Nothing in this week's reviews is as much fun to read as last week's takedown of Maggie Rita's by Houston Press critic Katharine Shilcutt, but they are more useful in that they guide diners to places they might actually want to eat. As if to atone for her experience eating so much terrible Tex-Mex, Shilcutt raves over authentic tacos de trompo at Taqueria La Macro just north of downtown. Meanwhile, Chronicle critic Alison Cook finds some intriguing items at Chinatown's Golden Dim Sum, and Texas Monthly's Patricia Sharpe names Chris Shepherd's eclectic Underbelly her Pat's Pick for September.
Typically, taco fiends with a craving for trompo, pork roasted on a vertical spit like a gyro, had to head outside Houston's city limits to a restaurant like Karancho's in Channelview due to provisions in the health code. However, La Macro has encased theirs in plexiglass and hired a man named Pasquale, who has 40 years of trompo experience, to keep everything legal. The trompo meat shows up in tacos and tortas; it even replaces bacon on a trompi-burger. Additionally, the diverse crowd enjoys excellent service and satisfying takes on other Monterrey style specialities such as taquizas.
Alison Cook may not have found "the ideal Chinatown dim sum spot I've been seeking for years," but she does find a lot to like about this new effort from the former chef and owners of Chinese Cuisine. Specifically, Cook praises Golden's deep-fried bittermelon balls, spicy salt and pepper chicken wings and a $19, twin-lobster special. Holding the restaurant to one star were "morbidly pale chicken feet with vinegar sauce" and "thick-crusted, unpleasantly bitter" salt and pepper tofu. Golden's service, which utilizes a menu rather than carts for the dim sum, earns high marks for speed and attentiveness.
Finally, Texas Monthly critic Patricia Sharpe has named Chris Shepherd's Underbelly her Pat's Pick for September. She describes the restaurant and its food as "more a reflection of its chef's personality and philosophy than any Texas restaurant I can think of." While some have complained that the menu doesn't designate portion sizes, Sharpe writes that she utilized a "dartboard approach" to selecting dishes "that ... worked extremely well on both of my visits." Hits included Korean "Buffalo style" fried oysters, tilefish and pear upside down cake. However, she didn't care for the restaurant's signature Korean dumplings with braised goat, calling them "rubbery little rice-paste tubes" and advising servers to "compare them to gummy bears instead of gnocchi." Overall, Sharpe finds that Shepherd "makes a very persuasive case" for calling Houston "the new American Creole city of the South."
· King Creole [Texas Monthly]
· Review: Golden Dim Sum is Old Friend in New Clothes [29-95]
· The Real Deal at Taqueria La Macro [Houston Press]