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Molecular Gastronomy, Houston (take two)

I recently read that Randy Rucker, who brought Houston the first taste of molecular gastronomy with laidback manor several years ago, was hired by Michael Cordua to develop a menu for a new Woodlands outpost of Americas. Although a molecular gastronomy push was not cited as the main reason Cordua brought Rucker on board, it stood to reason that at least some of Rucker’s chemically altered, deconstructed creations would appear on the menu.

While Cordua restaurants are popular and highly regarded in Houston, I find them somewhat tedious. Visually, Americas on Post Oak promises a viceral experience, but mostly churns out the same predictable South American themed grilled meats as Churrascos and Amazon Grill, rendering all Cordua restaurants nearly indistinguishable from each other. Artista offers a few bright spots, but having gone once, I thought it was mostly uninspired. Partly because the flavors were just as muted as at Americas, but mostly because mix and match menus are an irritating fad.

The addition of Rucker to the Cordua Restaurants team is a good sign, but left me a little confused. While not considered top flight culinary destinations, Cordua restaurants seem to be successful and have quite a following. Why tinker with a good business?

I found my answer from a most unlikely source. While flipping through the Continental magazine on a flight from Washington several weeks ago I came across a picture of Michael Cordua and his son in the El Bulli kitchen. This wouldn’t be the first time someone caught the molecular gastronomy bug after visiting Ferran Adria’s pantheon of weird foods. Suddenly the Randy Rucker hiring made perfect sense.

My suspicions were confirmed today by Alison Cook in her blog. Seems Cordua also picked up a chef from Max’s Wine Dive, which is yet another sign of good things to come. I have not been to Max’s yet, but the menu looks much more interesting than anything offered by Americas today.

Molecular gastronomy can go terribly wrong in less than skilled hands, but I sincerely hope Cordua’s experiment is successful. I have spent the last few months sampling avant-garde creations in various kitchens and not all things work equally well, but if Rucker can balance progressive cooking techniques with Gulf Coast and South American flavors unique to Houston I’ll be a regular at the new Americas.

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