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Bice evicted from Galleria, Gigi’s lives on

Spending some time at the Fox Sports Grill (against my will) I noticed that Bice was only a couple of feet away. I have been to Galleria III dozens of times since Bice opened a couple of years ago and never realized where the restaurant was actually located.

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For about a year now, I have been planning a lunch visit, but the few reviews of it convinced me that I need to be a bit more dressed up than I usually am at work. I work for a software company. Putting on slacks is considered on occupational hazard. The few times I was appropriately dressed, I found the lure of Brennan’s or Da Marco too much to ignore.

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No regrets there, but still. I waited too long. Bice was closed. Letter in the window advising the owners they can get their keys back if they pay a ripe sum of $164,731.37 (seriously, how do you fall this far behind on rent?).

A mall is an odd place for a restaurant, although several Galleria tenants seem to be doing quite well. Bice, being one of the first to start the mall restaurant trend in Houston, didn’t make it. Gigi’s Asian Bistro, one of the last restaurants to open in Galleria in a better location, seems to be drawing the crows easily, especially in the striking cherry blossom room, which completely shreds any notion that you dining in the middle of the nation’s largest pantheons to shopping.

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I don’t have a whole lot to say about Gigi’s food. It’s a bit expensive for the level of cooking it offers. Much of it is monumental bore, designed to cater to the old Hunan crowd. Despite the name, the restaurant isn’t much of a dumpling bar either.

It’s not that some of the dishes don’t stand out – the twice fried beef I had one one occasion was intensely flavored and had a great almost jerky-like texture- it’s that Gigi’s plays it too safe most of the time. The best finds are in the Spice Market section of the menu, where I am assuming the NY imported chef Junnajet Hurapan get’s a bit more freedom to deviate from Hunan tradition of candied white chicken meat.

I keep going back to Gigi’s for one reason – it has what may be the best masaman curry dish in Houston. Maybe the more traditional version at Vieng Thai is more “authentic”, but the one at Gigi’s has far more depth of flavor. The basil, bamboo shoots and onions are of high enough quality to stand up to the sauce, which has enough heat to be respectable.

The best part are the highly marbled short ribs Junnajet Hurapan (thai native, if I am not mistaken) uses, which gives this dish a huge beef taste (no, it’s not Weight Watchers safe). At lunch time the meat is good, but really hasn’t had enough time to braise down fully. At dinner the ribs can be spectacular. True, its probably the most expensive curry in town, but it’s worth the price of admission and this stuff is good enough to make me eat leftovers.

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