Monthly Archives: December 2011

Pho Binh By Night

Pho Binh By Night
12148 Bellaire Blvd, Suite 101
Houston, TX 77072
(832) 351-2464
Rating: 8
Sometimes I find it really amusing when white people think they’ve discovered some Asian dish and they rave about it to me (Me. Who is clearly Asian. Hello lines for eyes.) as if it’s some brand new thing that totally did not exist before they ate it. Pho is one of these foods. But…despite my obvious, below the surface racism, I actually have to thank my fellow Americans for letting me know about Pho Binh by Night.  Alison Cook’s article had me at bone marrow. (Which, incidentally, is another food trend that bugs me. Yes, it is delicious meat butter, but it’s also scrap that they sell at Chinese grocery stores for next to nothing. You really should not be charging people $20 for 2 bone scraps, especially when you’re really not doing anything too creative cooking it. Most of the time it is overcooked and the fat has melted too much to be worth anything. And some restaurants serve it chopped instead of sliced lengthwise, which makes it impossible to get the fat out. The only place I’ve had the perfect bone marrow is from the Modular Food Truck, where the bone marrow is cooked perfectly, you get a huge piece, sliced lengthwise, and they do not charge you an arm and a leg for it. But I digress. Same with pork belly. Western restaurants include way too much meat in the meat to fat ratio. But again I digress.)

To get back to the point, Pho Binh by night is open until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays (and midnight during the rest of the week). This is perfect for Aaron and I as we are both nightowls and tend to eat dinner very late. For example, our datenight last night consisted of going to the gym at 9pm, 13 Celsius for wine at 1am, then dinner at 230am. After a couple of glasses of wine, we both wanted some sort of comforting soup broth based dinner, and pho was the obvious (and really the only) choice.

We both got the medium #9 and added meatballs, steamed bean sprouts, and of course a side bowl of bone marrow. The bone marrow is not on the menu, you have to ask for it.

He ate: This is clearly the right choice. It’s just so awesome. You get in, you get out (just like how I like my women). I love fatty meats and tendons, both of which you can get here. I’m not  a fan of clear broth soups or soup noodles (Amy kills me for this since she practically wants to drown in noodle soups and sometimes brings this to the bedroom fantasies). When I do order soup, I always stick with lobster bisques (yada yada yada) or some sort of cream based soup. So, for me to like pho is a pretty difficult task. The broth is VERY flavorful. You can tell they cooked the bones to make the stock for a very long time. The soup to solid food ratio is also perfect for me, since I like food>liquid. I give this place a sold three thumbs up.
She ate: Totally agree with Aaron. Even though I’m more of a liquid>food person, the ratio works for me. Plus, when you ask for a bowl of bone marrow on the side, it comes in more broth. Usually I spoon out just the marrow and add it in my big bowl, whereas Aaron pretty much dumps the entire thing in. I find that to be too greasy but to each his own. I usually get a small size bowl. The medium is probably a large in regular restaurants, and the large sized is made for giants (one day I shall conquer the large bowl. ) The #9 is our favorite with flank steak, tendons, rare round steak, and last night we added meatballs just for the hell of it. I wish they gave us more meatballs, as we only got maybe 5 tiny pieces in each bowl.
Last time I went, I asked the waitress what her favorite is. She said the chicken soup, which sounded incredibly boring to me, but I ordered it just for the heck of it. It turned out to be delicious. The soup was simple, the chicken was sliced dark meat, which is more tender and not fatty as most people think, and it came with half a hard boiled egg (FTW).
I’ve also gotten the sour plum drink here. It is an acquired taste. It’s sour, sweet, and salty all at the same time. I recommend it.
Other interesting pho places:
Pho Saigon:
This place is in midtown Houston, only ten minutes from our house, whereas Pho Binh By Night is in Alief. That’s not even in Houston. But really it’s only a bit past Chinatown, and about 25 minutes from our house. Get the #18 and ask for egg in broth on the side. They literally put broth in a small bowl and crack an egg in it. You dump it into your big bowl and let it “cook” for 5 minutes or less, then spoon out just the egg yolk, dip a piece of steak in it, and eat the steak. Then, put a bit of noodles and broth in the spoon with the remaining egg yolk and slurp up that perfect bite.

Pho Ga Dakao:

I’ve never been here, but I hear they have pho with chicken heart, liver, crispy skin and gizzard. These are all my favorite things. In noodle soup form.

(Image courtesy of Urban Spoon)

Truthfully, this picture kind of freaks me out. It’s like a miniature human heart you’d see on Scrubs or stupid Grey’s Anatomy or stupid ER. But I shall overcome my freaked outness when I’m stuffing my face with this delicious, delicious sexy beast of a soup.

Funny story: My friend’s boyfriend told him they were going to Pho Ga Dakao, but because of his strong Vietnamese accent, my friend thought they were going to Fogo da Chao. He got all dressed up and was very confused when they arrived at the restaurant. BOOM roasted.

tl; dr: Pho Binh by Night is the bomb dot com, get the bone marrow.

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Twin Peaks (Hollah Dollah Billz, Y’all!)

Twin Peaks

Upper Kirby
4527 Lomitas Ave.
Houston, TX 77098

(713) 520-7730

Aaron and I are big fans of upscale sports bars, or really any non-divey sports bars that serve things other than fried stuff. I’m not opposed to fried stuff (believe me) but if I ate fried shit Sundays, Mondays, AND Thursdays, I would have to move into the gym.

In addition to non-divey sports bars, we also both love boobs. When Twin Peaks opened, it was a win-win-win-win-win situation. We love boobs so much so that we’ve made up a game for it: R or F (real or fake). It’s pretty straightforward. When we walked into Twin Peaks, we were both slightly distracted by the possibilities of R or Fs abound.

Aaron: Yeah, so *something something about work*

Amy: *Stares at waitresses’ boobs*

Aaron: *Stares at waitresses’ boobs* What was I saying?

Amy: Huh?

Hostess: Party of two?

Amy and Aaron: *Stares at hostess’s boobs*

Enough about boobs. Ok, except for the fact that the theme is ski lodge. When you think ski lodge, you normally think cold, aka, bundle up with warm coats, etc. Right? But in reality, when you think ski lodge, you should really think flannel patterned bikinis, booty shorts, and snow boots! Duh! This version of a ski lodge is much better.

(Image courtesy of Twin Peaks)

I mean, really.

As we waited for our table, we watched a screen that had a rotation of waitresses and their bios. I believe this one is majoring in “international business and Spanish.”

I’m so sure. Also, this is totally not the girl we saw. It’s just a random picture I found on Twin Peak’s facebook page (yes I am FB friends with Twin Peaks, what.) but does it really matter?

On to the food and drinks. Wait one more thing. They have their own TV at every booth! And you can change it to whatever station you want! HOW AWESOME IS THAT?!

They make their own beer. Random but true. They have two kinds, the blond and the brunette. We also shared a medium-sized pulled pork nachos.

The short beer, or what they call “girl size”:

The tall beer, appropriately named “man size.” Not sexist at all, these names! Really, when you’re in the monkey house, just forget about plugging your nose and embrace the shit stink already.

He ate: I was still hungover from yesterday, but when our HOT waitress asked if what I wanted to drink, I didn’t want to look like a pussy by ordering a diet coke. So I got the short blonde beer instead. She described it as a Blue Moon type beer (Amy rolled her eyes at that as Blue Moon is to her the equivalent of a sorority girl’s piss) but I got it anyway. It was above expectation and came with some bits of ice on top.

She ate: I have a self-imposed rule of not drinking during the week, so I was perfectly happy to order the short brunette from our…short brunette waitress. She was very, very hot, but sadly her shift ended after our first round of drinks and Jessica took over after she left. Jessica, at first glance, was a scary hot mess. She was tall and skinny but that fact was overshadowed by the ten layers of clown make up she had on. On the third look when I forced myself not to scream every time I saw her face, I realized she is actually very hot and could be a model if she bought a Costco-sized tank of make up remover. She needs a makeunder, hard, Sammy style. Fuck it, now that I look at Sammy’s picture, she wears about fifty times more make up than Sammy. For real. Imagine two sets of eyelashes and one bright red line for lips. And an orange face. YAAHHHHIIIIIKES! We ordered the nachos, then ten minutes later Jessica came back and asked if we ordered food. We said yes and she said “Oh YEAH! Duh! I totally forgot. I totally already put that order in! Heehee!” I laughed and told Aaron in real life Jessica and I would be friends (like how in real life I would be friends with Kanye and Britney). I found her adorable and completely funny. Aaron said I had my skimpy clothes goggles on, and in order to be friends with me, all a girl would have to do is to dress slutty and act flirty.

My beer was really good. It had some bits of ice on top, which I found strange but was fine when I drank it. It came in a frosted mug with a handle, which I always love because it makes me automatically talk in a pirate voice, sloshing my mead around. I think I’m getting my pirate and renaissance things mixed up but who cares. I was only sorry that I got the short size, and on the next round I got the MAN SIZE. Because I am a MAN. The man size ALSO COMES IN A MUG WITH A HANDLE! It pretty much blew my mind. Aaron’s beer could be okay in the summer, but I was not a big fan. The only other place in Houston that I like is the Volcano. Their mug is so huge that i had to drink it with both hands (and pee fifty times in between) but it was totally, totally worth it. A gallon of Shiner? Don’t mind if I do!

Pulled nachos. Comes in medium or large. This is the medium. Good lord.

He ate: I thought the nachos were going to be TERRIBLE so I was happy when they were edible. Actually, they were surprisingly good. The pulled pork was really tender and it came with a sweet tangy sauce.

The place made me want to go to a strip club real bad. Next to our table the waitress sat down and talked to the group of guys. It was completely sketcharama. It probably didn’t help that she was by far the ugliest waitress in the restaurant and had some belly rolls when she sat down. There was another waitress wearing a Star Wars belt. I did not find that hot at all. NOPE I DID NOT. I DID NOT STARE AT HER THE WHOLE TIME. Nope. She definitely knew how to play to her audience (this place is near Rice. Enough said.)

And yes, the TVs in each booth was clutch. We will definitely come back here.

She ate: The nachos were delicious. We almost got the queso instead, and after seeing the nachos, no matter how awesome the queso could have been (it was not that awesome, I saw someone else get it), the nachos were the right choice. They looked like a tower of regurgitated throw up (I guess that’s repetitive, but you get my point) and poo, which was an immediately sign that they were going to be delicious, according to my new bible, My Inner Fatty. Aaron was right on point: the pork was tender, tangy, and sweet. I liked that the nachos came in a tower with sour cream, melted shredded chedder, queso (yes that’s different), mashed refried beans, pork, sweet tangy sauce, and green onions. All the ingredients were layered so each chip gets a little of each ingredient. The chef cleverly drizzled the sauce and queso so that each chip had a lot of flavor.

I personally LOVE nachos, as they were the most expensive and coveted item in junior high, and whenever I got them I treasured the velveeta dripping down my seventh grade fingers. My fond association for nachos are not shared by Aaron, who considers them substandard food, but agreed to share them since he felt like having some sort of “chip product.” Because I hold nachos in such high standards, I am always disappointed when they’re done poorly, like in movie theaters (Tostito rounds? Really? Kill yourselves.) or Chuy’s nachos, which is actually one of my favorite restaurants. Chuy’s has great chips. They’re thin, perfectly fried, and always served warm. As soon as you sit down you’re served with a basket of these delicious crispies along with some salsa, which, again kill yourselves if you eat the salsa, and creamy jalapeno, which I want to take a bath in. For some reason, their nachos uses these bigger, thicker chips. They’re spread out in one layer on a big plate and topped with shredded cheddar. Then, I think they grab a four-year-old off the streets and ask the child to microwave the crap out of the plate of chips and cheese. Then, the four-year-old misunderstands and presses random buttons on the microwave, and considers it nachos.

Now that you know about my boyfriend Nachos, we can go on to other topics. I told Aaron “this is totally our new place to go for football!” and he said I say that about every place. I rank sports bars by 1. Can I get something healthy 2. Does it smell 3. Do they have nice TVs 4. Do they have good beer and 5. How far is it from our house.

1. Yes, they have a chopped and spinach salad, next time when we go on a weekday, I can eat that.

2. It smells like boobs so it’s a go.

3. I think that’s been answered. In addition to individual small flat screens at each booth, the bar is absolutely FILLED with huge TV screens everywhere you look. We might even go on New Year’s Day to watch the Crossfit marathon, since it’s on ESPN Front Row (I didn’t even know that is a channel).

4. They have their own. What what!

5. It’s only 10 minutes from our house so WIN.

Another item that looked interesting to me is the rib eye sliders plate. I will try those (which means I will get a salad, convince Aaron to get those, and try a bite) next time and get back to you guys.

Overall, a thumbs up.

Beer me.

As we were leaving, I saw three families with small children at their tables and almost pulled a Sweet Home Alabama (stupid movie, don’t see it) and said “You’ve a baby! In a bar!” but restrained myself. I’m classy that way.

tl; dr: Go to Twin Peaks, stare at some really hot boobs, don’t expect the world, watch personal tv, get the nachos and tall brunette beer.

Staycation Breakfast

The last of the cantaloupe infused honey from Italy (sad face) with grapefruit and fage Greek yogurt, Ezekiel English muffin with raisins, and my new favorite coffee, almond joy decaf (the only decaf I’ve not gagged on) from Lola Savannah, a local coffee maker.

I had a little peace and quiet eating this and reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Yes I am one million years behind everyone else. I’ve also recently discovered a great band called Stone Temple Pilots.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria
16535 Southwest Fwy # 2500
Sugar Land
(281) 265-2280

www.grimaldispizzeria.com

Rating: h8

Once a year, we get to see our good friend Rich when he visits his mom in Sugarland (a suburb 30 minutes south of Houston)  for the holidays.  This year, for the first time, guilt got the better of us and we agreed to actually go outside of Houston to eat. I actually quite enjoy going to the suburbs…it reminds me of visiting a small, posh village, where everything is convenient and clean. Unfortunately I also feel ashamed to like it so much as Aaron said I’ve now graduated from being a teenage white boy (this stemmed from my music preference of Bon Jovi and Aerosmith) to an older suburban white male stuck in an Asian woman’s body. I think this was meant as an insult but I find it highly entertaining!

I heard about Grimaldi’s through a friend of mine a couple of years ago. I seemed to remember her raving about the coal-kissed thing crust pizzas and have been dying to try it, being from New Jersey and naturally a lover of New York style pizza. The chain originating from Brooklyn was also a promising aspect.

We got a carafe of the house red wine. It was only $15 (in hindsight this was a red flag) and from Montepulciano, a small Italian town Aaron and I visited two years ago. It piqued our interest and we enthusiastically ordered it.

I ordered a small house salad (much to Aaron’s chagrin) and we got three personal sized 12″ pizzas to share.

Amy’s pizza:

White garlic sauce with mushrooms and anchovies

Aaron’s pizza:

White garlic sauce with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and Italian sausage

(I forgot to take a picture of this one as it arrived quite a bit after our other pizzas, I’m not sure why…)

Rich’s pizza:

Red sauce with jalapenos and pepperoni

We also shared the tiramisu for dessert.

He ate: Pizza is such a solved problem that you have to work really hard for it to be good. So much time and money has been spent in this country in the last fifty years to make pizza better. It’s a whole industry and this place did not raise the bar.

Although the pizza was meh, I was a fan of the tiramisu. It was solid.

She ate: The wine was only ok…a good deal for $15 and when I eat pizza, I usually want a cheap tasting, non-offensive, easy to drink red wine. This fit the bill! I was expecting a bit more quality since it was from Montepulciano. This could have been Franzia by taste. But for $15 for a big carafe, I can’t complain much.

I also can’t complain too much about the pizza. It wasn’t bad. But it also wasn’t good. The crust was thin but not thin or crispy enough. The cheese was there but not flavorful. They have no signature combinations for toppings, and although the pizzas were only $10, each topping was $2-4, so that adds up quickly. The toppings were very boring, the most interesting being ricotta cheese and artichoke hearts. The rest were your usual suspects of ham, olives, etc. They didn’t even have pineapple for Aaron’s favorite Hawaiian pizza. They charge you the same amount for toppings on half or the whole pizza. I think this is kind of a rip off, as then you don’t get to try many toppings (unless you dont’ mind shelling out $20 for a small pizza). They also recommend that you only get 2-3 toppings in order for the pizzas to not get too heavy/soggy.

The salad tasted like a Jason’s deli salad. Very dry, not very many components. I wouldn’t get it again.

Although the food was mediocre, our server Bradley was very attentive and friendly.

For the money, I would gladly have Papa John’s pizza. There are a million other better places to get pizza in Houston. For thin crust, the best is Piola.

The tiramisu was ok. Better than the stuff you get in the frozen section at the grocery store, but again, nothing special. The ladyfingers were fluffy and the cream was silky, but they both lacked flavor and richness.

———-

The night ended at the quintessential suburbia “bar,” TGIFridays! I haven’t been here since high school, and it has not changed one bit, other than the fact that we were able to order alcohol this time! Aaron and Rich both got the mudslide shake, and I got a Guiness. Silliness ensued.

tl; dr: Don’t go here, even if you’re already in Sugarland and you crave pizza. Go to Lasagna instead.