Ginger-Butternut Squash Bisque at Azuma

Yesterday's cold snap got me thinking about last Friday and how -- during the unfulfilled threat of Snowpocalypse 2011 -- I ended up eating at Azuma (909 Texas, 713-223-0909) as a measure of last resort, and how much I unexpectedly enjoyed my meal.

And it was all because of the ginger-butternut squash bisque the restaurant had as a special that day on the menu.

One of the great things about Azuma, like its sister restaurant Kata Robata, is the fact that it serves daily specials of market-fresh or seasonal items instead of rigidly adhering to a never-changing menu of hand rolls and bento boxes. And that daily menu doesn't always feature Japanese cuisine, but instead has clever Japanese twists on surprising items.

The ginger-butternut squash bisque is a perfect example of this, taking a non-traditional dish -- bisque of any kind, as the soup is technically French in origin even if it didn't contain any seafood, as well as the winter squash -- and giving it a shot of Japanese influence: bright, spicy ginger in the soup with a liberal dose of shiso-infused oil on top for a slightly minty pop.

The soup tasted delicious and I ate my entire bowl, but the taste was almost beside the point. My dining companion and I both cupped the bowls close to us as we ate, craving the warmth and deciding that maybe our hot summers aren't so bad after all.

With sub-freezing weather and howling winds chasing my friend and I all around downtown Friday afternoon, it's like that bowl was waiting for us as a reward for braving a cold winter's day.

It could be your reward, too: Azuma tells me it'll be on the specials menu through the end of this week.

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