June 1, 2022
It has been awhile since I got happy enough over a meal that I wanted to “champion” a restaurant to assure that it gets well known. Kabab Arbil is such a place. When you go, and you must put this on your list for 2022, go with at least two other persons so that each of you can order something different. Because the ground beef, chicken and lamb shank offerings were all spectacular! I wish that I could post the videos here of the dishes as they were brought out to us. But on my Facebook page (Jay P. Francis) and also on the Houston Chowhounds group that I admin, I have the videos of our lunch.
A. Jay Francis writes: " Another John Nechman discovery. He tells me he was driving down Hillcroft and saw the sign. And this place is a winner. Starting with a lamb or beef broth called marak (?)(Im using Google translate with some of the staff) followed by the exceptional mezze you see in this photo. We confirmed that several of the persons are Kurd, so there may be a Kurdish influence on the cuisine here. Several people were pleased to chat in English but I was so happy to be able to use Google translate app to communicate to everyone here. "
B. John Nechman writes: "Our nation's 4 largest cities have the most astounding diversity and greatest food in the country, but the 4th of the 4 (and soon to be 3rd!) has the best of all. Maybe not the largest number, the most countries/cuisines, and not even always the most authentic. But Houston's is the most accessible. In many cities, venturing into ethnic enclaves often leads to awkward indifference and a distinct sense of unwelcome. I've never felt that in Houston. Not once.
The Google Map (Click on any of these in the sidebar to get full address)
Favorite 2nd Hand Stores in Houston
Screenshot of the map:
May 31, 2022
A new and wonderful Iranian restaurant has opened inside the loop. A group of us enjoyed a wonderful familly style platter of classic grilled meats. But, we also shared the fesenjan (one of the best I have had in Houston), a thick yogurt dip with dry shallots (I learned about this from an Iranian friend. The best are a type of wild shallot harvested in Iran. An Iranian grocery store ( iran-iranian-bakery-and-grocery-store.html ) on Wilcrest does sell big bags of dried shallots and I've bought from them for making this at home), hummus and a plate of radishes, parsley, basil, white cheese. That fesenjan though. I'm already dreaming about going back.
Still, I have an allegiance to the wonderful Avesta on Wilcrest as well, and I will have to split my visits between both of these. As Avesta is wonderful, also.
John Nechman writes of our lunch today:
"Another piece of Houston’s beautiful puzzle—one of the largest Iranian populations in the country, and that translates into several sensational Iranian restaurants. Based on lunch today, Miri’s Kitchen Persian at 5801 Memorial Dr. near the entrance to Memorial Park, is my choice for the best of them all ( https://www.miriskitchen.com ).
I've set out, for my next project, to explore Houston in search of the perfect chā giô. A lot of places have moved over to offering these with the lumpia/spring roll type wrapper that is wheat based. But I am looking for a traditional one with a clear rice paper wrapper.
Making these perfectly requires skill and finesse, as frying rice paper can result in a burned and/or greasy result. The rice paper is dry and is reconstituted with a water and sugar bath. The sugar helps with the browning and helps create a bubbly surface texture. Chewiness and crunchiness.
This version of spring rolls made by wrapping filling in clear rice paper wrappers (bánh tráng) and then frying them. The filling usually consists of ground pork, vegetables, wood ear mushrooms, and glass noodles. They’re often served with lettuce and herbs, for wrapping, and, with nuoc cham as a dipping sauce.
I went to the Facebook group, Chowdown in Chinatown - Houston, for recommendations. I'll be publishing that list at a future date.
At the same time, my friend Michael Shum messaged me "I know a place". And honestly, his recommendation for Phat Ky, well, I can probably stop my search now. But I won't.
On my own, I've visited Thien An and Kim Son, both in the downtown area. Both were good...perfectly acceptable.
I'm looking for "spectacular".
Next day saw me at Phat Ky with Michael and friends. We enjoyed an excellent catfish clay pot, mango and shrimp salad, and the chā giô. Enough to order a second serving. Just great. Here are some pictures.
Phoenicia is a Houston treasure and has helped create an awareness of the amazing food of the Near East and Middle East.
A new kid on the block, and a store that blew me away is Zaina Market at 2735 Fondren. A store that you must go to visit as soon as possible.
There is a fresh produce section that includes shelled walnuts and pistachios.
There are aisles upon aisles of the latest and greatest food products from this area of the world. And there is a meat section, and a bakery. They'll even make a pizza for you if you ask the baker.
I'll let the photos give you a taste of the place.