Chronicle food critic, Alison Cook, says "Tony's is back, bigtime." She attributes the comeback of the Houston dining scene's patriarch and "four star glories" to the "kitchen stewardship of young chef Grant Gordon," who, at 25, "works with a discipline and assurance beyond his years."
Gordon brings "a spirit of modernity to Tony’s classic Gulf Coastal Italian cuisine," through dishes like house-made caramelle with sheep cheese filling "chased by a foresty mushroom emulsion as graceful as fine satin" that made Cook feel her "eyes rolling back in their sockets."
The one complaint Cook has of Gordon's food was "a guinea-hen jus reduction that was too aggressively salty" atop guinea-hen stuffed tortellini, but she found tortellini themselves "so good" that she "ate every last bite."
Interestingly, Cook also discloses that she is recognized at Tony's, and after being "busted," acknowledged that the level of service moves from "No one took our drink orders or offered a menu until 20 minutes past our reservation time," to "my guest and I experienced the full-court press that can make favored patrons feel transported back to another age."
Katharine Shilcutt, Houston Press critic, ate dishes like "Four Joy Lion's Head and a bowl of Couple's Lung Slices," at Mala Sichuan Bistro for her review. While they sound sketchy, the Couple's Lung Slices were actually, "thin, impossibly tender slices of beef tendons, kidney and tripe in a blindingly red chile oil," and the Lion's Head contained no lion, and no head, but were "pork meatballs in a ginger-and-garlic-spiked brown sauce" that Shilcutt found "blissfully soft and savory."
Located on Bellaire, surrounded by other Asian restaurants, Mala Sichuan "outdoes its local Chinatown competition on almost every level," but be warned, owner Cori Xiong explained that "Ma means numbing and la means spicy."
Shilcutt's grandmother joins her for a meal and "doesn't usually like much spice," so she tries the Cumin Beef, which is "the perfect gateway drug for Texans wary of spicy Sichuan food."
She only finds fault in the red oil rabbit, which has "too many little bones and cartilaginous pieces to work through," but the "chile oil makes the difficulty nearly worth it."
· New Chef Makes Tony's a Four-Star Restaurant Once Again [29-95]
· Sichuan Bucket List [EOW]
The interior of Tony's wine cellar. [Tony's/Facebook]