I had dinner at Oxheart!!!!!
I've been wanting to go to this high profile Houston restaurant and try their renowned food since, well, the beginning of time really, and I finally went! Jon and I figured my birthday was as good an excuse as any, so that's how we celebrated on the evening of my 31st.
Upon entering the cozy, eclectic little restaurant located in downtown Houston, Jon and I were seated at a table for two and presented with a glass of champagne each - on the house (!), in celebration of my birthday.
For $75 a person (why this definitely falls under the category of "Special Occasion Houston Restaurant" in my book), you get a pre-fixe meal of six different food items. The offerings change with the seasons, and there is always a regular menu, as well as a vegetarian menu. The restaurant's meals are largely plant based, so several of the courses end up being the same on both menus. Jon opted for the regular menu, while I went with the vegetarian, and we split a bottle of Beaujolais for kicks.
To start, both Jon and I were presented with the first course, which was a soup consisting of crystal dumplings in summer vegetable broth, with braised roselle, raw beans, and jasmine tea.
This not-hot, not-cold soup was light, oily, slightly tart, and herb-y. It was absolutely lovely, and tasted like everything had been freshly plucked out of a nearby Houston garden that morning (probably was) and swirled together to create a wonderful concoction. When I saw the tiny portion size (something I'd been well aware of and expecting), I thought Jon was going to be like uhhh wtf, but to my surprise, he really enjoyed it!
Our second course of food was also the same on both menus, and it was the restaurant's mung bean crepe.
omg Y'ALL. The crepe was stuffed with alliums, potato skins, and miso, and served with a side of pickled roots and burnt onion, and it was OUT OF THIS WORLD. I seriously cannot tell you how incredible this dish was. The crepe itself was slightly crisped, doughy, and borderline hearty; the textures of the soft crepe and the crunchy pickled vegetables was deliriously enjoyable; and the flavor combinations of everything was insane. This was my favorite food item of the evening, and it is definitely in the running for one of the best Houston dishes I've had so far this year!
Not part of the six courses, we were given some fresh rolls to nosh on.
The bread was fluffy, grainy, and slighly sweet. Definitely enjoyable!
Jon's third course of food was the gulf snapper a scapece with basil-kombu broth, and mine was the English cucumber poached in fermented cucumber juice, with bitter almond, spiced tomato fondant, and French sorrel.
First off, how beautifully do these two dishes go together? I hadn't realized until putting these pictures side by side how perfectly they match! Jon went nuts over his snapper, and he said it was his favorite food item of the evening. My cucumber on the other hand was my least favorite bite. While visually it was STUNNING, I found the taste to be a bit underwhelming. The textures were nice, but I really could only taste cucumber, which in my opinion is a pretty watery, unexciting vegetable.
The fourth round of food was the same for both of us, and it was a porridge of Texas grains, vadouvan, cauliflower, and navel oranges.
We both also really loved this dish. With warmer nuances hinting towards the colder months - like Indian spices, heavy grains, and cauliflower - the porridge still managed to maintain a bright lightness with citrus and bright herbs. It was oily, smooth, and utterly delicious!
For Jon's fifth course of food, he was given the restaurant's freedom ranger chicken stuffed with rice and collard greens, with a jus of chicken and dried shellfish. My course consisted of slowly roasted carrots with cured, smoked carrots, celery, and a white onion-black pepper emulsion. For this round we were presented with some fancy locally-made knives to choose from.
Jon's chicken smelled INCREDIBLE, and he affirmed that it was. My carrots were OUTSTANDING. Smoky and leathery, I was pretty much convinced that I was actually eating bacon or beef jerky. I seriously went nuts over the carrots, and this was easily my second favorite dish of the evening!
(who knew carrots could be so invigorating?!)
The final round was the dessert round!
Jon and I were each given a plate of creme fraiche cremeux, and strawberry glazed with mushroom, sorghum, and lime. (My version was sans gelatin, while Jon's included some). This was a wonderful, light, sweet, simple dessert, and how in the heck they got mushroom to work in a dessert is beyond me, but by gollee, it worked!
Then for good measure the restaurant brought out some small pound cake like loaves, aka second dessert, and I wasn't mad about it.
I am so so SO happy to report that Houston's Oxheart lives up to the hype. Even though the portions are smaller, Jon and I left feeling completely satisfied and totally enamored with everything. The food is so carefully prepared and special, and the whole experience we had was wonderful. If you have a "Special Occasion Houston Restaurants" list like I do, definitely tack this one on there!
But can't every day be "Special Occasion Houston Restaurant" Day?