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Un-Granola

Guide for sophisticated vegetarian dining

Category Archives: Houston, TX

If you love Mex but could live without the Tex, Hugo’s on Montrose is the place for you. Complex flavors + fresh ingredients + inventive dishes.

And they have a vegetarian menu. (As well as an impressive wine list and cool cocktails. This is a sophisticated spot.)

Hugo’s is in a 1925 building with a big dining room that feels like a cool old hacienda. I love the huge chandeliers and stamped tin ceiling:

Starters on the veg menu include butternut squash soup, potato tacos with tomatillo sauce, and avocado mango salad with blue cheese (intriguing combination).

The waiter assured me that the butternut squash soup was made with vegetable stock, so I ordered that and a glass of wine:

Really liked this creamy soup. The richness of the cream and butternut squash were set off by the light dusting of chili and the crunch of pumpkin seeds. Almost too pretty to eat. (Almost.)

It was tough to pick from the many delicious entree choices, including “deconstructed” vegetable enchiladas and chiles rellenos (large stuffed peppers) served with a pipian (pumpkin seed) sauce.

I ordered the vegetable plate to taste as much as I could:

Way more food than I can eat in one sitting, but it was fun to sample different dishes. My favorites were the creamy corn pudding (like a molten corn muffin) and the vegetable stuffed ancho pepper, made more delicious by the spicy habanero salsa my server brought me when I asked for something hot. If you get the vegetable plate, ask your server to bring out a couple of salsas – they’re terrific. My plate also had quinoa, lentil salad with spinach, roasted mushrooms, nopales (cactus), and asparagus.

Hugo’s is a great place to eat your veggies (or deconstructed enchiladas) in style.


 

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Ever eat badly for a few days? Coffee for breakfast, pecan pie for lunch? ME NEITHER. But people who have: get yourselves to Field of Greens.

It’s a simple, unfussy joint in a Houston shopping center with lots of options for pescetarians, vegetarians, vegans, raw foodies, and anyone who needs an infusion of vegetables. Lots of burgers, salads, pastas, as well as a few juices and smoothies.

After a few minutes of my usual deer in headlights routine (vegetarians don’t always have so many choices!), I went with the waiter’s recommendation, tofu quiche salad. And a carrot kale juice.

The dish looked great, and the tofu tasted like a crustless quiche. It was filling, and, especially with a dab of the garlic soy sauce, delish. I loved the bed of fresh greens and my juice.

At the next table, people in scrubs were discussing flax seed. People who know about food and nutrition eat here, OK? So should you, especially after a week of nutritional lapses.

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I often get asked where to go for “real” Indian food. And while I can answer that question (the authentic joints are invariably in the burbs, where my people live their American dream), these are not my favorite Indian restaurants. I’d gladly give up some quantum of authenticity for a decent wine list, soft lighting, and an urban location. (Bonus points for food served on real plates instead of styrofoam.)

So Indika is right up my ally. Upscale food rooted in Indian culinary traditions but going in new directions and using high-quality local ingredients. (They start you off with a semolina cake topped with yogurt and pomegranate. Nice.)

Don’t be put off by the somewhat grim cement exterior — the inside is pleasant, with saffron walls and big windows.

Most of what is considered “Indian” food in the US is really from the Punjab region. (In the UK, the food of all India is reduced to the phrase “a curry,” though this is changing.) Indika has only a few dishes that venture beyond the Punjab in their inspiration. There are a long list of meat dishes (goat brain, venison chops), and some inventive veggie options: kale and blueberry salad with cheese, black garbanzo and pumpkin soup, stuffed bitter melon, and roasted portabella.

I ordered the tasting platter – which came with lentils and raita (yogurt sauce) in addition to a wonderful assortment of dishes.

Indika seasons each dish so that it stands out. This is the opposite of your average Indian restaurant, where many dishes taste similar, and cream is the not so secret ingredient. Kari leaf (an actual leaf that is the basis for curry but often used on its own) perked up green beans. The pickled eggplant was garlicky. My favorite dish was the fried eggplant, which was coated with amchur (dried mango powder) that made it deliciously sour. The paneer makhani (cheese in a tomato and cream sauce) was rich and decadent, as it’s meant to be. The least interesting dish was the potato cake, which was smothered in yogurt and tamarind sauces. Indika’s naan = puffy and chewy goodness.

Judging by the warm and buttery cardamom cookies they sent with my bill, their dessert options are worth trying:

I hope Indian restaurants in the US evolve, both to focus on regional cuisines and to go beyond tradition, as Indika does so well.

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