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100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 51, Branzino at Lucio's BYOB

100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 51, Branzino at Lucio's BYOB
Photo by Troy Fields

This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

The branzino before it goes into the oven.
The branzino before it goes into the oven.

Just when you think you know a neighborhood and just when you think you've uncovered every stone there is to pluck up and examine, Houston surprises you. That's the pleasure I experienced the first time I walked into Lucio's BYOB.

I left surprised at how I'd managed to overlook the restaurant all this time -- despite its welcoming sign encouraging customers to bring their own wine, despite its location next to now-closed Gravitas and despite my having lived only a few blocks away for the last few years. Such is the power of a perfectly cooked branzino, or European sea bass. It's highly prized in countries such as Italy for its firm but delicate white flesh. And because it has very few small bones, it's much more amenable to being served whole -- which is just how Lucio's makes its branzino, served with a crisp pile of apple-sesame slaw on the side.

Stuffed with oranges and shining with a summery-sweet hibiscus glaze that hums with the musky, floral flavors of jamaica tea, the whole roasted fish is fileted tableside with understated but expert precision by a smiling waiter in full uniform who will also happily uncork the bottle of wine you brought (if you remembered to do so -- after all, it's a BYOB). I enjoyed every last square inch of flesh on my branzino alongside a bottle of 2009 Barbera del Monferrato with my colleague Jeremy Parzen on my first visit to Lucio's, which -- along with the branzino -- made it one of the most memorable meals of the year.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F. No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo No. 61: Black bean burger at Ziggy's No. 60: Parillada at Pampa Grill No. 59: Peanut butter and jalapeño jelly burger at Wicked Whisk No. 58: Eggplant involtini at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 57: Lone Star dog at James Coney Island No. 56: Sushi at Sushi Miyagi No. 55: Palestinian chicken at Al Aseel No. 54: Roast beef sandwich at Local Foods No. 53: Mexico City plate at Molina's Cantina No. 52: Tacos at Brothers Taco House



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