Where are my running shoes? I just ate at House of Bowls.
If my first official meal of 2010 (ignoring that bowl of Autumn Wheat cereal this morn) in Houston is any indication of how my year will play out, I’ll be fairly satisfied. Joining me in overeating were my brother Nhan, sister-in-law’s sis Mildred and cousin Kimly.
I’d been to the Hong Kong-style cafe before in my pre-blogging days and recalled its being a casual, convivial place to get solid, filling food of the Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai (ish) variety. The previously cramped strip mall eatery has since expanded to the suite next door.
The nifty cutout shape sums up the po-mo and airy sensibilities of the restaurant’s whimsical design elements, somewhat incongruous with the spare, no-nonsense Chinatown outside. And get a load of those overhangs. Rather reminiscent of airports or convention centers, no?
Cute tchotchkes at the door really show how much love goes into this place. I also rather like the pendant lamps. You know you’ve seen their ilk on an Ikea showroom before.
House of Bowls is meant to be a communal experience, so the platters are generously filled with the expectation that you’re gonna share family style, and individual saucers and bowls are given to each diner as a matter of course.
Really, I came here since I had a hankering for their salty fish and shrimp fried rice. The dish is supposed to originate from peasant food (fish was salted to preserve and stretch it), and true to form, I’m a fan.
What can I say? It’s just damn good fried rice, not super greasy, but firm from the oil and heat. The shrimp was thankfully cooked just to doneness. No rubbery stuff here. The slivers of fish were comfortingly salty and pungent, but spread throughout wisely and sparingly.
I really should have known better than to order what the menu described as “spicy Kyoju ramen, Japan style,” but I’d had so many satisfying bowls in Los Angeles, I was hoping to find a good one in Houston. Other than Yorimichi back in the day (which has since been taken over by Pho One), Houston is weak on the non-sushi Japanese foods. Sad.
This soup noodle wasn’t bad, but shouldn’t ramen have um, ramen noodles in it? Instead, the fat udon noodles were pleasantly chewy, and although the broth was spicy as ordered (actually, I ordered extra spicy, but oh well), it lacked depth. A good dose of fat and perhaps a few more hours to build flavor would help. The corn and seafood were fine, although I’m really not a fan of surimi in general and even less so in soups.
So, although I was disappointed, I wasn’t unsatisfied by this dish. But if you want ramen … eh. Go to LA or Japan. Stick with other soup or dry noodles here.
Yes, I had to order the requisite green stuff. We all need to be regular.
Oh, and I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t swimming in oyster sauce. Good on you, House of Bowls.
The server, who didn’t really come around enough to check on us (but we’ll cut some slack because it was New Year’s Day), was fairly helpful. She made sure to warn my brother that the braised chicken with garlic and scallions would have bones. And yes. Bony. Now you have been warned.
This was a stickier, saucier concoction than we had expected, and the huge chunks of jalapeno (my brother ordered extra spicy) added heat. It wasn’t my favorite for the day, but it was plenty tasty. I think also I wasn’t in the mood for work, and taking the flesh off the many small bones was a little tedious.
As my friends know, I’ve cut out caffeine from my diet, but indulge for special occasions. Booyah! Have a Coke and a 2010 smile!
As much as I’m drawn to my comforts, I can’t resist gastronomic novelty. The Coke with lemon and ginger drink served HOT wanted me to order it. And when food calls to me from a menu, I heed.
Since the cola had to be heated, there was no evidence of carbonation when the drink came out. The caramel flavor was strangely lacking as well, which was fine, since the piquant lemon and potent ginger really made the drink, which is very hot toddy-like. I can see myself making this at home and perhaps adding that extra tipple.
So happy with this impulse order! Taking a leap can pay off. Maybe I’ll see that Amy Adams romance after all.
Other notes from past experiences:
- The appetizers aren’t particularly inspiring. Save your stomach for the main event.
- Hong Kong-style French toast! Drizzled with condensed milk. You’re welcome.
- I go for porridge (like Vietnamese chao) for my “chicken noodle soup” sickie days. I prefer duck, but you can pick your protein
- The spaghetti on the menu does not indicate Italian food. Think stir fry. You’ve been warned again!
House of Bowls has no pretensions, and you shouldn’t either here. Eat here for good food, share with good people, pay good prices. Simple and plain.
Happy New Year, all! May 2010 be full of satisfaction, comfort and occasional pleasant surprises.
House of Bowls
6650 Corporate Dr., Suite F
Houston, TX 77036