In the past, I’ve said that I think Houston might have a number of Michelin one-star restaurants but maybe not too many two-star restaurants, and likely not any three if Michelin plied our fair city (there are only thirteen restaurants with three stars in this country in the four metropolitan areas where Michelin has published guides). So, for me, there are not any places that immediately jump to the top of my list.
In judging a restaurant what’s on the plate and on the menus are the most important aspects. The quality and enjoyability of the food is paramount, in my opinion, as it is with most diners. For the best places that usually manifests itself in dishes that exhibit either a complexity or depth of flavor throughout much of the meal. I also tend to especially enjoy restaurants and dishes that are a reflection of the place and community. An exhibition of creativity can be important, though that creativity needs to be agreeably flavorful for me. The food has to be plated attractively in the best places. Top restaurants need to have a well-chosen wine list. Wine makes most food taste better, a well-suited wine even much more so. An excellent, or at least decent, cocktail program also helps make the opening phase of a restaurant visit more pleasurable for me these days. Beyond the output of the kitchen and from the purview of the beverage director, the level of service is very important when considering the best restaurants. The setting, the design and décor, should help to create a proper stage for diners that can complement the food and make the visit even more enjoyable. These are just some of the more immediate criteria in trying to judge a restaurant.
To circle back to that query, some of the very best local spots for me would be, not in any order: The Pass, Tony’s, Café Annie, One Fifth, Da Marco, BCN, Kata Robota, Uchi, Kiran’s, Hugo’s and Caracol, Kata Robota and probably MF Sushi. Maybe Xochi, too, which, to me, doesn’t have the value or quite the polish of its Mexican siblings, as much as I like the place. Getting panhandled while sitting on its patio there probably plays into that. I haven’t yet been to the rebooted Underbelly, UB Preserv, maybe this weekend. I’ve been a fan of Chris Shepherd and company since the days of Catalan, and am looking forward to Georgia James, given how much I liked One Fifth Steak. Brennan’s has been too inconsistent for me since Danny Trace departed as executive chef. Due to schedule conflicts, I’ve had to at cancel reservations a few times at Potente, where Trace now plies his trade, and also at Justin Yu’s more casual successor to Oxheart, Theodore Rex. I’ve likely overlooked a few in this short list. More restaurants to visit and revisit, and likely some revisions to be made.
“What is the best restaurant in Houston?” I hope to know in the coming months, or at least offer a more informed opinion.