With the proliferation of open kitchens in Houston, it's hard to ignore the chefs who are actually making the food. Nowhere is that more true than at Underbelly, where food enthusiasts can literally spend the evening watching all the action going on in the kitchen. At one point during the night, you might even see the entire kitchen shotgunning beers simultaneously, a public ritual to mark the end of a good night.
This week, our Where the Chefs Eat series makes a pit stop at the Underbelly kitchen to see where chefs Ryan Lachaine, Lyle Bento and Victoria Dearmond eat when they're not under the spotlight.
Ryan Lachaine Sous chef at Underbelly
Standard go-to spots: For my standard go-to restaurants, I would have to say Provisions, Uchi and Oxheart. The pasta at Provisions is unreal, the Cresta de Gallo is my favorite, plus they have a phenomenal bread program. All the breads are good, but I really like the kimchi pain au lait. Uchi has been one of my favorites ever since I ate at Uchi in Austin. The food there is amazing, as well as the service. Some of my favorites are the Hama Chili, the Hamachi Naba and the Dewbee Chicken. Plus I love Philly Speer's Fried Milk dessert. And I like drinking sake. I like Oxheart because of their constantly changing menu and the quality of the products they use. Justin and Karen are doing some awesome things over there and I think it's only going to get better.
Cheap eats: For cheap eats, I have been going to Pho Saigon (at least once a week). I usually get the pho with eye of round and some Vietnamese egg rolls for lunch. Comes out to around $9. Also, I'll hit up Doomba at the Rice Box food truck whenever I have the chance. I get the sweet and sour chicken for around $8.
Others: Whenever I'm in the mood for a good sandwich, I go to New York Bagel and Deli on Hillcroft. I always get the corned beef sandwich on rye and fries. They also have arguably the best bagels in the city. If I want some some Chinese, my favorite place is Hong Kong Food Street on Bellaire. I get the Singapore Fried Rice Noodle and the BBQ pork. I love watching the guy at the front of the restaurant chop up pork and ducks with his cleaver.
Lyle Bento Sous Chef at Underbelly
Standard go-to spots: If I have a day off, I'll be at Uchi -- during the week I'll be there for social hour, ordering one of everything on the menu. Or I'll visit Kata Robata for sushi, and to see Hori, the chef. Pass & Provisions, of course, and I really like to go to Oxheart a lot. For late-night eats, I'll go to 13 Celsius for the mortadella sandwich.
Cheap eats: Best Vietnamese inside the Loop is at Thien An (currently temporarily closed); any of their banh mi are really great -- combination banh mi and bowl of combination pho are like $8. I also love the $2 tacos at Community Bar. There are three or four different kinds, and I'll get one of each.
Other favorites: Chinatown. It's always fun to go down there and try new stuff. The curry crab dish at Sinh Sinh is a favorite, dim sum at HK, ramen at Kubo's -- and I really like Crawfish & Noodles on Bellaire Boulevard.
Victoria Dearmond Pastry Chef at Underbelly
Standard go-to spots: Kata Robata is definitely my go-to place. I love the sushi platter so I get to try something different every time, and for sure the ramen. I heard about Gabe's winter ramen during the summertime and it was definitely worth the wait. The cocktails help make it extra delicious, especially since they know my love for citrus drinks. Another favorite is Provisions, mainly for the amazingness of their carbohydrates. Nothing makes me happier than good bread, and they have plenty of it. I had to close my eyes when I ate the kimchi pain au lait with egg yolk just to savor it a little more. Pizza crust = amazing. Pasta? Yes. Punch of the day? Extra yes. Paulie's is a recent favorite of mine. The boys, or men, rather, go get lunch on Saturdays and Paulie's has been a reoccurring stop. I've been known to finish what they don't, and the mushroom pasta is definitely on the top of that list.
Cheap eats: Pho Saigon is my favorite quick lunch stop. I get the #11 and #83, a.k.a. beef pho and cafe sua da, and it comes out to $7 something, less than $8. The Koagie Hots truck has been a frequent stop for me these days with the Po' Koagie coming in at $8, and I can't forget Mai's with the fried rice cakes and pork, another $8 pick.
Other faves: A common late-night stop for me and my roommate is House of Pies, and we are usually the only non-drunk people there. He randomly gets a hankering for an omelet and there is no possible way for me to pass up waffles covered in whipped cream and syrup. This next one may just be because of the massive hangover, but the double cheeseburger from Lucky Burger in all its greasy glory reminds me of a hole-in-the-wall burger joint in my small hometown, and nothing beats comfort when your head is pounding. Or grease....grease also helps.
If you missed our previous posts, click below to see more of Where the Chefs Eat:
- Ryan Hildebrand, Michael Pellegrino, Kaz Edwards
- Roberto Castre, David Guerrero, Hugo Ortega
- Anita Jaisinghani, Elouise Adams Jones, Erin Smith
- John Sikhattana, Ji Kang, Junnajet Hurapan
- Grant Gordon, Matt Marcus, Kevin Naderi
- Chris Shepherd, Ryan Pera, Antoine Ware
- David Cordua, Jonathan Jones, Randy Rucker
- Bryan Caswell, Randy Evans, Danny Trace
- Brandi Key, Monica Pope, Jamie Zelko
- David Denis, Jean-Philippe Guy, Philippe Schmit
- Rebecca Masson, Philip Speer, Chris Leung
- Seth Siegel-Gardner, Terrence Gallivan, Justin Yu
- Amalia Pferd, Sean Carroll, John Peterson
- Alex Padilla, Jose Vela, Mario Valdez
- Christine Ha and Alvin Schultz