Gumbo isn't quite strong enough, even if you lace it with Tabasco. But if you're in a gumbo mood, try a big bowl of Sopa Tomas at Tony Mandola's Gulf Coast Kitchen [1962 West Gray, (713)528-3474]. It's a Tex-meets-Mex-meets-"guffcoast" agglomeration, with an aromatic shrimp stock, peppers, onions, tomatoes and rice providing a piquant context for shrimp. Fresh, perfectly ripe avocado pieces blend with chopped cilantro; cayenne pepper and what appears to be a pepper oil mean you can postpone that trip to the ENT specialist one more day.
You might also consider what Thai Pepper [2049 West Alabama, (713)520-8225] calls "milky chicken soup," a variant of the tom kha gai served at any number of Thai restaurants. Like its brethren, Thai Pepper's soup boasts lemongrass, coconut milk and chicken, but its head-clearing wallop sets it apart from its peers. I have been brave enough to order it at the "medium" spice level, which is transfixing. If you have the courage to order it "hot," be sure to designate a driver for the trip home.
Last, Lido [3200 Main, (713)523-9295] offers a little intra-Asian bowl of fusion that still has me buzzing; they lace their classic Chinese hot and sour soup with Vietnamese chili oil then add touches of whimsy such as fresh green peas and sliced elephant-ear mushrooms. It's a bowl of fire and surprises, just the thing to cure what ails you.
-- Gardner Landry