Underbelly's Korean goat and dumplings

This week's New York Times Dining review is about two restaurants in Houston--Underbelly and Oxheart.

At Underbelly, Wells went wild for the Korean braised goat with dumplings and the Vietnamese-style pork meatballs. He also gushed over the cornmeal-crusted chicken livers with lettuce, thinly sliced radishes, and spicy Thousand Island dressing. And for dessert, he marvelled at the vinegar pie.

Pete Wells chose Houston as the first place to visit for the NYT's new "Critic on the Road" column. The redifinition of restaurant aesthetics by Oxheart's remarkable chef Justin Yu is part of the reason why he came here:

"Oxheart is one of the growing number of places around the country that are rearranging our notions of what fine dining means. It is also an example of the growing ambition of the Houston dining scene, and one of two places that lured me here to kick off this occasional series of reviews of restaurants outside New York City."

Wells was quite taken with the heritage turkey and the carrot preparations the night he dined at Justin Yu's Oxheart. He had this to say about the carrots:

"Some are shaved and sprinkled with two kinds of coriander leaf; others are roasted and set in a sauce made with coconut milk, Moroccan spices and even more carrots. From this one humble root, Mr. Yu had extracted fleet, herbaceous flavors; deep, meaty ones; and several others in between that I never knew carrots had in them."

But most of all, Pete Wells was impressed with Oxheart's aversion to the traditional trappings of luxury and the prices charged for dinner. The NYT critic reminds us Houstonians that tasting menus from $49 to $79 prepared by a world-class chef like Justin Yu shouldn't be taken for granted. (The tasting menu at Per Se in New York is $295 per person, with extra charges for foie gras and other additions.)

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