Gotta love Houston's Richmond Avenue!
If you don't make an effort, you can drive down this long stretch of ugly shopping centers and not realize it's packed with adventure!
Right next door is a Columbian restaurant. A few doors down there is a Jamaican place. There's also an island in the parking lot that holds a diner-like Mexican spot, where they speak no English. I love traveling without jetlag!!
2 bonus points for this quirky location! 3 bonus for these curious painted windows!
When you walk in, the first thing you notice is the smell! Incense! Reminded of Catholic Church when I was a little girl. 3 bonus points for a smell memory!
There's an inviting open dining space, but also lots of cozy corners. These gathering spots have small woven tables with matching lids to cover your feast. Maybe these are designed for outdoor eating where bugs are bothersome? The uncomfortable looking stools actually hold cushions when in use. I can't think of another Houston restaurant that has such an unusual set up for sharing a meal. 5 bonus points!
Ethiopian Honey Wine
It may look like Cheryl and I are pinching the tops of filled water balloons, but these are really individual wine glasses. I guess we could have used the drinking straws that were on the table, but that would have been extra silly! 3 bonus points for drinking (somewhat sloppily) out of these crazy bottles! Tasty too!
We got lot's of help from our server, Kassig.
Don and I shared a regular table with our friends, Cheryl and Bob. This photo looks extremely serious, but we actually had lots of fun and Kassig was a great sport with us! She helped us figure out the menu and put up with the clicking camera. There was a lot to teach us, since this is a culture that uses no eating utensils! 4 bonus points for no spoons, forks or knives!
This is odd stuff! If you are like my sister-in-law's friend, you would unroll one of these on your lap...thinking it was a napkin!
But no, this spongy stuff is made from 100% Teff. Teff is the smallest grain in the world, but packs in 17 times as much protein, iron, minerals and calcium as wheat or barley. It also serves as your eating utensil! 3 bonus points for having my first Injera experience!
Ahhh! The Food!
We each had one veggie Samosa (left) as an appetizer. Without a dip or fork, we devoured these piping hot treats in no time.
For our main meal, we ordered a veggie sampler, a beef and a chicken dish. All came served on this giant tray...which now, you can visualize on one of those woven tables with a cover!
We tore off pieces of Injera and scooped up green lentils, red lentil stew, split peas, potato and carrots, beef cubes sauteed with onion, peppers, jalapeno (Tibs) and chicken and boiled egg with an Ethiopian sauce called Berbere.
5 points for the tasty food, that was more appetizing than it looks!
3 bonus points for problem solving fun! How do you share one egg? We sawed it in half with a straw!
Minus 1 point for our sloppiness now and then. As you can see, we were leaving our fingerprints in a few dishes!
Warmth and Authenticity
I always give extra points for authenticity. Kassig is from Ethiopia, so that's 4 bonus points right there. Her outfit adds another 2 bonus points.
But 4 extra bonus points for Kassig's sweet smile and warmth. Even though the place began to get busy and we only saw one other server, Kassig took her time with us. She even answered Cheryl's interesting question.
"What would you pick, if you could only pick one food to eat for the rest of your life?"
Kassig picked Collard Greens! You have to love someone who gives that for an answer! 3 bonus points for collard greens!
Total of 44 Points for Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant!
Houston doesn't offer tons of options when it comes to outside dining. And Bissonet is not a Houston street you'd usually choose to dine beside. But Piquet's has managed to create a lovely little outdoor space with the help of a bubbling fountain and some tropical plants! Plus the weather was nice!
The Piquet family built this oasis as if saying, "We'll make it possible for you to forget Houston's climate or the street of Bissonet. Of course it happened to be about 77 degrees on this lovely evening! 5 bonus points for offering nice outdoor seating!
Cheers to Terry and Susan!
This was the first time I've been able to get Terry and Susan off on a dining adventure!
I know Terry and Susan from tennis, but we have also clinked a few glasses together over the years. What I've never had the chance to do with them before, is to hear Terry's stories about how her parents met in Cuba and how she spent her early summers visiting this incredible world that I will most likely never see! There is no better way to enjoy an international dining adventure than by eating foods from a world you've never experienced... while hearing stories that make that country come to life!
8 bonus points for Terry's stories!
Terry ordered in Spanish...so that gives us 2 bonus points!
There is nothing better than a little Sangria on a glowing evening, along with Mariquitas! These plantain chips are served with a garlic sauce/dip that is surprisingly sweet and addictive! (The bread is yummy, too) An extra 5 bonus points for our server Jesus, who helped us move tables a few times. You could tell we were getting special service because he is fond of Terry!
A Bit of History
This restaurant has been here since 1997, but that is not the beginning of the story.
Guido Piquet (even though the name sounds Italian and French!) came with his wife from Cuba in the early 1960's. They first opened a Cuban grocery store on Chimney Rock, then added a restaurant in 1989.
Guido's son took over the restaurant when it moved to the Bissonet location. There is a banner in the dining room that reads, "All Because Two People Fell in Love" There's more to this story obviously, but the restaurant is all about family...the family that runs it and the families who dine here...they even have family night on Mondays. Terry's parents and her children have celebrated many birthdays and gatherings at Piquet's. 5 bonus points for a restaurant that cares about family!
Hints of Cuba
Many of my favorite authentic restaurants are "hole in the wall" places. Piquet's is no hole in the wall. The interior is filled with black and white photos and curious, artistic objects from Cuba. I'm afraid I didn't get the story about the door, but there must be one! I love a place that feels authentic, while being comfortable, clean and attractive. 3 bonus points there!
My photos hardly capture how massive and delicious these plates of food were! It was incredibly fun having Terry explain the different dishes and talk about her family favorites! I even love the names of the dishes!
Carnaval Cubano and La Rumba! These foods were so different from the Mexican or Central American foods I already enjoy. There was more garlic and less hot spice. The Yuca, (mouth watering white blobs with garlic!) was a treat to this potato lover! The Picadillo was one of my favorites. Terry reminded me that the dish was nothing fancy...just casual home cooking. It might be my favorite comfort food if I lived in Cuba! Jesus said his favorite was the Vacca Frita...beef with slivered onions. I tried about 12 different foods and I am craving each one of them, as I write this! As a rule (This blog is oh so strict!) I only give up to 5 points for food...so I'll be crafty in how I raise that. Since I had leftovers of all these dishes...I'll give an extra 5 bonus points for enjoying the food all over again!
The Piquet Family
I was happy to meet one of the Piquet daughters when I was getting ready to leave. Her grandmother's recipes are still being used in Piquet's dishes. She was delightful and very pleased I had enjoyed my first visit. I know this won't be my last, because I learned they have live music and dancing on weekends! Terry, Susan and I are already making plans to return with a bigger group!
4 bonus points for meeting one of the Piquet Family! I do love a restaurant with multiple generations!
Total of 40 Points for Cafe Piquet!
Oh my, I'm getting carried away with my point system. What can I say, it was good.
Tandoori Garden is wearing a "Strip Mall" Costume!
The outside is a gloomy facade that does not match the inside! Not that there's anything wrong with this mall on Fry Road in Katy. In fact we could have made a day of it, having our eye brows threaded, our wills written, our jewelry pawned...there's lots going on here! 5 bonus points for a location that DARES me to give it a try!
Rhona and Marsha
Rho and Marsh graciously posed for me in the lovely interior.
Rhona and Marsha are not first timers to the blog. They know how to stand up and pose, so I can get a discreet shot of the interior. 2 bonus points worth of thank you!
As for the interior, 3 points for being clean and comfy AND for pleasant background music. 2 bonus points for seeing no TV. (This is rare in the kinds of places I frequent on my adventures.) But I do have to subtract 2 points, because the decor was more Tuscan than Nepalese. It is hard to get an authentic feel when way too many of the diners are American ... except for Poncho!
People Encounter with Poncho
I don't have Poncho's picture, but I have his card. We met in the buffet line where he laughed that I was taking his advice about the best Nepali dishes when he was from Mexico. He was very eager chat with us at our table and I do enjoy a cheery People Encounter..but there was a motive with Poncho. He left us busines cards. Poncho would very much like to sell any of us a Chevy. Only 1 bonus point for a People Encounter that involves sales.
You have to love a buffet, when you want to sample lots of stuff. But let's face it. The food is never as good as it is when the plate is served hot from the kitchen.
This buffet for $9.99 gave us about 6 Indian dishes and 6 Nepali dishes to choose from.
2 bonus points for SAMPLING!
I had a little camera problem so I'm using some internet pics to help share about food. This is what a Tandoor Clay Oven might look like. The secret to Tandoori cuisine, is the clay oven that cooks the meats, veggies and breads at 600 degrees. On the lunch buffet, my favorite dish (and Marsha's) was Saag Paneer (spinach with homemade cottage cheese and chopped ginger) There was a bit of spice that made this creamy, smooth dish perfect. Rhona especially liked the red sauce served on the chicken. All the dishes are specialties from the Himalayan countries of Nepal and India. It's nice that you can order dishes that are specific to Nepal like Achari Tikka (chicken marinated in blended pickle and seasoning spice, roasted in the clay oven) We have endless Indian restaurants in Houston, but few Nepalese.
4 points for lunch buffet at Tandoori Garden. I'm guessing I would give a 5 if ordering off the menu!
The naan bread was excellent. The restaurant claims their naan is cooked on the walls of a clay oven. It was piping hot and crispy on the outside, moist on the inside! I consider naan a high calorie, edible spoon for scooping up all the yogurt, mint and tamarind sauces!
2 bonus for naan!
Our Buddy, Laxman!
Our dear waiter, Laxman did his best! He bowed graciously with his bowtie and he filled our waters often. He so eagerly wanted to know if we liked our food. Sadly, I had a hard time understanding Laxman or I could have asked more questions. Maybe we could have gotten more information about the Tandoori clay oven. I would love to know how Laxman came to live in Houston. The good news is, he is from Nepal! And he was eager to give me his email so I could share some photos with him!
5 bonus points for Laxaman and his grin...which is a bit subdued in this photo!
TOTAL of 24 BONUS POINTS FOR TANDOORI GARDEN!
I was driven by hunger more than adventure, when I stopped at Nielsen's!
After a humid (and disappointing) morning of tennis I was thrilled to find this tiny deli, that I read about recently.
I hadn't planned on a dining adventure in my grubby tennis attire, but it was 2:00 and I needed food!
Location! Location! Location!
5 bonus points for this funny little spot's location, just inside The Loop on Richmond Avenue.
People who live in the houses next door can walk over and business folks in the Galleria area can drive over in 2 minutes...and maybe spend 10 minutes waiting for a parking space. I'm not sure where the original Neilsen's was when it opened 60 years ago...before it burned down.
What can I order that's Danish?
Ricardo, who is obviously not from Denmark was working behind the counter and happily steered me towards Liver Paste and Havarti Sandwich! You must know, I hate liver. But, I'm always game for authentic sampling! It looks pretty creepy in the photo, but there is a homemade mustardy-mayo that made this sandwich pretty darn good! And I also purchased a package of homemade Danish butter cookies! 3 points for Nielsen's sandwich!
Don't bring a friend!
I think everyone in the deli was alone. It must be a rule. There's just no room for more than a few bodies, so leave your friends in the car. With about 5 stools, I was lucky to get a seat at all. 5 bonus points for how silly I felt sitting there in my tennis clothes eating my sandwich with a few gentlemen, either staring into the parking lot or into their computer!
I love a family business, especially when they show pride in their heritage! There was a lot to look at while I waited for my order. Colorful Danish posters, framed news clippings, even an informative obituary! I learned quite a bit about the restaurant's history. 5 bonus points for the Nielsen family and their 60 years of business...even if I didn't meet them!
Sorry I didn't get to meet Ellen and Dick!
They started this business so many years ago. I'm afraid they are no longer with us. But luckily the restaurant was passed down to their children...I didn't get to meet any of them, either.
People Encounter at the Counter!
However, I did get to meet Lyle! I ate my sandwich sitting on a stool next to his. We talked about how we both grew up in the Midwest. (we should have talked about how we had white hats and glasses in common!) We talked about snow and London and others restaurants in the area.
As we jabbered, I noticed a gentleman, nearby on his computer. I'm pretty sure the man was eavesdropping. I decided to interrupt his important work, to ask him to take our picture. Yikes! Now that I see this photo, I hope I didn't freak Lyle out. That's some wild Bozo-style tennis hair going on! 10 bonus points for Lyle...accepting me as I am!
A Total of 28 points for Nielsen's Danish Deli!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.