The 10 Best Restaurants We've Reviewed So Far in 2017

Do you know where to find this smoked chicken taco?
Do you know where to find this smoked chicken taco? Photo by Troy Fields

August is here and with the summer in full blast and fall on the horizon, and most likely ushering in dozens of big restaurant openings, the Houston Press thought it would take a look back at the restaurant reviews of 2017 so far.  These are our favorite reviews, and these standout eateries offer everything from takeout to barbecue to stuffed quail and then some.  

Here are our top picks.

The crispy dry-rubbed wings are deep-fried and can be tossed in a sweet chili, General Tso, Sweet Sour or Sesame sauce.
Photo by Troy Fields
10. Rice Box Is a Cool Place to Find Inexpensive and Tasty Stir Fry

The General Tso’s chicken at Rice Box is served hawker-style, delivered from the steam-filled fiery kitchen through a small sliver of window space. A not-so-average Chinese take-out box is stuffed with dark, honey-golden mounds of bite-sized battered and fried chicken bits glistening with the glow of a sweet, savory sauce, and a couple of pieces of steamed broccoli. The chicken is a satisfying balance of meat and batter, and unlike many other versions around town, the sauce is not heavy or overly sweet. Buried underneath is a healthy helping of steamed rice, and a fat Chinese egg roll sits atop the opened box of food.

Pork Marengo, a bone-in hunk of an American heritage breed of pork, is topped with green curry and crawfish.
Photo by Troy Fields
9. A Blissful Encounter: Brasserie 1895 Redefines New American Cuisine

Chef Kris Jakob’s beef tartare arrives with an opened raw egg, a small mound of arugula and radicchio kissed with a light and tangy sweet dressing and a few pieces of the house-made boule. The award-winning tartare is an elegant and imaginative combination of Heart Brand Akaushi, cornichon, capers, pickled onion and a house made curry ketchup. The curry is the note that rockets this dish out of the flavor-stratosphere.

The chicken-fried duck breakfast sandwiches are juicy and flavorful.
Photo by Daniel Kramer

8. Kitchen 713 Does Global Soul Food in a Particularly Global Manner

We arrived at Kitchen 713 as the edges of Tropical Storm Cindy teased the city, pleated gusts of rain making us hesitate just at the edge of the causeway from the parking garage. We paused, waiting for a break in the rain before making the short dash to the door. As we hemmed, a Kitchen 713 staffer spotted us and ushered us in through the back door, saving us a soaking. It was a small gesture, but it set the pace for the restaurant’s friendly, familial service, which helps ground the freewheeling flavors in Southern hospitality.

Kiran’s offers almost endless variations on its nan dishes.
Photo by Troy Fields
7. Kiran's Re-creates Itself in a New Location With Delicious Dishes and Elegance

"This is the bougiest samosa I’ve ever seen,” my dining partner whispered to me as the beautifully plated pastries arrived. It was fancy, to be sure — the crab versions come two to an order for $14 (the regular potato ones are just $4 each).

But after I sliced into it, it became clear why the samosa demanded such a price premium — it was crammed full of tender, juicy crab meat, and there were few vegetal distractions. The lack of typical potato made it seem more like a deconstructed crab cake inside a samosa shell, but no complaints. The small mound of chutney provided a perfect contrast to the samosa; I just wished there’d been more of it, but perhaps that’s why the waiter at Kiran’s had suggested the sweet-sauced fish as an accompanying appetizer.

The magnificent Angry Bird, with four larger-than-life pieces of fried chicken perched atop a waffle pillow of cornbread.
Photo by Troy Fields
6. Ritual Seems to Have Finally Found Its Groove

Who would’ve thought that the star of a butcher’s-haven restaurant would be the bird? Brown-sugar-glazed and basted in red pepper oils, four larger-than-life pieces of fried chicken perched atop a mildly sweet waffle pillow of cornbread came out of the kitchen, led by a waft of fiery fried-ness. The Angry Bird at Ritual is a shareable plate diners will not want to share. The spices inside and on the crust of the moist, tender chicken were just hot enough, the corn in the waffle batter brought a fluffy freshness to the mix, and the thinly sliced, lightly pickled cucumbers were a delightful addition of texture and tang. A forkful of all the components dipped into the spiced maple syrup made for one heavenly, sweet and spicy bite.

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Gwendolyn Knapp is the food editor at the Houston Press. A sixth-generation Floridian, she is still torn as to whether she likes smoked fish dip or queso better.