Where: Kim Son Restaurant, 2001 Jefferson, 713-222-2461 (and 12750 Southwest Freeway, Stafford, 281-242-3500)
What $13 gets you: Well, that depends…are you sharing or eating alone?
For sharing, try the beef rolls appetizer ($5.95). Plus two iced teas, that brings you right to $10, so you have something left for tax and a decent tip. The beef rolls are tender, thinly sliced pieces of beef wrapped with layers of crisp carrots, cucumber, and lettuce, all inside a rice paper wrapper. Even though it’s on the light side, it’s still a tasty, and satisfying bite. You can also try them with pork or chicken.
For eating alone, go for the lemon grass chicken ($8.95). (I got brave and ordered it extra spicy for a gastronomical thrill.) Mine came to the table still steaming from the stir fry pan. Long strips of (dark meat) chicken were caramelized, mixed with a heavy dose of red pepper flakes, green peppers, and slices of white onion, and served with a batch of crisp broccoli and steamed white rice. At almost $9, there isn’t enough for a drink, and tax and tip, so I skipped the ice tea.
The extra spicy lemon grass chicken wasn’t ‘burn your lips’ hot like I wished it was, but it was tasty and well-balanced. Normal people, that is people who didn’t suckle on bottles of Louisiana hot sauce as infants, will find the extra spicy has plenty of heat. Fire-eaters might try asking for extra-extra spicy, but Kim Son’s cooks will only go so far (they have sense even if we don’t).
Two people could have easily shared the chicken. As it was there was almost a full-serving leftover, which I happily took home.
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Bonus points: Kim Son has one of the largest menus in town. I like the seared pork chop with crushed rice ($5.95) for lunch. Friends love the deep fried whole fish and the garlic butter soft shell crabs.
Insider tip: If you know what you’re doing, you can sometimes order off-the-menu.
Another tip: If you know you are going to order both appetizers and a full dinner, get a table slightly bigger than your party. (Add a chair for an imaginary friend who is “on the way.” I regularly see parties struggle trying to put all the serving plates on their table. Give yourself some elbow room and ask for a larger table.)
Fair warning: The downtown location usually has a homeless person or two panhandling out front. At night, there’s a security guard to shoo them away, but you should expect getting hit up for change during the walk from your car to the front door. (Hey, it’s downtown Houston – we’ve got homeless panhandlers, okay? And no, do not offer them your leftovers; that’s so rude!) – Olivia Flores Alvarez