It's the summer of seafood as dishes featuring lobster, poke, shrimp and more descend on menus across town, while steak and veggies maintain star status too. Here's a sampling of Houston's hottest dishes to try right now.
Beef tataki with truffle jus at Roka Akor
The highly anticipated Japanese steak and sushi house marries signature flavors and textures in this sushi-style dish made from thinly sliced Texas Wagyu beef. Earthy black truffle accompanies the beef in two ways — raw and as a jus — while zesty pickled daikon adds crunch and a hint of vinegar.
2929 Weslayan St. Suite 100; 713-622-1777
Impossible Burger at Hay Merchant
Though this relaxed neighborhood bar is known for its meat-centric menu, the new 100% plant-based Impossible Burger is getting a lot of love, says owner Chris Shepherd. The juicy six-ounce patty comes simply dressed with lettuce, tomato, housemade pickles and American cheese (or a vegan variety) and served with a side of fries. A vegan bun is available upon request.
1100 Westheimer Rd.; 713-528-9805
Seafood tower at Underbelly
As part of a menu revamp and the desire to allow chefs more creativity, this former “whole-animal” kitchen added a new focus on seafood for the summer. One of the biggest hits so far is this shareable tower featuring nine varieties, such as char siu tuna tartare, smoky fish salad and spicy-creamy jumbo lump crab with chile mayonnaise and lime juice.
1100 Westheimer Rd.; 713-528-9800
Puffy crispy lobster tacos at Star Fish
Cool and bright, this Heights seafood stop has a coastal vibe with large windows and chilled cocktails. Though listed under appetizers, these generously stuffed tacos work as a meal for one or shared starter for two. Chunks of tender lobster hide inside melted pepper Jack cheese surrounded by shredded lettuce and chopped tomato; a tangy avocado salsa cuts the richness of the fillings.
191 Heights Blvd.; 832-831-9820
The party melt at Better Luck Tomorrow
In line with the colorful neon lights and abstract stained glass windows, the dishes at this creative bar come with style and a sense of humor. Based on the classic patty melt, this version marries thin caramelized beef patties with gooey cheese, thinly sliced raw red onions and caramelized onions. We like ours on the cozy patio paired with one of the bar's innovative cocktails.
Summer corn gnocchi at Riel
The seasonal golden grain gets an upgrade at this breezy Montrose bistro where corn replaces potato in crispy pillowy gnocchi. A foundation of velvety cotija cheese fondue provides rich and salty notes offset by fresh corn kernels, bright cilantro, tangy lime juice and French espelette pepper.
1927 Fairview St.; 832-831-9109
Grilled hanger steak at Peska
Thick slices of smoky steak share space with spicy “Mexican gnocchi” romesco (in which masa replaces potato) and crisp cilantro salad punctuated by red onion, lime juice and creamy queso fresco at this elevated Mexican seafood kitchen.
#1-190, 1700 Post Oak Blvd.; 713-961-9229
Poke bowl at SeaSide Poke
Multiple fixings are de rigeuer at this colorful EADO joint offering cool blends of fish, vegetables, sauces and toppings over rice or spring mix. A roster of preselected combinations sets the baseline for customizable dishes that may include salmon, tuna, seaweed salad, oranges and edamame.
2118 Lamar St. Suite 101; 346-319-4915
Trung Sisters shrimp at Maba Pan-Asian Diner
Vietnamese and Chinese cuisines find a home at this modern, spacious counter serve convenient for lunch or dinner in Midtown. The savory off-menu eggplant makes a nice starter followed by the Thai basil, onion and bacon-wrapped Trung Sisters shrimp served over bright lemon-butter shrimp fried rice.
510 Gray St. D; 832-834-6157
Lobster roll at South Bank Seafood Bar
Boston may have bragging rights on the classic “lobstah roll,” but we love this herbaceous variation available on the edge of Downtown. Chef Harold Wong spreads parsley butter on rolls, toasts them to a golden brown and stuffs them with four ounces of lobster coated in a creamy house mayo blend, peppy lemon zest and chives, then tops it with housemade pickles. The resulting dish is at once familiar and unique.
702 W. Dallas St.; 713-487-0029
Sugar cane–smoked beef rib at Brennan’s of Houston
With chef Joe Cervantez’s return to this elegant Southern-Creole favorite comes a slew of new dishes. Available for dinner, the fork-tender beef rib comes over a bed of creamy Louisiana corn and is topped with pepper chutney and sweet-savory mayhaw jelly BBQ sauce.
3300 Smith St.; 713-522-9711
Burrata at Cane Rosso
Like an edible dairy cloud, this housemade mozzarella stuffed with cream (available at the Montrose location) beckons in all its creamy splendor. The baseball-sized hunk sits atop a confit of heirloom cherry tomatoes cooked in garlic and thyme olive oil offset by lemon and orange segments. Crusty grilled bread offers a textural vehicle for getting the goods from plate to mouth.
4306 Yoakum Blvd.; 713-337-1155