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Truck Stop Ribeye at Stella Sola

I still plan to finish my 2009 wrap up in photos, but first a few words on my new favorite way to eat steak in Houston.

Only days after I noted that Justin Basye coming to Stella Sola improves our chances of seeing  him in the kitchen of his own, an unfortunate chef shakeup did that just that. Now that the restaurant has been on solid footing for a few months the Stella Sola team is already making things in Houston more interesting.

Exhibit I: a re-imagined rib eye that instantly became my favorite way to eat red meat.

I am not a huge fan of steak houses, mostly because I see no reason to gorge yourself on a massive slabs of meat served at these places. The 20th bite tastes almost exactly the same as the 1st. There is just no point. But the Truck Stop Ribeye at Stella Sola makes things interesting.

It’s not a huge cut of meat, but a much more manageable portion which should keep your attention. Arugula, onions and marinated tomatoes ensure surprisingly acidic and bright flavors for a meat dish. The best part is that there are no boring parts of the steak, which is where a little bit of food science comes in.

The muscle marked #2 is Spinalis Dorsi

The reason the truck stop rib eye at Stella Sola tastes so good is because it’s an engineered steak, which is not to say it’s not a natural product. The cut used in this dish is the rib eye cap, also known as spinalis dorsi, revered for its big beef flavor and tenderness. The rib eye cap is matched only by the tenderloin  (which is as tender as it is boring) and the flat iron steak.

It’s possible that the reason you don’t see the rib eye cap on restaurant menus is because it gets picked by butchers and cooks long before you can get your hands on it. A more probable reason is that the spinalis dorsi just isn’t big enough to be a serving on it’s own. At Stella Sola the truck stop rib eye is constructed several spinalis dorsi muscles fused together with transglutaminase, also known as meat glue. The result is something that handles like a regular steak and tastes terrific.

The Truck Stop Ribeye isn’t the only reason to go to Stella Sola. Since its opening late in 2009, it has become one of my favorite new restaurants in town and the kitchen is staffed by some of the best young chefs in the city.  The crudo, the house cured meats, the fantastic lardo, the bone marrow and the pastas are all excellent.

As it sheds some of the Reef redundancies (which can be too apparent) from the menu and establishes its own identity, I expect Stella Sola to only get better in 2010. Plus, you have to love any place where the cooks are ready to whip out their meat and pose for photos at any moment.

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1 Dragana { 01.30.10 at 5:41 pm }

I find your blog very interesting. You seem to be quite knowlegable about food and restaurants all over the world. Thanks for keeping me informed!

2 Misha { 01.30.10 at 10:26 pm }

Dragana: thank you for your kind words.

3 sunny { 01.31.10 at 3:13 am }

your sentiments about steak houses is why i generally do not order steak. i love stella sola’s food and will definitely order the truck stop ribeye next time!

4 AndyG { 01.31.10 at 8:48 pm }

It looks wonderful – I have tried the crudo, salumi and crab risotto appetizers on our visits to Stella Sola…..this will definitely be next on the list. We love having this restaurant so close to us in the Heights.

5 Ruthie J. { 02.05.10 at 7:33 pm }

Had this one Monday — It totally ruled. Thanks for the rec!

6 Tom Byron { 02.19.10 at 9:37 am }

Truck stops are notorious for other things besides their ribeyes

7 arty eater { 02.26.10 at 11:38 am }

I look forward to eating at Stella Sola but I gotta say that I’m not sure I want any “meat glue”, no matter how natural the substance may be. It sounds like it goes against the idea of eating and enjoying pure food. I would not object to 3 small pieces of meat on my plate as opposed to 1 large piece glued together. The Swedes right now are up in arms against just this kind of meat glue in their food. hmm.

8 Misha { 02.26.10 at 10:34 pm }

Arty: I can assure you that you today eat far more tortured and modified food than a dish made with “meat glue”. I had another version of the ribeye cap at Stella Sola for brunch and it was outstanding.

9 Jemimagold { 07.21.10 at 2:36 pm }

I’ve been to Stella Sola. While I didn’t get the steak, the most memorable part of the meal was the SHEER LOUDNESS in there. There are mostly only hard surfaces, the tables are very close together and the space reverbates sound. It was very unpleasant – I couldn’t hear myself think.

10 Jackie Ewing { 09.02.10 at 7:39 am }

This place sounds incredible. I’m not sure if you have a lot more healthy recipes of your own that you make, but if you do, you should send them into this contest I know of that’s making its way around the country, the Aetna Healthy Food Fight. It’s coming to San Antonio on October 2-3 and Houston on October 9-10! I noticed your recipe and thought you would be interested. You could get great exposure for your recipes and meet celebrity cooks (Bobby Flay, Sunny Anderson, Sara Moulton, or Cat Cora). All you have to do is go to healthyfoodfight.com to submit one of your healthy recipes. Deadline to sign up for San Antonio is September 15th and Houston is September 22nd so hurry! Good luck if you decide to enter, and if not, keep posting! :)

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