Tipping the Scales

Fried Day: Whole Gulf Snapper at The Woodlands' New Westin

With an all-local ethos, Current's fried fish is just on time.

By Alice Levitt March 25, 2016

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Whole Gulf snapper, $38.

Image: Alice Levitt

Some people say one's sexuality is a lifestyle choice. That's not true. You know what is a lifestyle choice? Eating a whole fish several days in a row. And that is my particular choice. Well, not really, it just kind of happened that way, beginning with a jumbo catfish at Saigon Pagolac. You'll hear more about another soon. But today, I'm here to discuss a brand new option in The Woodlands. 

The Westin officially opened in the city's Waterway Square on March 18. The next day, I visited the modern hotel and its restaurant, Current. The dining room is surrounded by plate-glass windows that overlook the Waterway. When I was there, classic rock band Gray Vinyl was playing hits at the Waterway Fountains just below where I was seated. I had an ideal view of the collection of older couples who rose to slow dance to a more romantic tune. Inside, my eye homed in on the sculptural tree at the center of the room—its interlocking wood pieces reminded me of balsa wood models of dinosaurs I made as a kid.

I began my meal with a mocktail, fizzy pink peppercorn lemonade, which betrayed just the slightest hint of a peppery burn. A cheese plate featured Hammond Farm chèvre and Eagle Mountain Farmhouse's award-winning, Gouda-style Granbury Gold, but also an Italian Gorgonzola. So the description on the menu of "local and domestic artisanal cheeses" wasn't the whole truth, but the platter's other elements made the chef's intentions clear. 

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Cheese flight, $18.

Image: Alice Levitt

The dripping honeycomb, walnuts and blackberry-orange jam on the plate were all made from Texas ingredients. As chef de cuisine Nathan Friend told me, his hope is to be highly seasonal. The optimally fresh food is one benefit of the practice, but the larger goal is to achieve greater environmental responsibility in the hospitality industry. Friend says he'll change the entire menu quarterly to achieve this, with specials showcasing foods that get from farm to table with a low carbon footprint.

The best such example is the Gulf snapper pictured above. While some dishes were still in need of tinkering just days into opening, the local fish was a home run. Stuffed with cross sections of ginger, the spiny snapper is lightly coated in tempura batter and flash fried. The high heat results in a crisp coating, but also moist, near-translucent meat that's powerfully gingery. As it's still sizzling just out of the fryer, Friend spoons a Chinese-style fermented black bean and sesame sauce over the fish. 

As I ate it, the tangy, musky sauce mixed with cilantro and squiggles of Sriracha on the plate below the fish. Spiralized beet and carrot "curls" were a nice antidote to the meat's bold flavors, but they would have been even better with a quick pickling. Still, I glutted myself, unable to quit before every edible cell was gone. I recommend sharing the snapper with someone else to prevent overload and save room for dessert. But either way, eating that fish is a must before the seasons change and take Current's spring menu with it.


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