PaperCity Magazine

May 2015 - Houston

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MAY | PAGE 14 | 2015 WHAT'S OLD IS VERY NEW OUT of AFRICA ALL PHOTOS DEBORA SMAIL M ichael Pellegrino, chef of the new Uptown eatery Anejo, is challenging us to rethink what Tex-Mex cuisine can really be. Here at the latest Lasco Enterprises concept, Pellegrino — a veteran chef in the organization who proved his might as executive chef at both Max's Wine Dive locations in town — has spearheaded the menu, applying classic cooking techniques to authentic regional dishes, from tamales to queso, fajitas to enchiladas (not to mention the margarita — more on that later). Pellegrino has taken both the quality and price point to levels seldom seen in this genre. He and his team work with prime cuts of beef, rack of lamb, Gulf Coast fish and shellfish, lobster culled from cold waters and real Mexican cheeses such as Asadero, Oaxaca and Chihuahua, creating each dish as a fine dining restaurant would: to order. Anejo is housed in the former location of Arturo's Uptown in Uptown Park; Jerry and Laura Lasco (who also founded the neighboring Tasting Room) and their service-minded team have left the sensible layout (including the raised red leather banquettes circling the bar) as they found it, then added black wallpaper fashioned with sugar skulls, tiny crystal chandeliers cloaked in noir string shades and mood lighting. Our favorite dishes include the queso fondue mixed tableside, which lets you add as much charred Serrano, minced tomato, green onions and even habañero sauce by the eye- dropper full to the creamy cheese concoction as you want ($16.50), as well as the rich but complex soft corn tamale filled with mole braised venison and topped with spiced cream and pomegranate seeds ($12). From the grill, enjoy a classic applewood-bacon-wrapped shrimp with a lemon-tinged Mexican crema and cilantro emulsion ($26.50); a flavorsome fajita-marinated prime rib-eye ($57); the Casa Dragones tequila and honey-soaked lobster tail ($39) or a mighty rack of pecan-crusted lamb with jalapeño-cilantro jelly ($58 to $99). Of course, it's not a Tex-Mex place without fajitas. Here you'll find beef ($29.50 to $49.50) and chicken ($19 to $34), as well as enchiladas ranging from spicy carne asada ($20), venison mole ($21), spinach ($17.50) and poached snapper ($26). Pair any dish with the soon-to- be-a-signature side: jalapeño creamed sweet corn, a warm casserole topped with cotija cheese and corn tortilla chip crumbs ($10). Cocktail options, served in Riedel crystal, are made with only premium and ultra premium spirits, fresh juices direct from their Flow Juice Bar concept, Mexican Coke and Topo Chico sparklers. The Anejo margarita is fresh and bright tasting, made with white Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila, lime, Cointreau and Texas honey ($11). Want to call your own liquor? They also offer more than 100 varieties of tequila and mezcals. Open lunch, dinner and brunch. Reservations recommended. Laurann Claridge Anejo, 1180-1 Uptown Park Blvd., 713.963.9032, Peska Seafood Culture, 1700 Post Oak Blvd. in BLVD Place, 713.961.9229, COOKS Peska Seafood Culture, one of the most exciting seafood-focused Houston restaurants to open in years, evolved quite by happenstance. The young owners, brother-and-sister team Diego and Maite Ysita, launched a seafood market in Acapulco several years ago. Day after day, customers strolled in and asked for a menu — not realizing they were in a fish market, not a restaurant — so the pair began to serve fresh bites of ceviche and tiraditos (a Peruvian raw fish akin to sashimi and carpaccio). Fast forward a decade: The Ysitas' Houston locale is the fifth iteration under the La Trainera brand (and the group's first place stateside). The fish market/high-end coastal eatery, located at trendy BLVD Place on Post Oak Boulevard, embraces culinary influences from every corner of the globe. Guests can purchase toro, striped bass and snow crab from the gleaming seafood counter or reserve a table (indoors or out, or in a private room) at the gorgeous 220-seat chef-driven restaurant. Lisa Pope Westerman of the firm Gensler designed the airy spot as a virtual homage to life beneath the sea, brought to shore and elevated on the plate by 20-year- old executive chef Omar Pereney. A child prodigy in the kitchen, Pereney first stepped behind the range at age 12, hosted his own cooking show at 15 and scored his first exec chef position at sweet 16. The gifted chef of Venezuelan descent whips up an extraordinary tostada caramel app with minced yellowfin tuna, caramelized red onions and a drizzle of citrus soy sauce ($13), and impeccably fresh pulpo a la gallega, Spanish octopus bathed in yuzu and lime juices and served with pickled red onions and fresh cucumbers ($27). The soups astound – the vivid green organic pea soup is a clean-tasting purée of peas, the liquid reserved to one side by a dam of lightly mashed peas and minced bacon in a presentation as artful as it is delectable ($9). The fruit and flower salad is a bouquet of torn lettuce, berries, edible blossoms and microgreens, adorned with a savory sorbet that one is encouraged to let melt and toss with the rest ($12). The extensive seafood menu includes both raw and broiled clam and oyster options (a must try: the seasonal oysters raw with red wine granita atop), as well as crab, sashimi cut to your desired thinness and whole fish culled from all the seven seas. For the landlubber, there's braised short rib ($38), Berkshire pork chop ($26) and oven-roasted Thai curry- dressed crispy "funny bird" ($24). The ambiance evokes near and distant shores, with a custom art installation by Alberto Bonomi wherein hundreds of handcrafted reflective metal fish school overhead, literally moving with the air currents. Westerman also commissioned Alvaro Hernandez to articulate a subtle 15-by-4- foot wall installation that entertains diners with moving images of waves, seaweed and bubbles. Peska is open for lunch and dinner; reservations are recommended. Laurann Claridge SCHOOLED IN FISH Peli Peli, Galleria, 281.257.9500; Fruit and flower salad with seasonal berries, chia seed-lime vinaigrette, spicy pecan meringue and lemon- olive oil sorbet Peska bar Whole fish presentation ALL PHOTOS JULIE SOFER H ave you ever tasted bobotie? Or the mysterious kingklip? Now's your chance: Chef Paul Friedman has opened his second South African-themed Peli Peli restaurant in the Galleria, in the 5,000-square-foot locale that was once home to Gigi's Asian Bistro. You won't find wild-game mounts on the walls at this five-year-old concept whose first location is in North Houston. (The name, by the way, refers to South African bird's-eye chili, also known as piri piri or peri peri.) Instead, custom LED lighting evokes the South African landscape, from breathtaking sunsets to the morning glow above the famed acacia trees, one of which takes center stage in the main dining room. The waitstaff takes you through the menu, where you'll discover that South African cuisine is an amalgam of immigrants' cuisines, most specifically Dutch, Indian, French, English and Portuguese. Here the familiar (chicken, steaks and seafood) is prepared in what may be unfamiliar ways, such as a guava basting sauce on bacon-wrapped chicken ($12), sweet stuffed peppadew peppers ($10) or tiger prawns air-lifted from South Africa. And, lest we keep you guessing, bobotie is traditional curried cottage pie ($14), while kingklip is pan- seared eel with scallops ($36). The food is approachable in both concept and price, while the wine list proffers the largest selection of South African wines in the U.S. Laurann Claridge The new Anejo restaurant Peli Peli in the Galleria

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