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Part Two | A Vegetarian’s Guide to Houston Restaurant Week

Editors note:  Houston Restaurant Week, an annual dining event benefiting the Houston Food Bank, is upon us.  Running three weeks this year, August 1 – 21, 2010, participating restaurants throughout the city offer two-course lunches for $20 and three-course dinners for $35.  This is the second in a two-part series on vegetarian offerings during Houston Restaurant Week.

Indika's chef Anita Jaisinghani serves up traditional Indian recipes with "nouvelle" spins in Houston. (As captured by ZagatBuzz and published on Flick)r

I really, really like Indian cuisine.  And I really, really, really like going to Indika.  The whole experience is heart warming for me.  The food is delicious and interesting, the warm colors in the dining room make for a fun experience and kind and knowledgeable service is greatly appreciated.  All this – and amazing food – makes me feel compelled to visit during the remainder of Houston Restaurant Week 2010.  

When I go, I will have the mixed green salad with potato goat cheese cakes followed by Roasted Portabella Layered with Garbanzo, Spinach Puree, Butternut Squash and Chevre. While I will have the Mango Saffron Kulfi with a Fresh Fruit Compote for dessert, my likely dining companion will undoubtedly have Valrhona Chocolate Bread Pudding and let me share.

Of course, if I want to enjoy even more Indian offerings during Restaurant Week, I need only to skip down Westheimer to Kiran’s.  There guests can choose from a three course, $20 lunch or (for the vegetarians) similar dinner for $35.  At midday, the meal starts with your choice of the soup of the day or hearts of romaine salad with housemade bleu cheese dressing (Indian?) but in the evening, guests enjoy a soup flight with goat cheese naan.  For the main course at both meals, Kiran’s offers up Japanese Eggplant stuffed with Paneer, with Apricot Biryani & Naan followed by a trio of homemade ice cream (at lunch) or chocolate samosas with spiced chai ice cream cake (at dinner).

For a fun meal – and an experience you must have at least once in life – continue down Westheimer to The Melting Pot – Houston’s best known fondue restaurant.  There you can choose from a variety for first course cheese fondues before diving into The Good Earth, a selection of  vegetable pot stickers, spinach and artichoke ravioli, Thai peanut tofu, asparagus and portobellos with your choice of cooking styles.  For desert, pick from the abundant options on the menu, all of which include a cakes and fruit for dipping.  Interactive and yummy!

NOE Restaurant at the Omni Houston Hotel is also offering up a vegetarian selection during Restaurant Week.  (I have yet to visit this oft lauded establishment and would really like to hear from anyone who dines there.)  Start with a Café Market Salad featuring Blue Cheese, Caramelized Pecans and Dried Cherries before enjoying the Summer Squash Vegetarian Trio Pasta. Follow with your choice of Key Lime Mousse, Crème Brûlée, Tahitian Vanilla and Red Berries or Seasonal Fruits Plate and Sorbet.

One of the really great things about Houston’s annual Restaurant Week is trying new places.  Or, in the case of Ocean’s (located at 819 West Alabama) trying really new places – so new I haven’t even heard of it.  However, the folks at Oceans – a self proclaimed place for ceviche, wine and margaritas – is definitely keeping the vegetarian diner in mind amid their really lovely sounding seafood offerings.

At lunch, Ocean’s offers a two-course, $20 meal that, for vegetarian diners, will begin with a salad of a mix of lettuces, Red and Yellow Pepper, Goat Cheese, Pecan and Balsamic Vinaigrette followed by the Vegetarian Tacos with White and Red Onions, Tomatoes, Yellow and Red Pepper, Crimini Mushroom, Eggplant, Avocado, Cilantro and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Sounds good!

Unfortunately, Ocean’s doesn’t offer a vegetarian dinner selection as part of the Restaurant Week meal, though their dinner offerings do include a dish I’d very much like to try:  a Vegetarian Ceviche made with White Onion, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Yellow Pepper, Olives, Cremini Mushroom, Avocado, White Vinegar, Olive Oil and Cilantro.

The "sophisticated but not stuffy" trophy room at Rainbow Lodge which is set in a historic log cabin with wonderful views of the Bayou greenery.

A lovely surprise on the Houston Restaurant Week menu is the vegetarian lunch offering at The Rainbow Lounge.  This fine dining establishment has enjoyed esteemed chefs including Randy Rucker in its dining room and is known for well-executed (and somewhat exotic) offerings of game.  If you have not visited (and you read this “vegetarian/meat-eaters must live together in harmony” blog on any regular basis) you should be warned that it is decorated with an eye that appreciates taxidermy.  If this offends you deeply, you will probably not be happy in this dining room and I recommend you suggest your game-loving friends enjoy in your absence.  But if you grew up in Texas and think stuffed animals oddly beautiful (or at least tolerable), you will greatly please your most carnivorous of friends or family if you accompany them to The Rainbow Lounge this week.

While they enjoy a lunch of  Slow Cooked Wild Boar Shoulder and Sweet Potato Cakes with Sunny Side Quail Egg, you can have a plate of an elevated version of another southern favorite, “Hoppin’ John” made of Field Peas, Tomato and Aromatic Rice, Upland Cress Topper.   (Note: the dinner variety, while, still a great choice for those who look for a gluten free meal, appears not to be a vegetarian.)

RDG + Bar Annie is offering a lovely vegetarian choice as part of its Restaurant Week dinner menu.  After a Summer Black Berry Salad with Greens and Smoked Cheddar Dressing and Sweet Potato Enchiladas With Green Chile Sauce enjoy either Chocolate and Coffee Ice Cream Sandwich with Hot Fudge Sauce or Raspberry Mousse with Cocoa Almond Meringue Cookie for dessert.

One of many delicious dessert offerings from Ruggles Grill.

At the original (and recently reopened post-Ike) location of the Montrose institution, Ruggles Grill offers vegetarian diners a choice of Local Vegetable Chowder with Organic Red Lentils, Tomatoes, Crimini Mushrooms, Yellow Oyster Mushrooms, Fresh Avocado and Organic Olive Oil or their local house salad with Mixed Greens, Winter Greens, Jicama, Dried Blueberries, Organic Carrots, Hot House Tomatoes, Organic Fair Trade Quinoa, Parmesan Cheese Tuile and Village Local Honey Mustard Dressing.  Follow with Bruce’s Veggie Plate, Seasonal Vegetables and Chefs Sauces, before selecting from Ruggles’ extensive homemade dessert selection.

A dancer entertains guests at Saffron Moroccan Cuisine on a Wednesday evening.

Another Montrose eatery, Saffron Moroccan Cuisine is a great place to grab a luxe and exotic meal.  This five course offering (still only $35) will probably distract you from the beautiful belly dancers who entertain at the small restaurant but for good reason.  Start with a spinach pie, served with a tapenade of goat cheese before the vegetarian soup.  To follow enjoy a roasted eggplant salad before a vegetarian couscous featuring Braised sweet potato, sweet peas, tomatoes, raisins and onions in cilantro ginger sauce.  End the meal with your choice of daily dessert selection and Moroccan Mint Tea.

At Sorrento Ristorante vegetarian diners can choose from lunch or dinner offerings.  For the midday meal pick the Orange and Red Beet Salad with Seared Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette and Wild Mushroom and Sage Ravioliwith White Truffle Oil.  In the evening, finish the meal with House MadeTiramisu with a Chocolate Truffle or Sorbet or Gelato with Fresh Berries.

The scene at Sorrento Ristorante is quiet and elegant.

Finally, downtown at VOICE at Hotel Icon, stop in for dinner starting with your a mini roasted tomato and grilled cheese sandwich followed by the forest mushroom risotto with truffled peas, parmesan and micro greens.  For dessert, I’d choose the Peach and Habanero Semifreddo, though the competition is steep with Chocolate Espresso Bread Pudding added to the offering.  (Say yes to the Guinness Molasses Ice Cream and ask about those homemade marshmallows.  Maybe they’re vegetarian?)

No matter where you choose to dine this week for the final stretch of Houston Restaurant Week, please let me know what you think.  I can’t wait to hear from you.


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4 comments on “Part Two | A Vegetarian’s Guide to Houston Restaurant Week

  1. Lorien
    August 15, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    The chef at Ocean’s is really great about making delicious seasonal vegetarian entrees from what I hear.

    • jennifervickers
      August 15, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

      That’s a great tip! Thanks Lorien. I wonder if they could do something special for Restaurant Week for dinner? If anyone finds out, please share.

  2. Lucinda
    August 16, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    These restaurants look great! Isn’t it nice to be able to go to a restaurant and select something from the menu that is made specifically for vegetarians/vegans? I live in the Detroit area and although I am beginning to see more thoughtful menu selections at local restaurants, there are still very few that really focus on vegetarian/vegan cuisine.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Restaurant Week? Let’s call it Restaurant Month « T-Bones and Tofu - August 20, 2010

    […] news since I haven’t even made a real dent in the Vegetarian’s Guide to Houston Restaurant Week.  Wow!  There is some great eating out there.  In case you missed it, there are plenty of […]

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