Top

dining

Stories

 

Dazzling Singaporean Food at Straits

Adventure in CityCentre

To see more colorful photos from Straits' Singaporean kitchen, visit our slideshow.

I once read in an interview with Straits executive chef John Sikhattana that the chef not only lives in CityCentre — the upscale west Houston "town square" development filled with tony restaurants — but that he rarely leaves, either.

"I don't leave CityCentre unless I'm forced to," Sikhattana laughingly told Houston Press blogger Mai Pham this summer. And although that prospect may sound grim to some, it's sort of easy to see how Sikhattana could remain in CityCentre almost all the time without losing his mind. The development is rich with restaurants — including favorites such as Mediterranean-European bistro Flora & Muse, health-conscious Ruggles Green, Houston Tex-Mex chain Cyclone Anaya's, seafood stronghold Eddie V's, pubs like Yard House and wine bars like The Tasting Room — and it's equipped with a fancy gym, huge movie theater and plenty of shopping options, among other ways to while away your time. There's even a fledgling farmers market now on Wednesday evenings.

Whole fried striped bass is sweet with a rich chile basil marinade.
Troy Fields
Whole fried striped bass is sweet with a rich chile basil marinade.

Location Info

Map

Straits Restaurant

800 W. Sam Houston Parkway N.
Houston, TX 77024

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Outer Loop - NW

Flora & Muse

12860 Queensbury Lane, Ste. 143
Houston, TX 77024

Category: Restaurant > Breakfast

Region: Outer Loop - NW

Ruggles Green

801 Town and Country Lane, Ste. 1B
Houston, TX 77024

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Outer Loop - NW

Cyclone Anaya's

800 W. Sam Houston Parkway N.
Houston, TX 77024

Category: Restaurant > Tex-Mex

Region: Outer Loop - NW

Eddie V's Prime Seafood Restaurant

12848 Queensbury Lane
Houston, TX 77024

Category: Restaurant > Seafood

Region: Outer Loop - NW

Yard House Houston

800 W. Sam Houston Parkway
Houston, TX 77024

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Outer Loop - NW

Tasting Room -- CityCentre

818 Town & Country Blvd.
Houston, TX 77024

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: Outer Loop - NW

RA Sushi

12860 Queensbury
Houston, TX 77024

Category: Restaurant > Sushi

Region: Outer Loop - NW

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays
Roti prata: $7
Singapore laksa noodle soup: $9
Roti John sandwich: $10
Fuji apple and prawn salad: $12
Hainan chicken: $16
Tamarind beef tenderloin: $24
Whole striped bass: $29

READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: Straits Offers Adventurous Cuisine in CityCentre
BLOG POST: Two Ways to Get to Know Straits

Related Stories

More About

And San Francisco import Straits fits right into the mix, offering a dazzling menu of Singaporean food that's a blend of Malaysian, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and even Thai influences. Straits's Singaporean cuisine is as much a melting pot as Houston itself. And a half-Chinese, half-Laotian chef born in Thailand and raised in Hawaii — like Sikhattana — is more or less the cuisine's perfect match.

More important, Sikhattana's constant presence in CityCentre and at Straits means that the food has continued to steadily improve since the restaurant opened in September 2009. After a somewhat rocky start, it's now possible to go into the hip, loungey Straits with the confident knowledge that nearly anything you order will be a winner. Your chances improve even more significantly when you stick to Singaporean classics such as fragrant Hainan chicken or the addictively soft-and-crispy roti prata.

That roti was the first dish to hit the table during a recent weekend lunch with my parents, both of whom were novices to Singaporean cuisine and who were fascinated by the hot flatbread that spread out gently along its outer edges before curling up into itself like a begonia. Roti prata has the same addictive texture as a buttery French croissant: tender and chewy inside, flaky and barely crunchy outside. And the gently flavored yellow curry sauce that's served with it is equally addictive — I even caught my father pouring it in a greedy stream onto his flatbread instead of dipping it like the rest of us.

Later, as his dish of Hainan chicken arrived, he cautiously dipped his finger into one of the two dipping sauces — a dark, thick ginger-soy sauce — and proclaimed that it tasted "like Brer Rabbit molasses," a Southern staple that I grew up eating on pancakes. It was a compliment from a good ol' Texan boy whose palate is generally unaccommodating to new flavors. But so much of Singaporean food is accessible in that way, constructed with ingredients and spices that may be exotic in their specific combination but are familiar nevertheless.

Hainan chicken, for example, is a Chinese dish that's been adopted part-and-parcel into several other countries' cuisines over the years purely because of how comforting and enjoyable it is: plump chicken that's boiled whole in a rich chicken broth flavored with garlic and ginger, then deconstructed into more manageable pieces and served over lightly floral jasmine rice. The two dipping sauces provide you a choice of additional layers of flavor for the delicate chicken — at Straits, the bright-orange chile sauce packs a surprising wallop, while the syrupy ginger-soy provides a dark, pleasantly bracing sweetness — and the broth served on the side makes an excellent finishing sauce for the rice itself.

My father enjoyed his Hainan chicken, eating as much as he could before admitting defeat, but I was pleased to see that he'd left plenty behind, too — which I took home and warmed up for lunch a couple of days later, knowing full well that I was going to Straits that night for dinner.
_____________________

And what a dinner it was, I thought as I enjoyed every last flaky piece of flesh I could pick off a fried whole striped bass. It was served in an elegant curved shape, as if the fish were making a last-minute U-turn in the water to evade its captors. Between digging out tender flesh from between the bass's sturdy bones, I snapped off pieces of its skin — crispy and sweet from the rich chile-basil marinade, with an underlying smokiness — and crunched through them like peanut brittle. There was a bright citrus note of tamarind in the fish, too, mirroring the tamarind beef tenderloin my dining companion had ordered.

This tenderloin was a dish I'd been wary of: My previous experience ordering an Americanized dish at Straits had resulted in some brief disappointment when I found that an "Asian crab cake Benedict" at brunch was served on top of some tough, odd little pan sausages in lieu of, say, English muffins. I didn't mind the substitution in concept, but the sausage was a poor choice.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
6 comments
ParkerSmith
ParkerSmith

Is this your only blog on this matter? If you have any more blogs or anything on this can you please let me know? I found this blog very enticing.

ekhilton
ekhilton

I've been a big fan for awhile, mostly because there just aren't many Singaporean spots around town and I'm completely addicted to the Roti....i call it crack bread. :)

beer_chris
beer_chris

@EatingOurWords so they really have good laksa? Really? The early reports were so bad I've never gone ...

EatingOurWords
EatingOurWords

@beer_chris The early reports scared me off too, but I've had some great meals there in the last few months. Think they've really improved.

jrroz
jrroz

@EatingOurWords @beer_chris Food is much better than when they first opened. Service can be an issue

EatingOurWords
EatingOurWords

@jrroz @beer_chris I heard about service being an issue too, but I've honestly had consistently great waitresses.

 
Loading...