Here's the thing: I love that old-fashioned comfort food served at spots like Goodson's in Tomball, where the chicken fried steak spreads across a plate too small to possibly contain it, or the oxtails at This Is It in Third Ward, where the juicy oxtails are served with a brown gravy so rich you could swear it contained foie gras. But the older I get, the more my body rebels against the stuff, taking days to rebound from the onslaught of roux and lard and all the delicious things that make life worth living.
Perhaps chef Ross Coleman found himself in a similar spot one day. I don't know; I haven't yet asked him. But I intend to pick his brain on my next visit to Kitchen 713, the brand-new Second Ward restaurant where Coleman has created a menu that I can best describe as modern soul food, lighter and nimbler and reworked with all manner of other cultural influences woven throughout.
Though you will find turkey necks here, you won't find them smothered in gravy and served with rice. At Kitchen 713, Coleman serves the tender dark meat in Bibb lettuce wraps topped with pickled carrots and nuoc mam, the Vietnamese fish sauce that's the secret ingredient du jour in kitchens across Houston. Old-fashioned hoe cakes are topped with a cheeky deviled egg mousse, while a trio of boudin is presented as an elegant charcuterie plate with three varieties of the Cajun sausage—chicken, pork, and seafood—complemented by a side of chicharrones. Everything, naturally, is made in house.
During a recent lunch, I eagerly ate every bite of my salad, topped with rugged hunks of smoked, curried salmon that brought a depth of flavor to an otherwise simple medley of candied pecans, blue cheese, pickled red onions, and mixed greens. If Coleman can make a salad taste this good, imagine what he can do with bolder dishes like his shrimp and grits with chorizo.
But this is part of the charm of Kitchen 713, which is already rich with homespun charm despite only being open a few short weeks: you can go heavy here if you like, ordering chicken and dumplings with crispy chicken skin and sweet potato gnocchi. But if you choose to go easy, you'll be rewarded with equally compelling dishes that don't skimp on flavor or creativity. Myself, I'm looking forward to going back for Coleman's Gulf fish with melted leeks, seaweed butter, and crab. And the next time I want to batter my heart, I'm heading back to try the fried okra with tomato jam and Coleman's homemade peach cobbler—a la mode, of course.
Kitchen 713, 4515 Canal St., 713-239-2498