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Handicapping the best of Houston picks

Alison Cook has published her annual list of best new Houston restaurants in 2008. The list seems well put together and there are only few things I can disagree with.

The one I am puzzled about is Soma. I agree, the food from the kitchen has been wildly inconsistent, ranging from brilliant to inedible. But is this one of the best sushi bars in town? Not in my experience. If anything Soma seems about on par with Azuma, which can’t compete with better sushi bars in town.

Textile and Voice are, without a doubt, the best upscale restaurants to open in 2008. Russo’s introduced coal-fired pizza to Houston, which a number of people commenting on this blog deem an almost landmark event. BB’s Kitchen has a few clunkers (vegetarian po-boy and beignets), but the oyster po-boy was one of the best I’ve had in Houston. The Grove cooks beneath the level of talent in the kitchen (for that reason it should be tied with Bedford), but it does provide reliably good upscale food for Discovery Green – the most important public space to open in 2008.

Feast is not an obvious choice for the best restaurant to open last year, but it’s absolutely the  right one. Voice may have delivered one of the best very meals I had all year, but it’s Feast I keep coming back to time and time again.

pork confit pie
(at least I think that’s what this is)

The cooking is simple, unpretentious and always interesting. The menu changes constantly and there are days when I make a special effort to re-arrange my schedule just to drop in for a leisurely lunch, because something looks too good to pass up.

Most of all, Feast puts you closer to the people making the food in a way that few restaurants can afford to. Richard and James are always there, lunch and dinner, making sure that every dish comes out exactly right. If you haven’t been, you owe it to yourself to go.

Over the next few months I’ll be putting together a list of my own – most memorable meals of 2008. If you’ve had a meal that blew you away last year, leave me a note. I am always looking for a place to eat.

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