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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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