I love last-minute restaurant jaunts with my buddy, Lisa. We have such similar palates and usually are always hungry for the same type of food. It is especially more fun when it is a last-minute decision and no reservations are made and we just figure out what is in the neighborhood. Today, for example, I was working at the library when she texted and we decided to find a place to eat. Both of us had been curious about Charles Pham’s Heaven’s Dog and were very surprised, when we arrived at 6:15, to find the place practically empty. Except for two people at the bar, we literally had our choice of seats in the restaurant. Stylistically, it is a pretty establishment, but I have to admit that I find the dog paintings slightly ominous, distracting, and generally unpleasant.
We decided to start light and order more as our hunger dictated. Both of us loving egg-white cocktails, we wanted to start with their two choices; the Gin Fizz Tropical with Plymouth gin, Small Hand Foods pineapple gum, orgeat, lime, egg white, mint, and soda and the Bumble Bee Cocktail with Appeltons V/X rum, Smith and Cross rum, lime, honey, and egg white. Food-wise, only a few dishes were to start the meal; Marinated Eggplant with soy, toasted garlic and pine nuts, Braised Pork Belly in clam shell bun, and Blue Crab Meat with sweet corn and scallions.
The eggplant arrived first and was decent enough — tender and made that much more interesting because of the pine nuts. We were more than three-quarters the way finished with the eggplant when the pork belly buns arrived. Frankly, after the superlatively tender pork belly bun I experienced in Austin from a trailer just a few weeks ago, what I was eating this evening was sadly disappointing. Here the bun was gummy and overwhelming in size to the pork belly, which was lacking in enough sauce or flavor to do the composition justice.
While we were lamenting the mediocrity of our first two dishes, the cocktails arrived. Yep – what should have come out first didn’t arrive at our table until we were more than half-way done with our meal. But to their credit, the cocktails were outstanding and would be worthy of a trip, regardless of the food.
The main entrée arrived, described as Blue Crab Meat, sweet corn, and scallions. We had debated a bit with the waitress about an accompaniment and she suggested brown rice. Much to our chagrin, we again had our hopes dashed in this simple dish as the brown rice was incredibly mushy. Lisa commented if we both hadn’t already served half of what was brought out and topped it with the entrée, she would have returned it. We did mention it to the waitress who offered a replacement, but we were too far gone with the dish anyway. Of that accord, the Blue Crab Meat dish was sorely lacking enough crab to be noticeable and what was there was too muddled and similar to the sweetness of this giant platter of corn. There simply was not enough contrasting flavors or ingredients with sweet crab and sweet corn and a smattering of scallions which seemed more of a garnish than a flavor component.
Debating a dessert, we opted to head to Thermidor instead and was terribly sorry we didn’t eat our entire meal over there. But I got a fabulous Fried Dough Ho entry out of that trip.
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