100 Favorite Houston Dishes 2015, No. 28: Seafood Tower at Reef VS. Julep

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As we wind down the 100 Favorite Houston Dishes list of 2015, this is the final "versus" entry, in which we compare the same dish at two different places. Check out the other battles:

No. 64: Fried Chicken, Original Frenchy’s vs Suburban Frenchy’s
No. 77: Beef Fajitas, Original Ninfa’s vs El Real Tex-Mex
No. 89: Pork Chop, Perry's Steakhouse vs Perry & Sons

A seafood tower isn’t that scary of an investment if you split it with a few friends, and it's a wonderful indulgence. The tower at Reef, called the 3rd Bar Plateau, is $49, and the Demi-Tower at Julep is $60.

(Julep also offers a full-size one for $120, and it even comes with a bottle of sherry. Even if you don't have enough people to justify the full size, adding the sherry to the demi-tower is only $20. The La Guita Manzanilla is just wonderful with seafood, especially the briny oysters.)

Was Julep’s worth the extra $11, or was Reef’s a better all-around deal?

First, a look at what exactly comes on each tower. Reef’s 3rd Bar Plateau comes with six oysters, a bowl of mango shrimp, four shrimp shooters, crab “fingers” and ceviche. Julep’s demi-tower is composed of half a lobster; king crab legs; crab "fingers"; a pile of baby bay scallops dressed in a bit of olive oil and mint; jars of smoked redfish and pimiento cheese dips; crackers; and pickled shrimp. There are four oysters, and the kind used depends on what’s available. On our visit, these were firm, salty Hurricane Harbor oysters from Prince Edward Island.

The shrimp shooters on Reef’s tray were by far the best part. These were cocktail shrimp dunked into little glasses of incredibly piquant, light-bodied Bloody Mary mix (sans alcohol). Tiny cubes of cucumber and avocado floated at the top of the tiny cocktails, and you bet — we drank every drop after eating the shrimp.

Unfortunately, everything else seemed under-seasoned. The mango shrimp were creamy but dull. There didn’t seem to be enough of the fruit to generate any interest. The crab fingers were muted and flavorless, the oysters were gritty and the ceviche lacked any acidic pop.

The bar beats the seafood restaurant at its own game. Julep's demi-tower is simply a more flavorful, abundant and luxurious experience that more than justified the extra cost. Really, it’s so much more generous and fun, it’s a wonder that it’s only $11 more.

Between the firm lobster, creamy dips, crunchy crackers and silky king crab meat, there’s a lot of textural contrast, too. The house-made pimiento cheese is especially flavorful. It’s made with redneck cheddar and shot through with plenty of sweet pimiento.

Sometimes, it’s worth paying a little more to get a bigger return on the investment. 

The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:

No. 29, Shrimp & Pork Dumplings at Fung's Kitchen
No. 30, Fried Chicken & Waffle at The Breakfast Klub
No. 31, Risotto with Veal and Parmesean at Mascalzone
No. 32, Burnt Ends at Southern Goods
No. 33, Tom Kha Gai at Kanomwan
No. 34, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake at Vic & Anthony's
No. 35, Pozole at El Big Bad
No. 36, Bacon Mochi at Izakaya
No. 37, Nasi Lemak at Banana Leaf
No. 38, Make Your Own Gyro at Helen Greek Food & Wine
No. 39, Spicy Blue Cheese Burger at Alamo Drafthouse
No. 40, Pizza at Dolce Vita
No. 41, Grilled Shrimp at La Grange
No. 42, Duck With Two Moles at Arnaldo Richards' Picos
No. 43, Stuffed Pepperoncini at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 44, LH Gumbo at Holley's Seafood Kitchen & Oyster Bar
No. 45, KG's Double-Brined Cast Iron Chicken at Harold's
No. 46, Ceviche Mixto at Andes Café 
No. 47, Sunday Gravy at Liberty Kitchen & BRC
No. 48, Tonkotsu Ramen at Tiger Den
No. 49, Charcuterie at Kris Bistro
No. 50, Cauliflower Steak at Backstreet Cafe
No. 51, Telur Balado at Rice Bowl II
No. 52, Green Curry at Asia Market Restaurant
No. 53, Foie Gras Breakfast at Triniti
No. 54, Korean Fried Chicken at ToreOre at Super H Mart
No. 55, Bulgogi Bibimbap at BiBiJo Express at Super H Mart
No. 56, Vegetable Plate at Hugo's
No. 57, The Cured Plate at Revival Market
No. 58, Simply Grilled Fish at Ibiza
No. 59, Tonkotsu Black Ramen at JINYA Houston
No. 60, The Rancor Burger at The Petrol Station
No. 61, Heritage Sampler Platter at Rudi Lechner's
No. 62, Oxtails at Le' Pam's House Of Creole
No. 63, The 420 Slice at Pi Pizza Truck
No. 64, Frenchy's Fried Chicken On Scott Street
No. 65, 3 Pig Mac & Cheese at Urban Eats
No. 66, Pucchia Pugliese Foggia at Sud Italia
No. 67, Triple-Smoked Pastrami On Rye At Kenny & Ziggy's
No. 68, Fume Pizza at Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana
No. 69, Banh Mi Thap Cam at Café TH
No. 70, Caramelized Onion Soup at Mockingbird Bistro
No. 71, Milk Chocolate Stout Malt at Fat Cat Creamery
No. 72, Pork Ribs at Roegels Barbecue Co. 
No. 73, Carrot Pizza at Weights + Measures
No. 74, Jalisco Wings at El Big Bad
No. 75, Mussels at Cafe Brussels
No. 76, Cresta di Gallo at The Pass & Provisions
No. 77, Beef Fajitas at El Real Tex-Mex 
No. 78, Chicken Tikka Masala from the Tandoori Nite truck
No. 79, Chocolates at Cacao & Cardamom
No, 80, Hummus Supreme at Al's Quick Stop
No. 81, Red Oil Dumplings at Mala Sichuan
No. 82, Tex-Cajun Fries at BB's Café
No. 83, Mac & Cheese at The Oceanaire Seafood Room
No. 84, The Principal Burger at Bernie's Burger Bus
No. 85, Hunter's Honey-Roasted Duck at Brennan's Of Houston
No. 86, Fish & Chips at Good Dog Houston
No. 87, Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit at Blacksmith
No. 88, "Saucy Balls" At Brooklyn Meatball Company
No. 89, Perry's Steakhouse/Perry & Sons Pork Chop
No. 90, General Tso's Chicken from The Rice Box
No. 91, Eggs, Refried Beans, Hash Browns and Hugo's Sauce at 59 Diner
No. 92, Shipley Do-Nuts Plain Glazed 
No. 93, Housemade Bologney at Public Services Wine & Whisky
No. 94, Bo Luc Lac at Cheno's (formerly Chino's) Fast Food
No. 95, Combo #5 at Soto's Cantina
No. 96, Carnitas Salad At Chipotle
No. 97, Pickled Shrimp At Punk's Simple Southern Food
No. 98, Lobster Roll At Maine-Ly Sandwiches
No. 99, Chili-Cheese Coneys At JCI Grill
No. 100, Corned Beef Hash And Eggs At House Of Pies

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