Nabi: Houston: Montrose

When I knew I was coming to Houston in December 2011* and meeting someone in Montrose, I poked around on the internet for a good foodie place to try out.  I settled on the an Asian fusion restaurant that had opened a month or so earlier: Nabi.  Like a moth to a flame, their menu sucked this foodie asshole in.

Note: The chef expresses a commitment to seasonality in his food and he's surely also been working out the kinks in his menu in general since opening this new restaurant, so a number of changes to the menu have occurred since my visit.

Curry Cauliflower Fritters (Not currently on the menu) - $7.50: Daikon sprouts, Togorashi, Peppadew chutney

These were pretty tasty, but there was a little too much tempura to really enjoy the cauliflower fully.  The chutney was really nice, and there was some creamy mayo-based sauce not listed in the menu description that was of course delicious.

Charbrioled BBQ Ribeye - $11: Roasted vegetables, Soy glaze, Steamed rice, Sesame seeds

My dinner companion had this dish, and I didn't know her well enough to ask her for a bite.  She seemed to quite enjoy it, and it certainly looked and smelled scrumptious.  Note: "Red pepper paste" has now replaced "Sesame seeds" on the menu, and it is now priced at $14.  Ouch!

Connect - $10: Unagi, Hamachi, Alfalfa, Krab salad
The quality of everything was really good, but this roll was a 6.5/10 on my sushi scale.  Wouldn't you know it, it's no longer on the menu.  I'm hopeful this means the chef realized he could do better.

Fried Pie - $6: Asian Pears, Cardamom anglaise, Thyme, Vanilla ice cream

The current iteration of the fried pie replaces the cardamom anglaise with a creme anglaise and the thyme for poppy seeds (still $6).  I couldn't really taste the thyme anyway, so I think delicious poppy seeds are probably a good idea.  The cardamom was likewise, um, subtle, so I'm thinking the new and/or current version is probably more satisfying.  Once again, I was tricked by fun ingredients into thinking that maybe I actually wanted dessert at a restaurant, but in reality, it was basically just like any fried apple pie with ice cream.  It was good, but unless you're a dessertophile, it's just not worth it to save the necessary room to really savor a dessert.  That being said, I still kind of want to try the fried green tea twinkie (see below).

Foodie Asshole Menu Wish List, which, despite my somewhat mixed feelings about what I ate on my visit, is about half the menu (italics added for foodie emphasis):

  • O’captain Roll- $12: Soft shell crab, Unagi, Pickled shallots, Escolar, Togorashi, Lemon
  • Fried japanese eggplant - $7.5: Cucumber mint sauce, Chive oil
  • Warm roasted mushroom salad - $11: Seasonal mushrooms, Roasted eggplant, Hazelnuts, Fresh herb
  • Nabi ramen - $11: Bacon broth, Pork shoulder+belly, Poached egg, Scallions (add some spice for $1)
  • BBQ short rib fried rice - $13: Soy beans, Caramelized limes, Fried egg, Cilantro
  • Ginger duck + noodles - $12: Confit duck, Scallions, Shiitake, Shishito peppers, Hazelnuts
  • Tuna Pizza - $12: Crispy rice, Spicy tuna, White tuna, Jalapeno, Gold tobiko (So basically, sushi pizza!  This was added to the menu after my visit.  Maybe I can come back some day!)
  • Striped bass crudo - $12: Grapefruit, Cilantro pistou, Cane vinegar, Garlic chips
  • Pig’s ear salad - $10: Charred habanero, Honshimiji mushrooms, Kimchi vinaigrette
  • Short rib home fries - $8: Marinated short rib, Yukon potato, Cheese, Caramelized kimchi (I feel like this is here to kick poutine's ass, and it sounds like it would.)
  • Crispy veal tongue - $10: Chinese celery salad, Radish, Cayenne, Lemon preserved cream
  • Seared flank steak - $16: Roasted turnips, Purple yams, Cacon dashi, Pickled plums, Horseradish
  • Green tea twinkie - $6: Pickled cherries, Hazlenuts, whipped cream
You really should check out their menu for their great drink (wine, beer, sake, and cocktails) list, which has really sweet prices.  Apparently they're working with some local brewmasters to make a line of chai porters.  Yes please.

To sum, the food wasn't magnificent when I was there, which was about a month after they opened, but the menu is stellar and improving, and so I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that they're working out all the kinks and will be a solidly delicious and fun foodie haven.

Nabi Neighborhood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday-Saturday: 1130am - 12am
Sunday: 5pm - 10pm

*This review is being written March 30, 2012.

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