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will_5198

Underbelly, James Beard Award-Winning Chef Chris Shepherd's Modern "Creole" on Westheimer Road and Waugh Drive in Montrose

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Since opening five years ago, Chris Shepherd's Underbelly has been a self-appointed beacon for the evolution of Houston food. The menu has a half-page thesis on why Houston is the most interesting culinary city in the country, there are dozens of celebratory links to *other* Houston restaurants on their main webpage, and Bun B is quoted on the wine list.

From afar I've found the chest-beating a little too much, but I can appreciate a chef who wants to represent his city -- especially in a time where many owners are happy to replicate restaurants from other cities. And being such a vocal proponent certainly helped Shepherd win the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest.

But hey, what about the food? 

Head-on Gulf shrimp with buttermilk dill panna cotta, pickled beans ($24). Plump and sweet, this was a great showing for Gulf seafood. The panna cotta was a nice compliment. Hand-torn cornbread pieces and pickled beans were both sort of throwaways. 

Seared soft-shell with eggplant curry ($24). Shepherd recently made a big PR announcement about getting away from beef and pork, which meant a larger focus on seafood. Soft-shells are among my personal favorite foods, and this was a very good one. The eggplant curry was nicely done with a touch of heat; Shepherd is a fan of moderate-to-significant spice (if you're not, be aware, as it permeates the entire menu). 

Vinegar pie with salt brittle ($9). Previous savory dishes were not coursed (nor labeled as appetizers or entrees; guess by price) so I was rather full after two. Still curious enough to try this dessert, which I believe has been on the menu since 2012. It's not scary at all; more key lime in flavor than sour or acidic.  

Overall, a quality showing by Shepherd and his team. I didn't fall in love with Underbelly, but it's worth visiting for anyone who appreciates loud flavors with global influences -- basically the "Houston creole" cuisine that the restaurants trumpets. 

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On 9/23/2017 at 1:45 PM, will_5198 said:

Overall, a quality showing by Shepherd and his team. I didn't fall in love with Underbelly, but it's worth visiting for anyone who appreciates loud flavors with global influences -- basically the "Houston creole" cuisine that the restaurants trumpets. 

I wholeheartedly agree with your conclusion here.  We liked it, but weren't blown away as one might expect from the longstanding and loud fanfare.  The iconic Korean braised goat (essentially ddukbokki with goat) was quite delicious (and liberal with the heat, as you noted).  Great wine list and knowledgeable bartenders.  We paired the spicy goat with a Peter Lauer Riesling that complimented it perfectly.

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10 hours ago, Josh said:

Great wine list and knowledgeable bartenders.  We paired the spicy goat with a Peter Lauer Riesling that complimented it perfectly.

Yes. I took advantage of weekday happy hour (1/2 off wines by the glass) and was recommended a Pierre Henri Morel Laudun Blanc ($5!) that went over well with both my dishes. I have an infantile understanding of wine, but it was just what I asked for.

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