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Shilcutt Gets Tapas; Cook's Best New Restaurants

Uchi, the second best new restaurant in Houston
Uchi, the second best new restaurant in Houston
Gary R Wise

Instead of publishing a review this week, Chronicle critic Alison Cook counts down her top 10 best new restaurants of the year. At the top, three restaurants that each earned four star reviews: Oxheart, Uchi and Underbelly.

The list also contains her first published thoughts about two of this fall's more high profile openings. The first is Alma, the Peruvian restaurant from former Samba Grille chef David Guerrero; Cook calls Guerrero's shrimp ceviche "one of the best dishes I ate this year." The second is MF Sushi. Although it's only two weeks old, Cook writes that chef Chris Kinjo's restaurant "can already be talked about in the same breath as Kata Robata and Uchi Houston."

Surprisingly, two chef-driven restaurants from Houston natives that feature rotating, seasonal menus, each of which received two stars from Cook earlier this year, are excluded from the top 10. The first is Roost, where chef Kevin Naderi blends his Persian heritage with Gulf Coast influences; it ranked 59 on this summer's top 100 list. The second is Triniti, which Cook also excluded from the Top 100 she published this summer. Cook doesn't say whether these restaurants have slipped or simply been overshadowed by newcomers.

Meanwhile, in this week's Houston Press, critic Katharine Shilcutt assess 1252 Tapas, a restaurant that recently opened a location in Uptown Park after finding success with locations in Tomball and The Woodlands. "I was certainly surprised to find myself enjoying the food as much as I did at the Houston location. What I think contributes to this flush of goodwill is how simple 1252 Tapas is at its very heart. With what seems like every new restaurant seeking its own way to reinvent the wheel these days, there's a lot to be said for a restaurant that simply makes good, solid food and doesn't take itself too seriously."

THE BLOGS: Arbitrary Critic Catherine Martin achieves the impossible this week; she defends Tex-Mex restaurant Maggie Rita's, although she admits that "I'm just the unsophisticated audience they're looking to prey upon."

· The Best New Restaurants of 2012 [29-95]
· Tapas With Substance [Houston Press]
· Maggie Rita's [Arbitrary Criticism]