Flaming Young

Ten food-related words you need to stop misspelling

Restaurant News

Openings & Closings
Ava becomes Alto, Il Mulino becomes 024 and death becomes Nga.

Rumors had been swirling for the past few weeks that Ava Kitchen & Whiskey Bar — one of the restaurants in the two-joint Schiller-Del Grande concept at West Ave — would be closing soon. But instead of closing completely, the restaurant is moving in with its sister restaurant — Alto Pizzeria — upstairs. The news is unsurprising, as Ava itself never quite took off despite its pedigree; the Schiller-Del Grande group also run RDG + Bar Annie, The Grove, Taco Milagro, Rio Ranch and several Cafe Express locations.

This is not "flaming young."
This is not "flaming young."
Mama Ninfa started an empire.
Mama Ninfa started an empire.

In a press release, Lonnie Schiller said that they are "taking the best items at Ava and merging them with Alto," although it's unclear exactly which items will remain on the merged menu. Guests will continue to access the second-story Alto through its staircase entrance, while a smaller space downstairs will serve as a curbside pickup area. West Ave plans to revamp the now-vacant Ava space, and further rumors indicate that a Fleming's may be its next occupant.

In other transformations, Trattoria Il Mulino has closed and quickly reopened as 024 Grille (a nod to its ZIP code). The ground-floor level of a Westin facing Memorial City Mall was an odd spot for the little sister location of NYC's famed Il Mulino, and the spot always seemed to suffer as a result. The new 024 promises to blend "the atmosphere of a local bistro and the classic tradition of a Texas steakhouse."

In case you missed it, Solea opened last week in the increasingly popular Shepherd/Durham restaurant corridor south of I-10. The wine bar-cum-live music joint is near both old favorites such as Pizzitola's and new favorites like La Fisheria.

Speaking of La Fisheria, the coastal Mexican restaurant is now open for brunch. In keeping with Chef Aquiles Chavez's almost compulsive need to trademark everything in the restaurant with his name, the brunch offerings will include his twist on chilaquiles — Red Chile-"Aquiles," which includes a red sauce with spicy and smoky red chiles along with shredded chicken breast, fried corn tortilla strips and fried eggs topped with cotija cheese. The menu will also feature dishes such as Mexican paella and adult pick-me-ups like Bloody Marias. Sunday brunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

Coastal Crossing Grill in Alvin is now open after The Barbed Rose Steakhouse saw its last day of service on June 30.

Also closed this week were Korma Sutra — a bit of a surprise considering the restaurant's nicely prepared entry into the recent Curry Crawl at Straits — and Nga Restaurant, which was an excellent Midtown alternative to the much busier Mai's and Van Loc. Midtown is becoming less Vietnamese with every passing day...BY KATHARINE SHILCUTT

How To

A Newbie's Guide to Sushi
Venturing down a new food road.

Some love sushi, some hate it and some only eat California rolls. But there is so much more to it than just a roll of rice with cream cheese, avocado and crab. If you, like me until recently, have never ordered sashimi or nigiri and have stuck with hand-rolled sushi, I suggest you venture along a new path of eating true sushi.

Carl Rosa, President of the Sushi Club of Houston, contacted me after reading my story about trying raw fish at Uni Sushi, offering to teach me more about sushi. How could I pass up this opportunity?

We met at Kubo's Sushi Bar & Grill in the Rice Arcade Shopping Center for lunch and discussed the basics of sushi. He broke down each component — rice, fish, soy sauce and wasabi — and took me through a sushi menu starting with basic sushi, then working my way up to more exotic flavors.

Here's my newbie's guide to eating sushi.

5. Rice and Fish Go Hand in Hand

When you eat a sushi roll, you usually can't distinguish each flavor inside the roll. You have avocado, cucumber, seaweed, rice, crab or shrimp and spicy mayo, and then you've probably drenched it in soy sauce, right? Rosa explains that the problem with this is that it strays from what sushi is — simple. As with most dishes, the flavors are meant to complement each other, not fight for attention.

Sushi rice and fish are of equal importance. If the rice is body-temperature warm, it's good rice and will balance with the flavor of the fish. Rosa says the fish and rice need to be a "harmonious combination."

4. Do Not Mix Wasabi and Soy Sauce

Not that we're judging, but raise your hand if you've done this. Rosa says it's one of the biggest faux pas with sushi. First of all, you should use a minimal amount of soy sauce. The sushi should not be overpowered by the soy sauce, or you're taking away from the pure flavor of the rice and fish.

Think of it this way: If you need more soy sauce, you can always pour more. Second, wasabi and soy sauce are meant to be used in different ways. Soy sauce enhances the flavor of the sushi. Wasabi is a spicier component that is already added to most sushi. Don't kill your taste buds by drenching your sushi in wasabi or soy sauce. You won't learn to love the simplicity of the rice and fish.

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