It's GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up and that means restaurants throughout the state are serving up meals that showcase the wonderful ingredients and products from the Lone Star State.
I decided to check out the new kid on the block, Eleven XI, which is serving a four-course Texas tasting dinner for $39 per person ‑- all Texas beers are half off as well. The newly opened restaurant on West Gray serves a variety of dishes focusing on the Texas coast, so what better place to celebrate GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up than Eleven XI?
My boyfriend and I decided to split the tasting menu and pair it with the Eleven XI salad complete with three lettuce wedges, heirloom tomatoes, grilled baby vegetables and a cranberry vinaigrette ‑- highly recommended.
The first course starts with two Gulf grilled oysters covered with a crispy topping of Parmesan Reggiano, diced tomatoes, Texas pecan pesto and apple-wood smoked bacon. The two oysters, brought straight from the Gulf, are delicate and salty and pair nicely with the warm cheese topping. The nuttiness from the pesto with the chunks of salty and sweet bacon is a nice surprise. Squeeze a little bit of the lemon juice on top for a wonderful complement to the saltiness from the cheese and oyster. All in all this is a great dish to start the tasting menu. It's also available on the regular menu, so you can still enjoy these grilled oysters after GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up ends.
Following the grilled oysters came another dish from the Gulf, pan-seared Gulf shrimp with diced heirloom tomatoes. The sweet and buttery shrimp sit atop a Texas grapefruit gastrique that enhances the natural lightness of the delicate shrimp. You wouldn't initially think to pair shrimp and tomatoes with grapefruit juice, but the tartness and sweetness from each component make this a winning dish. There was definitely a battle for the third shrimp. Unfortunately, this item is only found on the Texas tasting dinner.
The third dish was hands-down my favorite, and this one is on the regular menu ‑- I will be coming back for this for sure. The waiter brought us a miniature cast-iron skillet used to sear the delicate Texas quail sitting atop creamy smoked Gouda blue grits and sautéed mixed local greens. Quail and grits is probably one of my favorite Texas dishes. The crispy skin and tender meat of the quail paired with the cheesy, soft grits and warm wilted mixed greens was the perfect bite.
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We ended the Texas tasting dinner with the final course of three cookies ‑- double chocolate, white chocolate-macadamia nut and a pecan sandie ‑- and, of course, milk. This is definitely the only course meant for sharing. The warm cookies with a few cold sips of milk were a wonderful way to end the meal. I'm not sure how the cookies play into the Texas tasting theme, but they were delicious, so I'm not complaining.
Check out which other restaurants in the Houston area are participating in GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up so you can eat some exceptional local cuisine and support the Houston Food Bank.