by Nikki Metzgar - 206 Reviews - 77 List
2009 was a tough year for restaurants, thanks to the R-word (recession), but our appetites persevered and so did local restaurateurs. In fact, our city has done quite well for itself as a growing metropolis and the food scene has matured along with it. Houston is the place for good ideas and good food, so congratulate this year's new restaurants for a job and meal well done. (Photo: Pollo con huitlacoche at Yelapa)
Updated: December 07, 2009
When Cafe Annie closed, few tears were shed by diners who had been disappointed by the famed restaurant's decline. So, when Chef Robert Del Grande returned to the kitchen for his latest venture, everyone was pleased to see his characteristically inventive Southwestern cuisine back on the table. Between the gulf crab beignets and seared avocado with queso fresco and radish salad, this restaurant is truly celebrating food inspired by and for the region.
Marco Wiles of Da Marco and Dolce Vita continues to lay claim to storefronts along Westheimer with his newest restaurant Poscol, an Italian small-plates wine bar. Stunning dishes, like creamy zucchini risotto topped with fried chicken livers and a baked casserole of cod to be spread on grilled bread, make this a destination for authentic Italian food lovers.
Houston certainly has its fair share of Mexican restaurants but Yelapa distinguishes itself from the masses. Seafood is the emphasis here, and the chef puts out a masterful ceviche made complex with fuji apples, scallions and litchi. Even so, the crispy, seared chicken with huitlacoche (ahem, corn fungus) is perhaps the most perfect execution of the bird we've experienced. The prices are equally appealing--a three-course lunch featuring all the above-mentioned goodies goes for only $13.
With both a must-watch sushi bar piloted by the affable Manabu Horiuchi and a fired-up grill for the meats-on-a-stick known as yakatori, there's a little something for everyone here, as much as that phrase strikes fear in the hearts of many. Sushi purists need not panic, however, as the composed raw dishes like uni and king-crab spoons and the geoduck sashimi are simply pristine. We weren't the first to say it, but Kata Robata may be the best Japanese restaurant Houston has ever had.