Hubbell & Hudson is one of the organizations that has been pushing the Woodlands food scene to the next level. With three restaurants (Cureight, Hubbell & Hudson Bistro, and Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen,) Chef Austin Simmons has a venue to showcase his creative and innovative cooking at different price points and for different audiences.
Hubbell & Hudson Bistro is on every list of the best restaurants in the Woodlands. Cureight, the tasting menu concept, was one of Texas Monthly's "Where to Eat Now" picks for the state of Texas in 2016. The Kitchen, the most casual concept is often overlooked by the critics, but after running into Chef Austin teaching hands-on with his team on the line, we observed first-hand that it has his attention.
So how does the creative mind of such a notable chef translate into a fast casual menu?
Today we sampled a handful of items from the new menu at the Kitchen. Always willing to sacrifice for our readers, we accepted the restaurant's generous invitation to sample several of the new items.
First up was the Deviled Eggs. (Disclaimer: I don't like deviled eggs.) A very clever spin on this summertime classic, the kitchen tops the pureed yolk with housemade bacon jam, candied jalapeño slices, and chives. The result is a much more interesting dish; one that even appeals to people who don't normally like deviled eggs. That's an impressive feat.
Chef Austin has a reputation for being a wizard with seafood, so we had high expectations for his BBQ shrimp. He delivered generously-sized Gulf shrimp, applewood-smoked bacon, and jalapeño, combined with a housemade apricot BBQ sauce and citrus mayo. The perfectly grilled shrimp and smoky bacon are nicely finished with the sharpness of the jalepeno and the zing of the housemade sauces. Chef Austin knows his shrimp.
Loaded fries are almost a cliche on casual menus, so we didn't have high expectations for this dish. But the Grilled Steak Loaded Fries far exceeded our expectations. Thinly sliced, expertly grilled sirloin was the highlight, and the slightly crispy fries, pickled jalapeño, housemade pico, and smooth creamy cheese sauce elevated this dish beyond the pale. This dish would make a quick, delicious lunch by itself, and at $9, is a significant bargain.
I've often wondered how a top chef feels when he eats at a fast food establishment. Fast food can be a guilty pleasure, but a talented chef is always thinking "How can I make this dish better?"
Apparently Chef Austin has been to Chick-fil-a, and it stimulated his imagination. The result is the Signature Fried Chicken sandwich. A griddled challah bun is the foundation for a gently crispy fried chicken breast, a tangy honey mustard BBQ sauce, and crunchy dill pickles. As much as we appreciate a good fast food sandwich, this signature sandwich exists on an entirely different plane. Moist, delicious chicken is balanced with the smooth heat of the sauce and the zing of the dill pickles. The result is a chicken sandwich that will please the most jaded palate, something its more humble brethren cannot claim to do.
We saved the best for last. Chef Austin has combined his superb grilled shrimp with holy trinity basmati rice and scallions, and finished it with a superlative white wine cajun cream sauce. The result is simultaneously delicate and intensely flavorful. Cajun food is often one dimensional and disappointing, but this shrimp dish would feel right at home on the menu of any top New Orleans restaurant.
We're excited about the new menu at Hubbell & Hudson kitchen. Chef Austin has received numerous accolades, including being named the best chef in the Houston area by The Houston Press. These outstanding dishes emerging from his most humble kitchen demonstrate once again why this talented young man is the chef to watch in the Woodlands. We look forward to sampling more of his creations as soon as we can.
Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen | 4526 Research Forest Drive | The Woodlands 77381 | 281-203-5650