also it was his parents' anniversary! So I started researching places to go and came across this place. I love Latin food. The menu looked delicious and we were able to get a reservation on Saturday night even though it was only a few days in advance.

Américas River Oaks
2040 W Gray St.
Houston, TX 77019
(832) 200-1492
Price: $$$$

Only after I made the reservation did I discover that it was also Houston's Restaurant Week and Américas is participating! $35 a person for 3 course like in Dallas, and partial proceeds going to charity. :) They had so many choices on the RW menu. Excited!

The restaurant is located upstairs in a shopping center. As soon as we walked in, we started noticing all the decor. It was very unique! Then we saw a plaque that says Zagat's Best Decor Award in 2013. It was very whimsical. Lots of interesting shapes on the walls, chairs, lots of different textures too. I haven't seen a restaurant like this before. They had one wall with these giant popcorn all over, made with some sort of fabric? The booths' chairs were over the top and really cool.

The waiter came by to greet us, he was very nice. Took our drink orders and we got some Fried Plantains with 3 dips. All 3 were great, especially the chimichurri. I love plantains, these were fried to perfection. And with the sauces, yum! We were hooked.

My fiance's sister ordered a michelada, which is Mexican beer mixed with lime juice and assorted spices and peppers... kind of a Mexican bloody mary. Looked pretty cool, and quite spicy!

4 of us ordered from the RW menu, and his sister decided to order from the regular menu.

RW First Course:
Empanadas (flaky, golden-brown savory latin pastries): Beef (caramelized onions, cumin, malbec-soaked raisins, roasted peppers and olives with rocoto sauce); Chicken (pulled roasted chicken, red pepper, sherry, basil and candied pecans with avocado mousse). 
I got one of each, and his mom got just chicken. Both were fantastic. The crust was flaky and crispy. But the sauces were the stars on both. I thought I would like the chicken better because of the avocado mousse but the rocoto sauce on the beef edged it out. It was amazing. I have no idea what rocoto is, but I can drink it!!!! Both had a ton of flavors. Definitely two thumbs up.

Cubana (black bean soup with onion-cilantro relish and provolone cheese served in a toasted sourdough bread boule). 
My fiance got this. It looked so good. So cheesy and the soup was thick and full of beans. Really tasty. However, the bread bowl was hard to eat. And there was a lot of it. There really wasn't as much soup as it seemed. But that may be a good thing since this is only first course!

Fish Taco (mahi-mahi, cabbage, rocoto pepper and pico de gallo). Cute little taco. A little small compared to the other dishes but looked yummy.

Mixed Greens Salad $6.95~ His sister ordered this. Looked great with all the toppings... pickled onions, corn, etc. She said it was spicy too! Nice.

RW Second Course:
The Churrasco (6 oz. signature center cut beef tenderloin, chimichurri seasoned and chargrilled with fingerling potato, grilled vegetables and bearnaise sauce). This was "Voted Esquire Magazine's Top 20 Steaks in America". His dad ordered it and said it was really good. I didn't try it since I had steak myself.

Beef Tenderloin Brocheta (grilled beef tenderloin and shrimp with onion and poblano over chorizo caribbean rice). 
This was my entree. Huge portion. The beef was super tender and the rice had so much flavor. So far everything here was a flavor explosion. It was hard to tell everything apart after awhile since all the flavors are so bold. But it was good. I shared some and still took over half of it to go, there was too much food!

Grilled Mahi Mahi (black bean and shrimp veloute, fried pickled okra). His mom ordered this. The fish was cooked well. It was good. The fried pickled okra was totally interesting and awesome.

Achiote Seared Ahi Tuna (cilantro broth, citrus salad, goat cheese snow). 
My fiance got this. I didn't even consider it because of the goat cheese snow. (I don't like goat cheese as y'all know.) But you can't taste it at all. It was amazing. Best dish of the night in my opinion. The tuna was top notch and full of flavor. And such beautiful colors!

His sister got the Lobster Corndogs (house made lobster sausage, carnival style corndog batter, lemon chardonnay aioli) $12.95~ 
As soon as she saw they had this, that was it. It was so fun! The plating was very whimsical like their decor. And food on a stick, always fun to eat.

With all our dishes, they gave us some sides. From the top: some sort of fried yucca balls, white rice, sweet plantains, and lentils. The lentils and plantains were my favorite. Sooooo good. The yucca balls were good but quite dense. I like the yucca fries better.

We also got some additional Sides $6~ each:
Chargrilled Corn & Crispy Mushroom. Interesting flavors, we couldn't quite pinpoint what some of the spices were. I liked the crispy mushrooms for added texture. 

Grilled Asparagus. Pretty standard, good with the creamy dipping sauce. 

Yuca Steak Fries. No picture, sorry. But looked like normal thick cut fries. It was fried really well.

RW Third Course:
Tres Leches (soaked in sweet vanilla laced cream then topped with Italian meringue). 
One of the best tres leches we've had. My fiance recently discovered this dessert and he's now pretty obsessed with it. haha. He said it was definitely the best one he's had. It was sooo moist, the meringue on top was great.

Kettle Corn Tres Leches (fresh grated corn, whipped mascarpone, caramel, and Italian meringue). 
This sounded totally interesting. It was topped with caramel and kettle corn. I liked the added texture of the popcorn. But the caramel made it a tad too sweet for me. My fiance tasted mine second and he was like "omg yours is even better". And then he would eat anothe bite of his, and say that's still the best. haha. He couldn't decide, they were both amazing.

Besame con Alfajores (miniature melt-in-your-mouth dulce de leche cookie sandwiches).
His dad ordered this just so we can all try something different. These little cookies were so cute. And they really did melt in your mouth. The filling was rich and sweet. It would be great with tea or coffee.
Their normal tres leches comes with a tableside show. They light it on fire! I was a little disappointed that they didn't do it for the RW desserts. But the table next to us got one and I was able to get it on video. I'm always a sucker for tableside presentation... and FIRE! :P

Really great find. Not only great food, but an experience to discover all the little (and big) decor elements. All their door handles were these dog or mouse figures. The bathroom was trippy too, like walking into Alice in Wonderland a little bit. It was a fantastic dinner. We ate so much and it was all delicious. I definitely recommend this place. I would go back again whenever I'm back in Houston. And a big thank you to his parents for taking us out to dinner! :)

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