July 31, 2023

Chinese - The Ambassador Chinese Restaurant - A Time Warp on Richmond Avenue

Let me tell you about my own personal favorite hangout. 

The Ambassador Chinese Restaurant is located on Richmond just next to the Rajun Cajun. 

There is no question that there are better Chinese restaurants in town. No argument here. But sometimes, it isn’t just about the food. And I promise you, for an all around fun experience you can't beat Ambassador. Giant shrimp eggrolls photo with dollar bill for comparison.

(Because sometimes, one just craves a simple but perfectly executed chicken chow mein with lots of vegetables!)

It is like taking a time machine back to the 50's. You walk in, and you'll hear Frank Sinatra playing through the stereo system. The waitresses are adorable. They have been serving customers there for years, and if you say something that gets them to give a nervous laugh, they will cover their mouth with their hands. It’s kind of like trying to get the guards at Buckingham Palace to crack a smile. But in a good way. They are real sweet-hearts. On some nights you might see a group of WWII veterans hanging out at their own table. Or ladies from the River Oaks crowd. Or hipsters. And old white guys like me.

The food is Cantonese and it is the Cantonese that used to be all that you could find in Houston when I was growing up in the 50's. 

The egg foo yung is crazy. When it comes out you will swear they brought you a giant chicken fried steak. 

The egg rolls are super sized, probably the biggest ones in town. 

The hot and sour soup is just perfect with the right amount of rice wine vinegar to white pepper. 

And yes, there's even a great typo on the menu (Human beef instead of Hunan beef). 

If you have an opportunity to talk to the owner, she is an absolute delight and will share wonderful stories about the Ambassador over the years. 

Yep, for me, it's the Ambassador. I recommend staying with the tried and true Cantonese dishes: sweet and sour pork, egg rolls, egg foo yung, a chicken with vegetables stir fry and on the side a big bowl of egg drop soup or (not Cantonese) hot and sour.

Ambassador Chinese Website

Some photos for you:

The giant, shrimp eggrolls.

July 6, 2023

Sugarcane! - Mia on Bellaire Blvd has sugarcane juice and all sorts of beverages!

Right next to The Duckhouse on Bellaire Blvd. is a new beverage destination. They have a machine that strips and extracts juice from sugarcane, for making all types of beverages, as you'll see from their extensive menu.

We loved Mia and are looking forward to going back soon. 

Sugarcane juice. In Mexico, India and other parts of the world, the juice extracted is boiled down, water evaporated, resulting in the first, most raw sugar. Called "gur" in Hindi and "piloncillo" in Mexico and Hispanic countries, it contributes a delightful flavor as it sweetens the beverage. Example, the well known cafe de olla in Mexico, with coffee, cinnamon and piloncillo. I have a trick for cafe de olla. The normal method is to simmer coffee grounds in boiling water with a stick of Sri Lankan, aka Mexican, cinnamon and piloncillo to taste. That, however, results in a very bitter coffee. So I extract my specialty coffees with a Kalita, Chemex, or V60, sweeten to taste and then add two drops of cinnamon oil, like one can find at Michael's Hobby Shop in the cake decorating section. That preserves the flavor profile of the coffee.

July 5, 2023

Mimo on Telephone Road

With three others to help me dine, we were able to sample many items on the lunch menu including two salads,  bucatelli with sausage, a fettucine with mortadella, orechiette in a light tomato sauce, and their Hoagie #1, as well as the panna cotta dessert. I can tell you truthfully that there was not a dud in the whole order. Flavorful. And the service was excellent.

Thanks to Alison Cook's Houston Chronicle review, which is how we heard about this restaurant, located in the old Kanomwan location on Telephone Road, across from Bohemeo's.

A high point were the zucchini fritters. Wow. Listed as a happy hour offering, but they were happy to fry some up for us. Panko (and some secret stuff) made for a delicious, crispy, crunchy crust.

Highly recommended. But with one caveat emptor. See comment below.

I have a good friend who owned a one star Michelin restaurant in Rome. And he is Roman to the core. And passionate about Italian, well, all cuisine as presented in Europe (which is very differently prepared, for him, based on his experiences here in Houston).

His "al dente: is REALLY "al dente". "To aid in digestion" he would say. I know, cause he's made a pasta a la Amatriciana for me in his home, and softened the pasta for me. Not much. But a little. What he called "al dente American style".

Well. He took one look at the parsley, topping the bucatini (and let's not get into the soft pasta which he would hate but which I prefer) and said "No, no, no, absolutely not! If you brought a dish with the parsley stems still intact, you would be laughed out of business. That is NOT done in Italy. Ever." He also was amused by the mortadella topping the fettucine and the general appearance of the dish. I've learned a lot from him. 

John Nechman writes of the lunch:
"You’ve likely heard amazing things about Mimo ( https://www.mimohtx.com/ ) the unassuming spot that has taken over what was once Kanomwon in the Tlaquepaque complex at 736 ½ Telephone Rd. Believe everything you’ve heard. Dramatic flavors from the finest ingredients set forth in a simple manner so that every individual element shines through. Superb wines. A caring staff who knows how a dining experience is supposed to be managed. Dining at Mimo yesterday for lunch with a couple of delightful friends, we tried a wide assortment of dishes and found all of them good.

You don’t want to rush this. Mimo is the ideal place to relax, share plates and conversation, and contemplate the magic of each plate set before you. We started with a snappy suppa del giorno of creamy chickpeas in a slightly tart and aromatic broth and a salad of red-tip lettuce dressed in a classic Caesar. We couldn’t pass up another salad about which the Chronicle’s Alison Cook (a Mimo regular) raved—tangy and just-bitter-enough layers of burgundy-speckled Castelfranco radicchio with watermelon relish doused in preserved lemon-miso vinaigrette, then buried under a snow flurry of fine shaved parmigiano. Simply stunning.
We split 3 excellent pastas—a fettucine coated in lemon, crushed pistachios and English peas, then topped with sliced mortadella; orecchiette blended with crispy pancetta, roasted cherry tomatoes, and lemon butter, with the unique nuttiness of fresh chunks of Romanesco and the earthy qualities of mature Pecorino; and a daily special of bucatini in a velvety sugo rosa-like sauce with nuggets of sweet rosemary-spiked homemade salsiccia. Nothing was left from these 3 plates.
Of the 5 mouth-watering panini, we chose and loved the one simply called “hoagie,” featuring finocchiona (a rarely-seen-in-Houston fennel-flavored salami), mortadella, and provolone on spectacular bread, served with a homemade giardiniera of iceberg lettuce, tomato, and peppers in top quality vinegar and evoo. One of my favorite dishes is easy to miss on the menu—look under the sides for the corn and zucchini fritters, served with truffled honey. These are totally addictive and would make a sensational antipasti. If you are more than 2 people, you will want more than 1 order of these. An Azimut Brisat Parellada, a bracing orange wine, set off all the flavors of these wonderful dishes we enjoyed.
We went with 2 desserts—an insanely rich panna cotta topped with a candied lemon and mint honey-like syrup, and fresh-baked lemon amaretti cookies served with crema di vin santo.
After lunch, I tried to remember where I’d seen the handsome gentleman with the gorgeous blue eyes who was one of 3 who took such great care of our table—the receipt showed M. Sammons, and I saw his name in Alison Cook’s review (https://www.houstonchronicle.com/.../mimo-italian... ). He has managed or owned several of our favorite places—How to Survive on Land and Sea, La Dolce Vitá, and 13 Celsius, Weights & Measures, and Mongoose vs Cobra in Midtown. We’ve enjoyed all of these places, and Mimo brings together much of what we’ve loved in all of them. "

July 4, 2023

The Duck House on Bellaire Blvd. -Bun Mang Vit Thanh Da ( A Doc Ricky Discovery)

 "I always like it when a particular restaurant on Bellaire Blvd. specializes in one dish".

It was a Monday, and Irene and I had put a call in to Doc Ricky to see if he was free for lunch. And he suggested we try this place that he had read about, specializing in a Vietnamese duck specialty.

We ordered and were served a big bowl of sliced duck, bone in, on a bed of cabbage that had been lightly seasoned with vinegar and spices. On the side was another large bowl, this one with rice vermicelli noodles in a broth. And a ramekin with garlic chillie paste. All of these things came together in a delicious "bun". The duck was room temp and I asked them if it was to be heated up in the soup broth. "Whatever way you like is fine." I'll have to confirm that the duck meat was a tad tough. 

Because the duck was bone in, and chopped up in that Asian style, I remarked that I missed the Western method of deboning poultry. And since there was enough food for at least one more meal, I ended up packing the remaining portion of duck to take home. When I got home, I put it into a cooking container with a little water and slow cooked it in the oven for hours until the protein broke down and it became pull apart tender. The next day, I shredded the duck meat away from the bone.

While Irene and I went for the noodles, Doc Ricky opted for the congee, and I will get that the next time myself. "I'm fascinated by the different ways congee is made in different regions." Me too. Love congee. 

We had such a great time here and I'm already looking forward to going back.

Here is what I wrote in my Google Maps review: " Darn, this was fun! Way outside of my comfort zone but I’m an adventurous eater. Duck themed. What arrives is one bowl of duck, chilled, bone in, on a bed of shredded cabbage. On the side, a large bowl of rice vermicelli soup. Mix and match. Totally enjoyed the first time and will return. Note. Periwinkle style snails are also a specialty. I’m not a fan of them, based on a few tries at places around town. For me there is too much of a sewage taste, and I’m a person who likes durian. But if you’ve never had them, give them a try."

And so, I put the duck into a sauce pan, covered, added some water and simmered it in the oven for about 6 hours at a setting of 200 F. Then, after it had cooled, I did the de-boning, discarding the bones. I had the option of keeping or discarding the gelatinized broth. And I decided to keep that separate. Here then, are photos of the shredded duck. Tender. And if anything, the cabbage and duck is even better after a night in the refrigerator!

The duck, next day. And the noodles reheating. And the cabbage.