Anywhere But Here
I was swamped at work and couldn't take time off for a vacation this summer. Still, I'd like pretend I'm somewhere exotic, at least for an evening. What are your top five favorite restaurants in Houston for forgetting you're anywhere near Texas?
Brucesw, thank you! I'll plan on trying all of these places. To try and answer your question, I didn't have any specific region in mind, as much wanting that feeling of being transported. I did enjoy Cafe Byblos recently. Not that the food was so amazing, compared to similar I've had around town...but the atmosphere was just mesmerizing.
This has been a fun topic to think about since I've been in the same boat several times in the past.
Any place you vacationed before that was particularly enjoyable? Maybe there's a place here that does the local cuisine.
I think a very upscale place, some place I don't frequent, would be a step in the right direction, and something not in my part of town, maybe with a view?
Places I've been that have had this effect on me in the past include Polonia, the Polish restaurant. Doesn't look like much on the outside but they've recreated an old world eatery inside that will make you completely forget where you are and the food is different enough from typical Houston/Texas fare that it helps. Charivari in midtown might be very similar, I've never been.
Jang Guem BBQ and Tofu - my first Korean place and still a favorite, very friendly young staff, good food (okay, maybe not absolutely the best Korean in town), banchan always includes a whole smoked mackerel for each diner - if you don't like strongly flavored fish, stay away. Best dish - really took me away - Cold Buckwheat Noodles in spicy broth - loved the noodles and the sauce, all the condiments (includes an egg), but the topper was a bowl of icey broth, like a broth slushee, to ameliorate the spice, which wasn't all that anyway. I left with a huge smile on my face and I didn't care where I was.
As far as exotica, Ethiopian would be a good bet and Sheba or Blue Nile would be my choices. Blue Nile would be better since they have a liquor license and can serve the Ethiopian honey wine. It's not very good wine, but, hey, it's booze. The setting also is better, with the incense and the possibility of indulging in the Ethiopian coffee ceremony afterwards. If you've never had Ethiopian the only food substance you'll encounter you've never had before is injera, the fermented bread that is both your plate and your eating utensil. Try the Kitfoo, Ethiopian steak tartare, or a vegetarian platter.
I tend toward Latin flavors. You will not know you are stateside at La Fisheria or Veracruz Seafood on Irvington. It would help to speak French at Bistro Provence. Anywhere on Bellaire between 59 and the Beltway is out of this world. I enjoyed Mala Sichuan Bistro earlier in the year. The owner was curious how we heard of it and asked us (we were the only caucasians). She apparently doesn't know how much press the place gets! Also, Fung's is like digging a hole all the way to China.