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The Newest Churrascos Is a Satisfying Chip Off the Cordúa Block

This latest branch is as successful as the first.

By battering and frying a whole fish in the mixture, the Cordúas acknowledge and respect their heritage while admitting that there's always room for change and improvement. I've never had pinolillo myself, but I can't imagine a better application of the requisite ingredients than coating a tender white branzino that, once fried, David proudly calls "fish candy."

To try the greatest variety of Churrascos dishes at once, come for brunch, a huge undertaking, during which you can eat as much meat, as much ceviche, as much tres leches and as many plantain chips as you desire. The options are staggering, and none of them seem to suffer from being produced on a large scale and left out in chafing dishes — not even the salmon churrasco, which remained incredibly buttery, flavorful and flaky by the time I got to it near the end of brunch.

Tres leches pancakes, a brunch special recommended by the server, were a bit on the overly sweet side, but one more dip into the sliced-to-order beef and ensalada Churrascos with marinated hearts of palm, smoked cotija cheese and heavenly cilantro dressing and I forgot about sweets altogether. And when a chef can convince me, possessor of perhaps the biggest sweet tooth in town, to abandon dessert in favor of meat, meat, chimichurri and more meat, well, I'd call him a success.

David Cordúa (left) and his father, Michael, now work in the kitchen side-by-side.
Troy Fields
David Cordúa (left) and his father, Michael, now work in the kitchen side-by-side.

Location Info

Map

Churrascos

947 Gessner, Ste. B290
Houston, TX 77024

Category: Restaurant > Latin American

Region: Outer Loop - NW

Details

Hours: Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Ceviche verde: $12
Lobster campechana: $16
Calamari chicharrón: $11
Ensalada Churrascos: $7
Eight-ounce churrasco steak: $37
Parrillada mixta: $36
Lomo latino: $25
Whole fried fish: Mkt
Sunday brunch buffet: $29
Desserts: $9



Go behind the scenes of this week's review in our slideshow, "Churrascos: A Closer Look."


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Of course, meat cooked over an extremely hot charcoal grill is Churrascos's signature dish, and even when it's coming out of the kitchen at a frenetic pace — the churrasco steak often makes up half the tickets in the kitchen on any given night — the restaurant continues to put out steaks possessing the same quality that made it famous to begin with. My churrasco selection was prepared a perfect medium rare, and it was trimmed beautifully; there was not an ounce of gristle or fat on the eight-ounce tenderloin. It's served with potatoes, grilled vegetables and a brown-butter béarnaise sauce that I felt could have been drizzled next to the steak much more liberally, as could have the chimichurri. In fact, I feel that most dishes at Churrascos should be served with a side of that addictive green sauce of parsley, garlic and olive oil, or the creamy cilantro, jalapeño, vinegar and mayonnaise sauce that accompanies several items.

The parrillada mixta platter could have benefited from some extra sauces. Though every item on it — grilled beef filet, pork loin, glazed ribs, chicken breast, jumbo shrimp and Spanish chorizo — was ideally cooked, most of the proteins seemed underseasoned, and I found myself wishing the server hadn't taken away our ramekins of chimichurri and roasted tomato sauce that came with the plantain chips.

Still, it can be difficult, even in a meat-centric city such as Houston, to get meat that's cooked just right, let alone meat from four different species on the same plate. In that respect, Churrascos never disappoints.
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In the midst of my several trips to Churrascos for this review, a friend of mine took ill and needed food brought to him at home. I ordered some calamari, crunchier and more tender than any I've had in an Italian restaurant; the lomo latino, a grilled beef filet with a hint of soy sauce in the marinade and a spicy black bean sauce on the side; and beef empanadas in flaky, buttery crusts that withstood even the long drive to my friend's house. I have never seen anyone recover from an illness with such haste. He dug into the food ravenously, proclaiming that he hadn't had gallo pinto of this caliber since he last visited his family in Costa Rica.

David Cordúa, it seems, feels the same way about the traditional dish of rice and beans flavored with onions, garlic and a hint of habanero. In Cordúa: Foods of the Americas, he writes, "Of all the dishes close to my heart, gallo pinto has a special place. It's the one dish my parents would ship to me and my sisters during college."

There's indeed something extremely comforting about hearty Latin American cuisine, even when you're eating it within the confines of the startlingly modern decor of the new Churrascos on the second floor of a chic development overlooking Interstate 10. Even if you've never met David and witnessed his enthusiasm for the dishes he creates or heard his father's warm, velvety voice, it's easy to imagine a father and son working together, devising dishes that remind them of a far-away but familiar land. And even if you've never been to Nicaragua, I believe you can appreciate the unfussy food from a former shipping agent who turned a hobby into a successful career but still refuses to accept the title of "chef."

"Food is the medium I use to show you who I am," Michael writes in the cookbook. "I am simply an explorer and a cook."

kaitlin.steinberg@houstonpress.com

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