Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Hour at Oishii

I found the best Happy Hour deal in Houston.

Okay, well I didn't find it, I was actually a little slow to hop on the Oishii gravy train, but I'm so glad to have finally experienced it!

My friend Megan and I decided to check out this no-frills Greenway Plaza sushi spot for Happy Hour recently, and we were not disappointed.

Get this: $3 sakes (plus other various cheap drinks), and a list of about 25 $4/Buy One Get One Free appetizers. I mean, they're basically giving this stuff away. And it's great food to boot!

I started off with a sake, miso soup, and green salad. They give you quite a healthy pour for $3 worth of sake. The miso soup was outstanding - the perfect amount of saltiness, with TONS of seaweed and tofu. And the salad was your standard Japanese salad with tasty, flavorful, tart ginger dressing. Off the bat it was clear that despite incredibly low prices, they do not skimp on quality or quantity!

Next up I ordered the kanpyo roll and vegetable tempura roll.

The kanpyo (squash) roll, I'll admit, was pretty unexciting. The squash had such a mild flavor that the rice really took over. It wasn't terrible, it just needed some more pizazz.

But the veggie tempura roll was delicious. It contained a healthy amount of vegetables in the filling and had a delightful light crunch to it. I ate every bite!

Even though we were pretty much full, we had to order more (since let's be honest, everything was basically free!). So we split the vegetable tempura and the vegetable tempura roll (yes again, because I wanted her to try it).

The vegetable tempura was outstanding. The tempura coating was light, buttery, and flaky. It was not super crunchy, but it definitely was not soggy. The vegetables inside (onions, carrots, zucchini, broccoli) were popping with silky flavor, and shone beautifully through the exterior coating. It was absolutely superb!

Oishii is such a great little spot - Be sure to get to Happy Hour early because as we were leaving there was a substantial wait. The service is fast and friendly, the food is tasty, and the prices are incomprehensible. I think our bill came out to $11 a person!


Tempura.for.days.

Oishii Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Just Dinner on Dunlavy

I have a little story about how the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

My parents have been telling me for the better part of two years that I have to eat at Just Dinner on Dunlavy. "It's so romantic!" "It's so cute!" "The food is great!" "It's BYOB!" "It's totally affordable!" "If you don't go now, we will actually disown you and never again acknowledge you as our offspring!"

(if only I were kidding about that last one).

So after hearing/enduring all of the praises mild threats, I finally made reservations for the bf and I to have dinner there the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving at 7:00.

"Mom, Jon and I are going to Just Dinner Wednesday night at 7:00!"

There was a long pause. Then my mother started laughing. "Wednesday night?" (yes) "This Wednesday night?" (uh-huh) "As in Wednesday the 26th, your father and I's anniversary?" (uhh..yes?) "We have reservations there at 6:45."

I promptly changed our reservation to 8:00.

And boy did we confuse the restaurant staff with their having two reservations under the name "Ogonosky" in one night, let me tell ya.

But my parents were absolutely right - Just Dinner is housed in an old, completely unassuming, charming bungalow on Dunlavy and Welch. With no more than roughly 20 [fashion magazine-lined] tables in the place, it's incredibly intimate and romantic. And delicious!

And with a BYOB $10 corking fee, I was totally game! We brought a bottle we had acquired from our trip to the La Cruz de Comal winery we visited earlier in the month, and we enjoyed every last drop!
 
They started us off with these complementary crackers and creamy dipping sauce, which I believe was a combo of pesto and hummus, and which consequently sent me into a giddy tailspin. It was a lovely way to start everything off.

I told our incredibly attentive and friendly server that I was debating between what I would like to start off with - the mixed garden greens or a side of the blue cheese polenta.

"Oh I  definitely recommend the mixed garden greens - that's what your mom started off with!"

Oy.

This was a good salad. But let me be clear - This was not a life-changing salad. When I read "pear, goat cheese, pistachios, and pomegranate vinaigrette" I was expecting something with a little more pizazz. It was definitely pretty to look at, but it was relatively ordinary tasting. I think perhaps it was a little heavy on the sweet stuff (pear, pomegranate vinaigrette). Possibly a stronger cheese or a different nut would have made me love it more.

Jon ordered the pork belly appetizer, and based on his reaction, I'm pretty sure that was life-changing.

I was also pretty sure that promptly after dinner he'd be leaving me to run off with a pork belly appetizer. And after having past pre-vegetarian life-changing pork belly experiences, I can't say that I really would've blamed him.

For my entree I ordered the stuffed collard rolls.

Filled with quinoa, black rice, and amaranth, and topped with a roasted red pepper sauce, this was a very unique and interesting dish. Coming form a Polish background, I was expecting something similar to golumpki (look it up, make it, and then give me some, thanks), but this was a much earthier dish. I liked the nutty flavors of the stuffing combined with the smooth zippy red pepper sauce, but I felt like the middle could have used something else to help bring it together a little better. Perhaps taking a cue from my beloved golumpki, the addition of a tomato paste would have worked well. I definitely enjoyed it, though I would probably order something different next time.

But THIS.

I went ahead and threw caution to the wind and also ordered a side of the blue cheese polenta because I'm a risk taker. This was life-changing. Guys, I died. I mean, I really died. I died, and left Jon, and rode off into the sunset with a bowl of blue cheese polenta because it was that good. The creamy, buttery, smooth, rich, decadent, savory, velvety, masterpiece of a bowl contains the secret to life. It's for sure in the running for one of the best things I've eaten in the past year. Marry it now (I told you the place was romantic).

After coming off of my polenta-induced high, I couldn't not order dessert. And after looking at the menu, I couldn't not order the gooey, rich chocolate cake which wouldn't not put me on another high and force me to use an offensive amount of double negatives. This cake was ooh-ahhingly, eye-rollingly, sensationally good. It almost, almost beat out the warm chocolate cake from Backstreet Cafe.

So grab your spouse, your significant other, your best friend, or your favorite bowl of polenta, and make a reservation for the most charming, romantic, unassuming, delicious spot in town!

Be sure to put your reservation under the name "Ogonosky."

Just Dinner on Dunlavy on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Hour at Sanctuari Bar

THANKSGIVING IS THIS WEEK AND I'M SO EXCITED I'M LOSING MY MIND!!!

You know what else I'm losing my mind over? The ri.di.cu.lous Happy Hour at Triniti's Sanctuari Bar.

But before we go any further, I suppose it's worth noting that my blog has a new address and new look! It's now living at www.adventuresinanewishcity.com! I'm super pumped about this.

Now onto Sanctuari!

First let me apologize in advance for the terrible quality of photos I've got going on here in this post. The ambiance of the place is super intimate and dimly lit, which is not conducive to my amateur photography skills. Just know that everything you're about to see was 1,000 times more beautiful that it appears!

(like that mirror).

If you haven't noticed, my good friend Megan is generally my go-to Houston Happy Hour partner in crime. So she and I decided to hit up the new and much-buzzed about Santuari Bar at Triniti last Thursday. I had been to Triniti once about a year ago, but deleted all of my photos in a fit of technological bird-brainedness, so I found myself visiting there recently with a clean slate, a new bar, and a fresh fall menu!

First off, Happy Hour isn't truly a happy hour without a few libations. And Megan was completely transfixed by the $12 mystery carafe on Sanctuari's Happy Hour menu. "What's in it?" she asked the bartender. "It's a secret," he said, with a gleam in his eye. And I'm all, "Okay, I'd like to order a gin marti-" and Megan's all, "WE'RE GETTING THE MYSTERY CARAFE."

So mystery carafe it was! We talked to the bartender about each of our preferences - She likes sweet, I like dry, is that impossible?, no, etc., and he came back with an amazing little concoction of hop gin, strawberry liquor, lemon, sugar, and prosecco, which he just made up on the spot. Light and sweet, yet dry, it was the perfect compromise and the perfect way to start out that happy hour.

Megan: Mmm, this is GOOD! Would you like to try the "mystery drink"??

(The bartender politely declined.)

(And no, we don't typically offer strangers a sip of our drinks. Apparently that's frowned upon).

Why, yes I took a picture of the super cool bathroom to show you! In the words of Canadian poet genius Bryan Adams, Everything I do, I do it for you...

Triniti is a pretty fancy Houston restaurant - one that would be a "special occasion" restaurant for me were I to dine off of their dinner menu. Luckily, like so many other fancy Houston restaurants, Triniti offers one helluva a food menu at Sanctuari during Happy Hour. AND there is a "small plates" section on Triniti's regular dinner menu that offers decently priced sharable food items.

We were faced with a wide spectrum of potential dishes to taste. Since we (undoubtedly) looked like two deer caught in a headlight, the super friendly manager came over and had an in-depth conversation with us about the food. After much deliberation, we took his advice and ordered three apps to share.

The first item we ordered was a mushroom flatbread that included potatoes, corn, and greens. And some sort of delicious caramely sauce (balsamic? chutney? love?). This dish was outstanding and so beautifully textured with different levels of flavor. It was tangy, sweet, and utterly decadent. I definitely 100% recommend ordering this as a starter if you go.

Oh, I just love french fries.

ESPECIALLY the herb frites at Sanctuari. Perfectly crispy and salted, they definitely stand out among the vast array of delicious fries in Houston. And the aioli served with them was tart, tangy, slightly spicy, and downright heavenly!

The last appetizer we shared was the tomato soup, served with a pimento cheese kolache (um, hello lover) and eggplant jam. I can think of nothing more brilliant and creative than a fancy grilled cheese sandwich with fancy tomato soup. The perfect little puff of an oozing kolache was the ideal compliment to the creamy, rich, soul-warming soup. The tomato soup was not too acidic, and overall it was quite the delightful nosh.

Still riding her mystery carafe high, Megan decided dessert was a good choice (I mean, is dessert ever a bad choice?).

We ordered their special fall dessert, which was a tart with a pumpkin pie-like filling, topped with a different assortment of goodies, such as pomegranate seeds (no I don't actually know the name of the dessert, or what else was on it, because I didn't write the name down, and it's not listed online, and I've failed you as a food blogger, and FORGIVE ME PLEASE.) But this was good. The dessert wasn't overly sweet, which I liked, and it was a subtly unique departure from your regular pumpkin pie (which for the record, I LOVE). I wasn't completely floored by it like I was with everything else, but it was smooth, comforting, and it definitely tasted like fall!

The Happy Hour at Sanctuari Bar really hits it out of the park. With everything we ordered, our bill came out to about $40, but with the delicate detail that went into each unique, innovative dish, the price should have been double or even triple the actual amount. If you're looking to try some of Houston's finest, most exquisite food on a budget, Sanctuari is definitely the way to go!

Wishing everyone a warm, love-filled, delicious, and happy Thanksgiving!

Sanctuari on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Vacation Days: The Texas Hill Country

It's no secret that I love to travel and am by nature a forver-agitated nomad. But with the amount of cross country and international traveling I've been doing this past year, it's easy to forget that there are equally even more awesome places to visit right here in our very own Texan backyard! This past weekend I took a road trip to the beautiful Texas Hill Country with my boyfriend Jon to attend the engagement party of his friends Mark and Kelly. It was an absolutely lovely perfect weekend, so onto the pictures!

^ Because a Hot Bagel and a pumpkin DD coffee is what the start of vacation looks like for me. #duh

And as we all know, a Texas road trip isn't complete without a stop to see everyone's favorite beaver!

(aka: losing your significant other in the toy aisle)


Historic New Braunfels is already the cutest thing you ever did see. Paired with adorable Christmas decorations, I died a thousand happiness deaths.

And can we talk about how freezing it was this weekend? (My NYC friends so want to punch me in the face right now). But for real! On Friday as we were waiting for check-in time to get into our river cabin, Jon and I stopped off at Huisache Grill in New Braunfels to fuel up and warm our tootsies by the fire. The food was amazing, the building was so fah-reaking adorable, and omg FRIED BRIE. This place was awesome.

Check out the amazing view from the cabin we rented with Jon's friends Blake and Katie. We contemplated jumping into the river but decided hypothermia isn't all it's cracked up to be. The place we stayed at is called the Comal River Cottages, and again - Just awesome.

A trip to New Braunfels wouldn't be complete without a visit to Gruene! On Saturday we had lunch at The Gristmill, danced a bit at Gruene Hall, and did a little antique Christmas shopping. Even though it was cold and rainy, we were not deterred! The whole town is unbelievably charming and picturesque.

That night we attended Mark and Kelly's engagement party in Cibolo, which was a "stock the bar" party. It was so much fun, and I'm now convinced that stock the bar parties are the most genius things to happen ever. EVER.

That was our gift to them, but I can't take any credit for it since I'm a crafting disaster, and Jon is a twine and glitter ninja (He's also super happy that I just referred to him as a "wine and glitter ninja" on the internet. You're welcome).

I loved the whole weekend, but if I had to choose a favorite day from the trip it would have to be Wineday.

I mean Sunday.

We went to two different hill country wineries and had such a blast. First we stopped off at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards. We got to taste twelve (TWELVE!) different wines at this fun, laid-back winery, and once again I died and went to Christmas (what does that even mean).

 After Dry Comal Creek, we headed over to La Cruz de Comal Wines for another tasting. The vineyards and the tasting room are absolutely stunning. And the six wines we tasted were out of this world.

^Above two wine drunk photos taken by Katie.
If you're looking for a fun, interesting, romantic, relaxing weekend away, look no further than your own Texan backyard. I hadn't been in a very long time, and it was such a great trip. I can't wait to go back!

And if you think I'm not going to pitch a tent in the middle of a vineyard, you have got another thing coming to you.

*All photos, unless otherwise noted, were taken with my iPhone 5.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Istanbul Grill

I've been feeling sort of restless lately.

And it's not a bad thing. In fact, I usually become super productive at these points in my life! My restlessness may be because I have no flights booked for the foreseeable future (for now). It may be that Christmas is only a sneeze away, and I want it to be here yesterday (story of my life). It may be because things are winding down at work as the year comes to a close.

Orrrr it may have something to do with the gallon of coffee I drank this morning. Yeah, now that I think about it...that's definitely what it is.

Oh, and while I'm being restless and  all over the place, I have to derail for a minute to discuss three things. First, I told you I would report back to you on the Montrose Halloween Pub Crawl. Being the elderly twentysomethings we are, my sister, bf, friends, and I drank wine and played Heads Up at my apartment, went to the crawl, stayed until midnight, then called it a night. But it was fun! And more packed than I could ever have imagined. If you go next year, definitely pre-game beforehand because it takes about 30 minutes just to get a drink anywhere.


The second thing I want to mention is that you really should check out As Fate Would Have It and show my friend Melinda some blog love. Her stories are amazing! She wrote an exceptionally touching post about the 21 things she loves about her beautiful baby boy Elliot, in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month last month (sorry I'm a little behind here), and you'll definitely need a tissue or six for it. I got to meet Elliot last weekend, and I died of a love overdose.

And lastly, on this Veterans Day I want to say a big thank you to all of the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much in service of our country. We are so fortunate, and I am so grateful for these selfless, incredible people.

Okay, so back to my restlessness: These days, to calm my restlessness it would seem, I've started running again. To recap, I ran the Houston marathon back in January, decided my joints could take no more and completely stopped running 100%, and now have signed up to run the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving with my mom and boyfriend, because traditions. So to continue where I left off in "Kim and Jon's Silly Running Adventures" ....

After a recent three-mile run around the Rice University loop, Jon and I decided to drink some brews, have dinner, and watch sports at Little Woodrow's in Rice Village. I absolutely love the food at the Little Woodrow's on Shepherd, so I was pumped.

(This is where my story takes a dark turn).

THEY DON'T SERVE FOOD AT THE LITTLE WOODROW'S IN RICE VILLAGE.

Fortunately for us, Istanbul Grill stood next door like a beacon of light, with its beautiful Turkish aromas wafting over to us. Even more fortunate, the folks at Little Woodrow's were a-ok with us bringing our own food to the bar, so we were still able to game-watch! I placed our to-go order at Istanbul Grill inside with the manager, who is quite possibly one of the nicest, most friendly people on the planet.

We started off with the patlıcan salad, which is a roasted puree of eggplant, with hints of lemon and garlic, served with a side of what I believe was pide bread. This was outstanding. The tangy eggplant puree was light and flavorful, and the pide was fluffy and fresh. We had no idea what we had initially ordered, but we were not disappointed.

I was waffling between ordering the sebze (vegetable) kebab and the mantar (stuffed mushroom) as my entree. I discussed this dilemma with my manager friend, and he very confidently said I absolutely had to get the stuffed mushrooms. Done!

Sometimes it's nice when people make major life decisions for you, such as what you're going to have for dinner that night. ESPECIALLY when the end result is amazing. Served with rice and house salad, the mushrooms are stuffed with mozzarella and parsley, and are boiled in a tomato sauce. The side salad was underwhelming, but then again salads generally make me feel empty inside (worst vegetarian EVER). The rice was decent - Nothing exceptional, but it definitely served as the perfect backdrop to the shining star of the plate: the mantar. The melted mozzarella was bursting with flavor as it oozed out of the mushrooms, and the tart, borderline hearty tomato sauce was the perfect companion. I really loved this dish.

So it actually was a happy accident that we ended up at a bar that didn't serve food. We were able to walk next door and try something a little different, and a lot awesome!

This time next week I'll probably have a flight to Turkey booked.


Istanbul Grill and Deli on Urbanspoon