March 26, 2012

Why Yes, It Can Be That Good. Underbelly Houston

For the past few months, hype around the new Underbelly has been teased via local articles, Houston foodies/blogs, and heck, even a Time magazine article. The restaurant finally opened earlier this month and having gone this past week - twice, might I add - it was definitely not a disappointment. Underbelly is the creation of Chris Shepard, a well known chef in Houston who previously headed up the popular Catalan. He loves his meat. Next door and with whom they share a kitchen, is The Hay Merchant, a place for beer enthusiasts and a small selection of unique appetizers.

You'll notice that I've slowed the frequency of my restaurant reviews. I realized I'm not really giving a restaurant a chance by only going once. My thoughts of new restaurants now typically show up when I've been able to dine a few times to give it a fair chance. Well, I have to share my experience at Underbelly because I've dined twice (by accident), and they were delicious both times and just too good not for everyone else to know.

Our supper club on Friday had the five of us sharing a slew of the small plates in addition to the family style pork loin:
-Seasonal vegetables: Nicely pickled and ranged from cauliflower, carrots and cucumber. A nice start to the meal.
-Korean braised goat with dumplings: One of my favorites. It had a nice spicy kick and the goat was not over powering (it was my first time to have goat so I was curious about the flavor) and the dumplings were firm logs of dough, a little more firm than what you normally consider for a dumplings.
-General Tso's pork meatballs: We were smart and ordered two of these to share with five. Yes, I am weary of General Tso anything and am typically not a fan, but the meatballs were quite good! A nice surprise by how much I liked them.
-Pickled shrimp with vegetables
-Family style pork loin: Pork can easily dry out but this was tender and moist with an exceptionally crispy and salty crust. It was accompanied with a slew of veggies in the cast iron pan. Really divine and served the five of us plenty. I would highly recommend this if you see it on the menu.

Now, let's get to the dessert. One of the highlights. We shared the brownie, beet creme and the golden star of the night, the strawberry fried pie. Seriously, notice that it's the only thing I've bolded here, it's that good. 

Let's just say that I didn't stop mid convesation to say "omg, this is amazing." Sharing the strawberry pie among five ladies....hard. I relished each bit and then thought of it a little more. So much that the next evening, after having full sushi dinner, we opted to skip dessert and head to Underbelly to have the strawberry pie in their wine bar area. Best decision of the weekend. We shared one pie per couple, which meant I got half - yippee! We paired it with a nice pale ale from Belgium. Afterwards, we started thinking about the other small plates and proceeded to order two more dishes....our second dinner of the night. The flanks steak with slaw on a tortilla and a variation of a dish I tried the night before, Korean braised rabbit with dumplings (top picture). Again, both were delicious.

Gahh, I think I could come here too often. As for price, I could see how this could get pricey for two, but with our supper club, it was a great deal for around $50 pp. The small dishes were, yes, small but we were able to try many and a family style dish that served plenty. I left full and happy.

As for the service, it was spot on. I typically don't like to go to an opening night restaurant as you sometime risk new servers and the restaurant getting its service in order. With just a month under their belt, they were attentive without being overbearing and prompt. The only down side? It's a little loud but what restaurant nowadays isn't?

Seriously, go try this place. Like, right now. Are you there yet?

1100 Westheimer