Photo: Robbie Caponetto
What to Order: Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings. Without a doubt, Houston is the most interesting, far-ranging, delightful food city in the South—strike that, in America—right now. There’s a confluence of a post-Katrina Creole population, traditional Southern staples (biscuits, barbecue, pimiento cheese), diverse multinationals (Vietnamese, Korean, Pakistani, Mexican), fertile farmland, easy access to the Gulf, and a general yearning to make a culinary mark. Chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly might as well be the town’s pied piper, leading diners deeper into the flavors of the city. His Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings pairs tender braised goat with dense rice-flour dumplings, fiery with gochujang (red chile paste), moody with fish sauce, and flecked with toasted benne seeds. Also notable: Chris’ use of Gulf bycatch (often called “trash fish,” or the fish caught when you’re actually going after something else, say shrimp). A recent highlight built on bycatch was whole Vermilion snapper, fried as if midswim, topped with green chile-cilantro chutney, served over garam masala-scented green beans and okra.
1100 Westheimer Road; underbellyhouston.com