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Cuchara: Montrose Mexican

Even though the food is a bit uneven, Cuchara's drinks are spectacular and its dining room filled with energy.

The pollo Adriana suffered a similar fate: The chicken breasts my friend ordered weren't stuffed with calabacita squash and cheese but rather stacked in the same fashion like floppy Jenga blocks. This way, the breasts were tough and dry while the poblano pepper sauce that coated the dish was oddly muted. We both, however, loved the puré de elote amarillo that accompanied it, a slightly sturdier Mexican version of grits with a much finer texture. My tasajo y huarache — the most expensive item on the menu at $24 — was just as dry and tough despite a few lashes of that avocado mousse, the beef filet cutting like leather against the fruitless tugs of my butter knife. The huarache itself underneath was excellent — a testament to those manos de abuelitas — but the execution of the entire dish fell disappointingly short of its vision.
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And that's simultaneously the most frustrating and the most hopeful thing about Cuchara: its vision. It is very clear that Beaven, McDaniel and Avendaño are here to stay. They're committed to Montrose and to Mexican food in a way that indicates a passion which shouldn't be discounted, hosting Día de los Muertos parties for the neighborhood and yoga classes during the day, which sees the airy dining room cleared of furniture and scattered with spongy mats.

Avendaño herself shows great promise with the ideas behind her Mexican-gone-mod dishes, all of which perfectly match the vibe and character of Cuchara itself. I even love the little touches like the menu's sorting system of hosting one each of a beef, chicken, pork, fish, shrimp and vegetable dish in the main-courses section, keeping the list of options short and sweet.

Worth the trip: addictive fried charalitos and Cuchara's unique, excellent cocktails.
Troy Fields
Worth the trip: addictive fried charalitos and Cuchara's unique, excellent cocktails.

Location Info

Map

Cuchara

214 Fairview St.
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Montrose

Gratifi Kitchen + Bar

302 Fairview
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Montrose

Boheme Cafe & Wine Bar

307 Fairview
Houston, TX 77006

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Montrose

Details

Hours: 5 to 10 p.m., Tuesdays through Thursdays, 5 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Charalitos: $8
Tostaditos de tinga: $8
Salsas de Cuchara: $8
Mula de nopal: $14
Pollo Adriana: $18
Huachinango veracruzana: $19
Tasajo: $24



READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: Montrose Gets More Mexican with Cuchara
BLOG POST: From Drinks to Decor, Cuchara Brings Mexican Charm to Montrose

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The desserts, while also still a little uneven themselves, show a creativity and zest often lost in pastry programs: sugar-coated buñuelos are filled with liquid dark chocolate, which rushes forth onto scoops of ice cream when you puncture the doughy balls, and a warm spice-tinged tortita de plátano is a fun take on the oft-seen fried banana dessert. Order a cup of cafe de olla — the traditional cinnamon-laced coffee of Mexico — to showcase the desserts to their fullest. The must-order bowl of densely creamy chilatole — a corn masa soup fired up with serrano peppers and raw red onions — gives me reason alone to return to Cuchara, and reason to believe that the restaurant still has quite a few tricks up its finely turned sleeve.

For now, however, I'm content to snack on charalitos at Cuchara's welcoming bar and wash them down with the interesting cocktails I explore more and more with each return visit: a Bandido with a floater of Pimm's Cup No. 1 with a refreshing zip that belies the wild punch of Sotol underneath, the whole affair laced with plump chia seeds that give the drink the appearance and feel of a Mexican bubble tea. Or perhaps that Mezcal-enlivened Division Bell with a tart smack of Aperol at the end of each smoky sip, a drink first made by Phil Ward of Mayahuel in New York City but which plays just as well to Houston audiences. Or maybe just a single, perfect margarita — perhaps Cuchara's current and greatest claim to fame — that's best enjoyed on its own, the better to savor the unusual and unusually well-balanced flavors underneath.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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6 comments
delano
delano

Had never heard of Cuchara, thanks for shedding some light

miss_msry
miss_msry

Those look like big guppies or Gila fish.

FRL713
FRL713

This review mirrors my experiences and thoughts.  Cute place, good salsas, some fun apps, good cocktails (albeit small), and uneven food.  I'm all for a simple focused menu if all the items are well executed, but the cactus and beef dishes just weren't very good.  For those prices, I expect better.  I think there is room in Houston for more upscale Mexican, but I don't think Cuchara has quite yet hit the mark.

StephenMaturin
StephenMaturin

What about their fajitas?  Are their margaritas any good?

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

My experience was really good, though I'm one to go for the most expensive items on the menu. I stuck to what I knew and my experience was good, though the wait staff was a little inexperienced.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

Whoops not one to go for the most expensive item..

 
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