Two sets of friends had recommended Crisp, a place we’d kind of heard about but not yet tried. Seems like it’s particularly popular for those who live in Shady Acres (just north of the Heights), kind of a neighborhood joint that tries, but somewhat misses, to turn out more than bar food. Definitely a dining establishment, reservations are required. And, of course, there’s valet parking if you can’t find something on the street.
We aren’t typically too critical of limited wines by the glass but, for a place that touts its wine selection, the offerings are unimpressive. We wished we’d understood the enomatic, vending machine style, higher quality wine offerings (1 oz, 3 oz, and 5 oz pours) when we’d started our meal as we weren’t inclined to purchase the required “tasting card” (available in varying monetary denominations; we’re told most people start with $20) when one of us just wanted one more glass of wine. There’s a large beer menu. No hard alcohol.
We started with the mussels, generously served in a wine-based broth (no cream) that needed some additional flavor, perhaps more of the billed parsley pesto or anchovy butter. The cheeseburger was the best thing we tried, although the requested medium rare came out as close to medium well. (After mentioning this to our waitress — we didn’t send it back — the manager came over and apologized, taking 1/2 off the price.) The side of truffle fries, touted by the waitress, were neither hot or crispy. The seared scallops were generously served and perfectly cooked (slightly underseasoned), but sat on a bed of short rib risotto that, like the mussels, needed an additional spark of flavor. Maybe some salt, some herb.
If we lived in the neighborhood, we’d definitely be back as perhaps we didn’t order the right things. We’d try the enomatic wine service, the pizza, and the huge meatballs and spaghetti ordered by everyone at the table sitting next to us. Not living nearby, however, means it may be a while before we get back.
Pretty much everything the Clark Cooper restaurant group does turns to gold, and it appears Punk’s is no exception. Located right next to the group’s Coppa Osteria on Morningside in the new Rice Village mixed use complex, Punk’s is a casual, family friendly spot with the usual suspects of comfort food offerings.
We had a reservation for 7:00 on a recent Saturday evening. We arrived about a half hour early and were asked to wait at the bar, where we ended up dining since the hostess never came back for us. (And we didn’t appreciate being reported to Open Table as a “no show.”) No real harm, as the bar was a fun place to dine. Good selection of bourbon and well made classic cocktails. Slightly harried servers (as reflected in a mistaken order).
We started with the deep fried black eyed peas, a tasty riff on Coppa’s fried chickpeas. We polished those little gems off right quick. The pimento cheese (with Ritz crackers) was also really good. While we ordered the shrimp and oyster po’boy, we got just fried shrimp (no oysters), although copiously served and sided with a bag of potato chips. It was the better of our two main dishes as we regret to inform that we weren’t as impressed with the touted fried chicken. Certainly, it tasted very good, but it didn’t knock our socks off. (Anyone for a trip to Barbecue Inn?) On the other hand, the red eye gravy served on the mashed potatoes was unique and very well done, and we couldn’t criticize the sides of a biscuit and a deviled egg. We also tried the mac ‘n cheese, a traditional version that reminded us a lot of Kraft’s boxed offering (the kind with the foil packet of cheese sauce, not the powder variety). That’s not really a criticism since who doesn’t like Kraft’s.
Punk’s is close to where we live, and we’ll certainly be back to try more. Let’s see how the open air environment works as the days get hotter.
We’re back in crawfish season here on the Gulf Coast and, despite the delay in this posting, we want to go on record that we discovered this restaurant (courtesy of an Asian friend) during last year’s crawfish season. Well before Allison Cook named it her favorite place for crawfish or Chris Shepherd called out the whole blue crab in Texas Monthly. There’s nothing fancy about the place but, when you’re the only non-Asians in the restaurant, you know it’s good. Well, that was last year, and now the place has been discovered, and there may be new management. But the crawfish were almost as good as last year. We have had both the garlic butter and kitchen special style and recommend both, although the kitchen special has sauteed onions, oranges, and lemons which add a great taste addition to the basic garlic butter. We also tried Thai basil which we liked but not as much as the kitchen special. Medium spicey worked well for us. Unfortunately, the fried rice had lost something from a year ago. On the other hand, the grilled oysters (Vietnam style) were better, although perhaps a dollar or so pricier. The service was very good whereas we’d had a couple nonchalant attitude experiences last year (thankfully, not reflected in the food).
Next up on our agenda is Crawfish House (recommended by the same Asian friend who says it’s better than Cajun Kitchen). We’ll let you know if we agree.
Not that we were big fans of Katsuya, but we’re hoping this restaurant has longer legs than its predecessor in West Ave. Fortunately, Nara benefitted from the the Asian influence of Katsuya as the decor doesn’t appear markedly different. The sushi bar remains in the middle. The rest of the menu is decidedly different, reflecting a mix of Asian influenced dishes with an emphasis on the owner’s Korean heritage.
Don’t expect the same dynamic as Houston’s long-standing Korean restaurants. There are no grills in the middle of the tables (replaced by trendy hot rocks brought from the kitchen) or multiple (banchan) side dishes. Nor are the prices nearly as spender friendly as the long-standing Long Point locations. (My Korean friend was shocked with the price we paid for a couple standard dishes.) But this is in an upscale retail complex, and the restaurant describes itself as “Modern Korean.” (We understand there is a private dining area that includes the table grill.)
We didn’t really come for the sushi. We were going for the Korean offerings. We tried an appetizer that we understand is inspired by a dish at Momofuku in NYC — flat buns (bao), like little tacos, available with various fillings. We tried the Spicy Pork Bulgogi (shredded pork collar, with cilantro and cucumber), which we enjoyed although it didn’t knock our socks off. We asked the waiter to bring us some sauces for the dish and, while we can’t recall what they were, they added some needed zing. More impressive was the pork belly bipimbap, a traditional Korean rice dish, served in a very hot stone bowl that cooks the raw egg that you stir into the dish, as well as the rice (creating a crispy lining). The dish was quite tasty, although it was also enhanced by the sauces we’d received. Probably our favorite dish was the Korean-style Shin Ramen, with squid and claims (could have been more seafood) in a lush red chili based broth. (Our waiter described the dish as bold and didn’t seem too excited about it, but we thought it was great.) We finished nicely with the Crunchy Yellow Tail Roll.
We haven’t had a chance to make it back, but we’ll return for the Shin Ramen as well as to try some of the other dishes. (Anyone for Bulgogi Pot Pie or whole Spicy Squid Quinoa?)
2800 Kirby Drive (in West Ave)