As the Woodlands grows, we're excited to watch the food scene grow with it. This little 'burb is attracting all sorts of interesting restaurants, from chef-driven bistros to new concepts from national chains. But some things are still hard to find.
Growing up in Meyerland, I took for granted the ability to find examples of great Asian cuisines nearby. Moving to the Woodlands was a shock; there were plenty of Chinese and Japanese places, and a smattering of Thai and Vietnamese, but very few were out of the ordinary.
A recent conversation with a chef friend of mine directed me to Atsumi, a new Asian restaurant on College Park. My friend spoke very highly of Henry, the chef at Atsumi. Apparently they've become friends and talked shop, and Henry turned him on to some sources for Asian ingredients that turned out to be very high quality, and they traded tips on techniques. Clearly, Henry was someone I had to meet.
So with this recommendation we drove up to Atsumi for dinner. We found a modern, clean strip center restaurant with attractive decor and a good crowd for a weeknight.
I spoke briefly with Henry (who was busy in the kitchen) and learned that he prepares his own sauces in-house, and doesn't use the typical frozen ingredients you find at strip-center Chinese restaurants. I asked for some suggestions, and here's what came out.
First, my bride loves "crab puffs", the traditional appetizers you see at every Americanized Chinese restaurant. We tried Atsumi's, and had the first surprise of the evening.
Instead of the typical cream cheese filling with bits of "crab", we found a light, creamy filling with a bit of heat; Henry had chopped in tiny bits of gently spicy pepper. And in place of the generic orange sauce was a lighter housemade sauce with a bit of citrus tang and a touch of heat. All in all, a very pleasant surprise.
Next up was one of my bride's favorites: Orange chicken. What arrived were large hand-cut chunks of chicken breast meat, hand-breaded with a lightly crispy crust, and served with a rich citrus glaze, accented with plenty of pepper.
Henry suggested one of his specialities - Black Pepper Steak on Sizzling Platter.
What arrived was superb. Thinly sliced high quality beef, generously spiced with pepper and scallions, served in a rich but not overpowering brown sauce, delivered on a comal to insure that it was sizzling hot. Delicious.
We enjoyed Atsumi, and found Henry's cooking to be far superior to most of the Chinese food we've sampled in the Woodlands. When thanking Henry on the way out, we mentioned that this was some of the best Americanized Chinese cuisine we'd tasted in a while. He smiled and told us to come back - he's got the "real" Chinese menu, as do many of the restaurants way out Bellaire.
We can hardly wait.
Atsumi | 3335 College Park Dr | The Woodlands | 936-242-0044 | atsumiusa.com
Houston is a city that's obsessed with the latest and greatest. Along those lines, it's the newest restaurants are the ones that get almost all of the press.
We believe that one of the greatest accomplishments a restaurant can have is longevity. Keeping customers happy is hard work, and doing so for a decade is a significant achievement. Pappasito's has done this, and done it thrice. They're now celebrating 30 years in business, a milestone we think shouldn't be ignored.
“This is a big milestone for Pappasito’s, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of our loyal guests,” said Harris Pappas, co-owner and co-founder, Pappas Restaurants, Inc. “We want to thank Houstonians for their support and invite them to join our family for 30 days of celebration.”
The original Pappasito's opened on Richmond near Hillcroft back in 1983. Since then, the operation has brought its brand of high quality Tex-Mex cuisine to 13 Greater Houston area locations, with 8 others in DFW, Austin, San Antonio, and Atlanta.
In honor of this milestone, the restaurant is offering some awesome weekly specials:
Oct 1-5: Half price beef and chicken fajitas. All day, large size only.
Oct 7-11: Half price happy hour appetizers with beverage purchase. 3p-6:30p in the bar.
Oct 13-19: Half price lunch beef & chicken fajitas. Medium size only, 11am-4pm.
Oct 20-26: eClub free appetizer with Pappasito's Pass (with entree purchase, exclusions and terms apply)
Oct 27-30: Half price beef and chicken fajitas. All day, large size only.
We're big fans of Pappasito's fajitas. We're even bigger fans when they're half price.
During the 30-day celebration, customers of legal drinking age can also enjoy an anniversary drink, the Pappasito’s Reserva Margarita made with Corazon Reposado barrel-aged tequila, which has been hand-selected especially for Pappasito’s Cantina, Grand Marnier, organic agave nectar, and fresh lemon and lime juices shaken tableside and served on the rocks. Guests who order the special drink will receive a complimentary 30th anniversary commemorative glass, while supplies last.
They're also preparing a special dessert, Chocolate Tres Leches, a rich chocolate cake soaked in three milks with dark chocolate, Kahlua, and a hint of cinnamon, toasted meringue and shaved chocolate.
For more information, check their website or Facebook page.