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September 2014 - Houston

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Page 29 of 87

SEPTEMBER | PAGE 30 | 2014 True Food Kitchen, 1700 Post Oak Blvd. in BLVD Place, 281.605.2505, CLEAN LIVING S tatistically, Houstonians dine out a lot — more than in any other American city, according to some sources. And while we all savor a cream-laden sauce or butter-tinged pastry, it feels great to eat clean as often as possible to keep one's body in balance. More restaurateurs are catching onto the trend, but few can rival Phoenix-based True Food Kitchen, which has opened a bustling shrine to healthful dining in BLVD Place on Post Oak Boulevard. True Food is a collaboration between Fox Restaurant Concepts and renowned author Dr. Andrew Weil, a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine. The menu integrates Weil's belief that anti-inflammatory diets can counteract the chronic inflammation at the root of serious illnesses from heart disease and Alzheimer's to many forms of cancers. Like disciples chanting their founder's mantra ("Honest food that tastes really good"), the staff here proffers heirloom vegetables and organic produce so startlingly fresh that the flavor seems concentrated — a far cry from the genetically modified fruits and veggies sold in most restaurants and supermarkets. None of the starters or entrees we tried disappointed, from the kale and avocado dip paired with flax crackers ($8) to the caramelized onion and fig tart ($10) and margherita pizza ($11). We'll be back for red chili shrimp with shiitake mushrooms (Asian mushrooms are a daily suggestion on Weil's anti-inflammatory food pyramid, $18), Panang curry with chicken ($16) and a mighty grass-fed bison burger on flax- seed bun ($16). And take a good look at the wine list: The bottles are chosen not only for taste, but for the vintner's commitment to organic, biodynamic and sustainable farming practices. Laurann Claridge WE'RE EATING ROUND THE WORLD: SOUTH AFRICAN FARE AT SPRINGBOK, MODERNO TACOS+TEX MEX, CREOLE AT HOLLEY'S SEAFOOD RESTAURANT & OYSTER BAR AND BACK TO HEALTHY HOME AT TRUE FOOD KITCHEN. Raw veggies served with tzatziki and black olive dips True Food Kitchen Beet, carrot, ginger, turmeric and honey lemonade DAVID FOX, FOX RESTAURANT CONCEPTS DAVID FOX, FOX RESTAURANT CONCEPTS DAVID FOX, FOX RESTAURANT CONCEPTS Moderno Tacos + Tex Mex, 10455 Briar Forest Dr., 713.784.4600, MEXICAN MADE MOD ohn Moore, the restaurateur who brought us the Italian-American concept Palazzo's, is taking us back to the days when he hunted near Eagle Pass and fortified himself at El Moderno, a Mexican joint just over the border. While that pilgrimage is too dangerous today (and the original Moderno shuttered long ago), he's recreating his memories at Moderno Tacos + Tex Mex, a stone's throw from Palazzo's on the I-10 oil/technology corridor. The stylish space features mod imported Mexican tiles, salvaged-wood paneling and handmade pine tables — the vision of architect Issac Preminger. The food is equally well conceived, starting with (natch) a comp salsa starter of char-roasted tomatoes that's both mild and complex, and a margarita best served on the rocks in a highball, its rim smeared with salt. We devoured the decadent queso fundido with bits of chorizo and poblano rajas blended into gooey Mexican cheeses ($9), followed by a healthful serving of campechana with chunks of tilapia and shrimp ($11) and perfectly made guacamole ($5). And hearkening back to the restaurant's name, numerous taco plates are offered, from a fried chicken variation ($11) to crispy beef ($12) and tacos norteno ($11). Laurann Claridge M ark Holley's fans fondly recall the dozen years he spent as exec chef of Pesce before its closure in 2012. For the past two years, he's been a chef without a full-time home behind the range — but evidently he's been quite busy prepping for the debut of Holley's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar, where he holds the double title of chef/ owner. Holley's looks nothing like the space's former tenant, Sushi Raku. The pulled-back interior is bathed in blue with ceilings that soar above the white tablecloths, while just past the entrance is a casual raw bar (nicknamed Lancelot's Oyster Bar after Holley's daddy). The dining room is actually three rooms linked together, all served by an attentive staff. The menu reflects Holley's past and present, ranging from Pan Asian cuisine to the Louisiana Creole fare he knows well. (After all, he spent his formative years working under Carl Walker at Brennan's Houston and its sister restaurant, Commander's Palace in New Orleans). Graze your way through dishes such as a half- dozen raw oysters ($16), barbecue shrimp ($16), Holley's famous gumbo ($13) and ceviches including our fave, the Peruvian with Gulf Coast grouper and sweet potatoes topped with a roasted corn crumble ($12). Entrees include Holley's muddled stew, a mélange of braised pork belly, clams, shrimp and snapper topped with a 13-minute egg ($29) and a whole Thai-style fried snapper served for two ($29 a person). End your meal with pastry chef Melissa Riley's homey "Vincent Vega" milkshake and cookies; the Pulp Fiction character would appreciate the warm, chewy ginger spice, pecan sandies and chocolate chunk cookies paired with a rich bourbon milkshake shot as much as we did ($8). Laurann Claridge Holley's Seafood Restaurant & Oyster Bar, 3201 Louisiana St., 832.426.4303, SERVING UP FOOD SEA JULIE SOFER JULIE SOFER Blackened grouper with Carolina Gold rice, Lady Cream peas, kimchi greens and ham hock pot liquor Mark Holley Springbok, 711 Main St., 832.767.5574, RAISING THE BAR JACK THOMPSON I would have spent more time cheering for the Dynamos and Rockets at sports bars, had the new Springbok gastropub, bar and grill been around before now. Spare me the frozen-then-fried chicken wings and hum-hum draft beers; if you can bring on the kind of casual but well-crafted dishes chef Seth Greenburg conjures at this new downtown sports outpost, there's no need to watch ESPN anywhere else. Co-owner Peter Walker is a South African native who co-founded the original Springbok — named for the South African rugby team — in L.A. in 2003. He and co-owner Robin McLean wanted to expand the concept to another locale and elevate the menus. Enter Greenburg (former chef of L'Orangerie and Dakota in L.A. and The Penthouse in Santa Monica) who was game to relocate to Houston and bring a contemporary take to classic South African cuisine. How's this for a hangover cure: lamb sausages over fries with a sunny side up egg ($16). And, call me a poor sport, but I refuse to share my braised oxtail with curried carrots glazed with local honey and Yorkshire pudding ($16). The manly interior incorporates moody lighting, leather club chairs, taxidermy trophies and 80-inch television screens upstairs and down. There's a communal table where you can sit with friends and envy their Devil'ish eggs with candied bacon ($5) and salad of shredded asparagus, farmer's cheese and soft poached egg ($11). The dessert menu is another home run: Try the British nursery-inspired milk tart, a layered pudding concoction built in a Ball jar, or a butterscotch bread pudding ($5 each). Laurann Claridge JACK THOMPSON Peter Walker Springbok Fried chicken tacos at Moderno Tacos + Tex Mex

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