Chef Chat, Part 3: David Cordua of Americas - The Tasting

We've had some great conversation with the Executive Chef David Cordua over the last couple of days, about everything from culinary trips with his dad, to training at Le Cordon Bleu, to the fact that he launched Cordua Catering and gets hard cravings for Indian food. You can read our chats here and here. Today, we'll try some of his food.

The theme for our tasting was fun, tapas-style small plates, and we started out with what he said was one of his most popular dishes, the crab caprichosa salad. A mix between an Italian caprese salad and crab salad, slices of alternating tomato, avocado and fresh mozzarella cheese were topped with a generous portion of lump crab salad. The salad was light and easy to eat, and I could see why it would be a crowd pleaser, because the flavors all married together well and it was delicious in its simplicity.

Next up were his lobster corndogs, definitely fun to share. Long skewers ending in small bulbs of golden-colored corndog are served in a block of wood with holes that hold the skewers in place. Served with a corn poblano dipping sauce, this modern-sculpture presentation is not only fun to eat, it's also seriously tasty. In any case, it's hard not to enjoy a corn dog when there's lobster in the middle.

Angel wings, a spin on the traditional chicken wing, looked simple but were truly gourmet wings. Described as "ethereally light chicken wings" on the menu, the meat of the wing is pushed down the bone so that a small bone is exposed that acts like a built-in skewer. The wings themselves are fried up and look like large puffs of popcorn chicken, only, they aren't as heavily breaded. Hot and fun to eat, you get six of these served with a light pile of slaw with spicy papaya and celery, and a blue cheese dip.

The smoked lamb lollichops were also notable, the anticucho marinade masking the gaminess of the lamb, which was tender and flavorful. As someone who doesn't favor lamb, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this dish. The portion, four small lamb chops set atop strips of fried yucca, was also very generous.

A plate of small shortrib taquitos, with black bean, queso fresco, pickled onion and topped with a crispy tempura mushroom, was also fun to eat, the texture of the crispy tempura giving a nice crispness to each bite. "This is actually one of my favorite dishes," Cordua said lightly in between my "mmms" as I grubbed on the taco.

You must save room for dessert if you visit Americas, if not for their signature tres leches, a dessert that's been so perfected over the years that it hits a home run every time, then for playful desserts like a cocoa tart, made of a hazelnutty gianduja fudge and served a la mode with a scoop of coconut ice cream and a smattering of caramel corn; or the mini alfajores, these impossibly light shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche caramel, pure yumminess that instantly put a smile on my face when I popped them in my mouth.

The Americas River Oaks experience, if you haven't been, is definitely unlike any other in Houston. The entrance is actually an elevator, and when you step out of it, you're immediately greeted by bold wall art and 3-D interior design features created by Jordan Mozer, the same designer from the Americas Post Oak location. It's a bit Alice in Wonderland, the backs of the high-backed booths resemble the extremely large petals of an flower. The lighting fixtures have this floral theme as well, sort of a deep, maroon-colored canvas, shaped as an upside down flower. On the right wall, glowing lighting fixtures jut from the wall like big kernels of popcorn. It'a bold and fun, grandiose and whimsical, and whether you're in the mood for a signature churrasco steak or one of these fun small plates that we tried by Chef David Cordua, a visit to Americas is an experience you'll definitely remember.

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