Last night, Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook revealed her 2014 choices for the Top 100 Houston Restaurants. It was the first time since the list was first released in 2012 that she did it in a public forum, in this case, a sold-out walk around dining event called the Houston Chronicle Culinary Stars.
The event, held at the Hilton Americas downtown and benefitting Recipe for Success, featured wine tastings and samplings by 21 of Houston's top chefs, all of whom had a place on Cook's list.
One of the evening's highlights included Ronnie Killen's short rib topped with bonito flakes, a four-mushroom medley and finished off with a barbecue beef consomme. To make the incredibly rich, flavorful cuts of meat, Killen says he sous vide the short rib for 48 hours before barbecuing it for another six hours. Killen's BBQ, which received a four-star review from Cook this year, debuted at third place on Cook's list; his steakhouse came in at 22, dropping 14 spots.
In fact, many of the invited chefs saw their spots on the list drop a few places from their 2013 spots, making room for newcomers. Hugo's dropped from 6th place in 2013, to take the 11th spot this year, but his newest restaurant, Caracol took home 5th place.
Kris Bistro, which dropped from 52 to 61, offered another highlight of the night with tastings of smoked short rib over spaetzel, jalapeño, pickled onions, and double Bach. Uchi Houston offered samplings of their famous machi cure; they dropped from 3rd place to 32; Latin Bites went from 19 to 29; Gatlin's BBQ from 36 to 57; Monica Pope's Sparrow Bar + Cookshop from 27 to 35.
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Other restaurants kept their spots, such as Kata Robata, which held steady at 17. Kata's chef Manabu Horiuchi was on hand to serving a delectable Big Eye Tuna Ceviche made with marinated tuna, shiso leche de tigre, nuts, mango puree, shimeji and micro cilantro. Triniti also stayed steady at 16, with chefs Ryan Hildebrand and Greg Lowry on hand serving mouthwatering tastings of San Marzano tomato soup topped with a huge round bulb of sherried pimento cheese kolache.
A few restaurants inched up a few notches, including Roost, which came up from 30 to 19; Himalaya, which went from 13 to 11; Cuchara, which came up from 44 to 43; Revival Market from 77 to 55; and Americas, which came up from 50 to 49. Kevin Naderi, Kaiser Lakshari, Ana Beaven, Ryan Pera, and David Cordua, respectively, were all offering samples last night as well.
In an unprecedented move, Cook, who has famously protected her identity for years, was at the event to mix and mingle, took to the stage to kick off the unveiling of her list, which took place in the form of a slideshow countdown in descending order from 100 until it was time to announce the Top 10.
In the 10th spot was mobile cart Melange Creperie, which took the place of the now closed Cove Bar, moving up five spots from 15th place last year. Tony's, which has been in the Top 5 for the last two years, dropped off the Top 10 completely, landing in at 27. Newcomer Coltivare -- named one of Bon Appetit's Magazine's Top 50 restaurants in the United States this year -- came in at 9th. Common Bond, the new bakery by Roy Shvartzapel, which just recently received a four-star review from Cook, took fourth place, while Underbelly dropped from fourth place to seventh. Oxheart and The Pass held onto their No. 1 and No. 2 spots from last year.
This is the third year in a row that Cook has named Oxheart the No. 1 restaurant in Houston.
Cook's list is published online. While attendees of the event received a signed glossy book to take home, readers who purchase a single copy of the Houston Chronicle today will also receive a copy of the book. Copies will also be available for purchase in H-E-B, Walmart, Walgreens and Stripes in October.
In it, Cook provides a detailed synopsis for each restaurant and why it was included on her list. The introductory remarks at the front of the book also explain her method for creating the list: "What I look for are restaurants at the top of their class, whatever class that may be. It's about food quality, of course, but also consistency, a distinct sense of place, warmth and personality on the service side and a strong beverage program."
This year's Top 100 is revealed below. What do you think of this year's list? Were your favorites left off the list? Do you have any opinions on the list itself? Comments are welcome.
Alison Cook's Top 100 Restaurants
1. Oxheart 2. The Pass 3. Killen's Barbecue 4. Common Bond Bakery & Café 5. Caracol 6. Indika 7. Underbelly 8. MF Sushi 9. Coltivare 10. Melange Creperie
11. Hugo's 12. Pax Americana 13. Himalaya 14. Pondicheri 15. Mala Sichuan Bistro 16. Triniti 17. Kata Robata 18. Reef 19. Roost 20. Pho Binh Trailer
21. Dolce Vita Pizzeria Enoteca 22. Killen's Steakhouse 23. Good Dog Houston 24. Hubcap Grill 25. Da Marco 26. Etoile Cuisine et Bar 27. Tony's 28. Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana 29. Latin Bites 30. Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
31. Great W'Kana 32. Uchi 33. Huynh 34. Provisions 35. Sparrow Bar + Cookshop 36. Local Foods 37. Corkscrew BBQ 38. Costa Brava Bistro 39. Brennan's of Houston 40. Pico's Mex-Mex 41. Fielding's Wood Grill 42. Cedar's Bakery 43. Cuchara 44. Andes Cafe 45. Bernie's Burger Bus 46. Irma's 47. Hai Cang Seafood 48. Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen 49. Américas 50. Shri Balaji Bhavan
51. 60 Degrees Mastercrafted 52. Ciao Bello 53. La Casa del Caballo 54. Coppa Ristorante Italiano 55. Revival Market 56. Pappas Bros Steakhouse 57. Gatlin's BBQ 58. Confucius Seafood 59. Vic & Anthony's 60. Ninfa's on Navigation
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61. Kris Bistro 62. Heights General Store 63. Vieng Thai 64. Cajun Kitchen 65. RDG + Bar Annie 66. Rainbow Lodge 67. Mezzanotte 68. Piqueo 69. Kasra Persian Grill
70. Hubbell & Hudson Bistro 71. Kiran's 72. El Tiempo Cantina 73. Bijan Persian Grill 74. Paulie's 75. Lupita's Mexican Restaurant 76. Pho Hung 77. Eatsie Boys Cafe 78. Rice Bowl Indonesian 79. The Breakfast Klub
80. Karanchos 81. Yum Yum Cha Cafe 82. Cafe TH 83. Brooks' Place 84. Bon Ga Garden Korean Restaurant 85. Taqueria Laredo 86. Que Huong 87. The Shack 88. Banana Leaf Malaysian 89. Goode Co. Seafood
90. La Guadalupana 91. Virgie's Bar-B-Que 92. Pollo Bravo 93. Classic Kitchen 94. Bosta Wine & Coffee 95. FuFu Cafe 96. Seabrook Waffle Co. 97. Alpha Bakery & Deli 98. Frenchy's 99. Gilhooley's 100. Xin Jiang BBQ