Chris Sheperd's new restaurant is an homage to all things local. Get the house butchered pork chop or shared whole fish in iron skillet. You can order a bottle of wine or bring one that's not on the list and pay a $15 corkage. Menu changes daily according to what's available. The goat and kim chi braised dumplings are a must order. You can always find chefs hanging out here.
I love the decor as much as I love the food.
First Catalan, now this: Underbelly scores!.
I got the Friday 7:30 pm reservation a week in advance and upon arrival they were as ready for us as we were for them. The way overdue opening of Underbelly finally happened and I'm so glad it did.
The initial impression as far as decor was a bit raw and understated but nice enough. Mainly the wood tables and wood chairs seemed a bit "picnic-y" but at least there's no noise from their movements. In fact, the noise level is just right: energetic, but not too much. The wine wall and open kitchen design are much the same as Catalan was but the wine bar is it's own separate space near the entrance, a nice distinction.
The wine list is a treasure trove of unique, fabulous and minimally marked up selections. For example, we found A. Raffanelli zin from the Dry Creek area of California for $63. It so happens that we've been to that winery (appointment only) and haven't seen it on any other lists in Houston so that was a nice find.
And of course, the five stars means the food was wonderful too! Specifically, we tried the bread - nice loaf of rye, enough for four served with onion butter (yummy), Leeks - don't know about the newspaper wrapping but it does keep them warm. The humus with it had a flavor like smoke from a firework. It went away half way into it so it could of been a clash with the wine. The dumplings were very flavorful and the fava beans were an interesting assortment of beans, tomato, and a mozzarella like cheese. The cheese was so fresh and delicious that it actually stole the show from the beans. Then for the main: we shared a 14 oz steak special and wow! it was perfect! If there's any secret I could pick up on it was the use of fresh onions, quality olive oil, Fleur De Sal, and a fresh green herb that I'm pretty sure was thyme but it could have been oregano.
I usually skip dessert but having heard about the strawberry empanada from other Yelpers I decided to try it. Indeed the berries are fresh and the sweet creme fraiche definitely enhances it but the empanada crust had a taste of fryer oil that was a bit distracting from the delicious strawberries.
The service was excellent too, even if too quick too pick up dishes.
Overall, I was pleased as pie and very happy with the seasonally fresh concept so I can visit often and not get bored. Congratulations Chris, we'll be back!
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