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Post from Food/Drink News Feed - CultureMap Houston
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Sometimes it seems like the only thing that's constant in the Houston restaurant scene is change. In addition to new concepts and new locations there are new chefs, new menus, new specials. As Heraclitus would say, you can't step in the same restaurant twice. So it is with dinners celebrating the new offerings from Triniti, Down House and Samba Grille.

The holy Triniti of amuse bouche

It's somewhat fitting that the preview dinners held by Ryan Hildebrand and his crew at the forthcoming Triniti restaurant were dubbed "snapshots." Held at the Ralph Smith Photography Studios, the dinners introduced fans to Triniti's modern sensibilities and a bit of elegant culinary experimentation.

I loved the amuse bouche: foie gras, local honey and coffee "soil" represented three flavors I would never think to combine, the rich tones, bright sweetness and earthiness all playing brilliantly together.

The apple and celery root soup was rich and creamy, poured over a cinnamon cream and a fried apple slice and garnished with a slice of dehydrated apple folded into a lovely butterfly shape. Another standout was a spicy rabbit merguez sausage served with a light "blonde cassoulet."

I really loved the way that nothing was wasted on Hildebrand's plates — every ingredient could be tasted and added something to the dish. It's just a few weeks until Triniti opens, but I cant wait.

Down House in the house

Down House also has a new fall menu and a new chef — Benjy Mason, who has spent time at Feast — and both are all about taking comfort food to the next level while using local and sustainable ingredients. The mussels, served in a broth of Leprechaun Cider and leeks, were simply outstanding. The cider took a little bit of the brininess off the mussels, making for a more palatable and savory treat.

Green beans became indulgent with lardons and bits of fried egg throughout, plus a bit of pear for extra sweetness. A classic buttermilk-thyme fried chicken satisfied, along with some chunky mashed potatoes, but a prune-brasied lamb shank was totally outshone by a side of cauliflower grits.

Do the Samba

On Wednesday night Samba Grille also held a dinner to introduce new executive chef David Guerrero, who came to the restaurant earlier this year as sous chef. Guerrero has spent time on the line at Philippe, among other restaurants, but he says this is his first stint cooking his native South American cuisine (and that his process includes phone calls home to Ecuador to ask about his grandmother's recipes).

Among the new standouts were Guerrero's take on ceviche, with shrimp, beer foam and aji tomato ketchup for a flavor that had a bit of Tex-Mex thrown in. It was served as half of a duo with Samba's more traditional ceviche mixto, with corn nuts, leche de tigre, etc.

I also loved the fresh, clean solterito salad with a light salsa and cubes of cheese on fresh lettuce with an aji amarillo vinaigrette. Guerrero describes it as the kind of dish that South American bachelors would make, although Samba's gets an upgrade from a side of panca-glazed semi-cured pork belly.

I also loved the paiche, a huge, meaty fish from the Amazon that's extremely rare in the States (and unfortunately not on the regular menu), smoked thoroughly and served over a bed of yucca and citrusy greens. Samba impressed again with an avocado panna cotta, dusted with lime powder and served with coconut gele


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