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Molecular Gastronomy in Houston

Lambowner Feb 19, 2011 06:44 AM

Okay, I'll bite. I thought surely this was a passing fad at best. But it's still being vigorously explored it seems. Is anyone in Houston doing this? I might as well join in and see what the fuss is about.

  1. air Feb 19, 2011 07:02 AM

    Take a trip to Tomball and eat at Bootsie's (which is also quite high on my to-eat list next time I'm in Houston).

    Randy Rucker is well regarded for being at the forefront in incorporating MG techniques in Houston. I'd specifically heard about the 3rd coast dinner - a 6 course experience priced very reasonably at $35 - but apparently a 9 course dinner is now available. The restaurant has recently changed their format, removing the a la carte menu and only offering the 6 or 9 course prix-fixe options for dinner service. Both are spectacular bargains given the culinary talent and quality of ingredients used.

    You might want to consider one of the Heritage dinners too:

    1. g
      grbroderick Feb 20, 2011 01:07 AM

      Seth Siegel-Gardner is also doing many experiments / explorations in MG at Kata Robata, most of which I've been positively impressed with. Seth frequently does explorations in dehydration with liquid nitrogen, powders, some foams, gced emusions, etc.. Mostly re-works of old dishes, but there have been some definite standouts.

      Kata Robata
      3600 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX 77098

      3 Replies
      1. re: grbroderick
        air Feb 20, 2011 06:40 AM

        On another note, do you know of anyone in Houston applying MG techniques to cocktails?

        1. re: air
          Lambowner Feb 20, 2011 01:55 PM

          I don't, but the likeliest suspect would be Bobby Heugal.

          1. re: air
            grbroderick Feb 20, 2011 04:04 PM

            There's a number of places who are doing infusions - Beavers and Anvil both come to mind as doing low-temperature infusions. Our mutual friend and I drank our way through most of the options at Beavers -- many of the bartenders at Beavers also work at Anvil. Claire Sprouse has gotten a lot of nationwide attention.

            Kata Robata has also recently started doing high-temperature infusions using sous vide -- seal the base liquor and whatever other ingredients into a vacuum seal bag and drop them into the immersion circulator overnight. I don't see quite the level of mixology talent or creativity at Kata that is present at Anvil / Beavers, but both places make very tasty drinks!

            Kata Robata
            3600 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX 77098

        2. g
          geegeeTX Feb 20, 2011 03:50 AM

          I have eaten at Bootsie's several times, we go about once a month. I highly recommend it. Also, I have eaten at Kata Robata, and WOW - that place rocks. Very creative food - don't get your old sushi standards here - they are fantastic - but chooses something new - you'll be amazed!

          Kata Robata
          3600 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX 77098

          1. m
            mgovshteyn Feb 21, 2011 10:55 PM

            Molecular gastronomy is a confusing term because it refers both to a style of cooking and a set of modern techniques. The style most people refer to is when they mention MG involves extreme manipulation of ingredients, abstract representations of familiar foods and often incorporates an element of surprise. This is mostly dinner theater and it's commonly associated with restaurants like El Bulli, Alinea, Moto, Fat Fuck and WD50. This style of cooking is on the decline worldwide and is not practiced in Houston. It also becomes quite boring to eat when the novelty has worn off. If you want to do this right, look for chefs who have established a flare for performance art. It's entertainment and it's worth the expense if you're traveling and have not experienced molecular gastronomy before.

            Molecular gastronomy is also associated with a set of modern cooking techniques, which are rapidly gaining acceptance in a wide variety of restaurants. In many restaurants these techniques are not employed to transform ingredients into something unrecognizable, but to subtly enhance the dish. Food at restaurants like French Laundry, Manresa and Blue Hill at Stone Barnes looks extremely natural and simple, but often involves a number of modern techniques that were not possible 10-20 years ago. This movement is being rebranded as modernist cuisine and you will find great examples of this in Houston, often in places you'd least expect.

            Two of the most modern chefs in Houston are Randy Rucker (Bootsie's) and Seth Gartner Seigel currently at Kata Robata. Food at Bootsie's takes an extremely natural approach. Even though modern technique is extensively used, you are more likely to hear and recognize ingredients the chefs foraged around the Houston area than encounter a gelatin sheet. Seth's food is more abstract and will use modern technique more overtly, but he tends to be much more concerned with having an edible result than the element of surprise (not always the case in MG restaurants). You should really go both restaurants because they cook some of the best food in Houston area, but if you want a molecular gastronomy experience you will have to head for Chicago, Washington or New York, really the only three cities with notable MG chefs.

            Set from Kata Robata in November:

            Kata Robata
            3600 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX 77098

            2 Replies
            1. re: mgovshteyn
              Lambowner Feb 22, 2011 04:30 AM

              Great pictures! These two places are on my list, definitely.

              1. re: mgovshteyn
                malarkey Mar 5, 2011 05:52 PM

                LOL mgovshteyn there's a pretty hilarious typo in your resto list above... :->

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