04/30/08 10:28am

4705 Inker St., Houston

Discussing Vietnamese restaurants in Houston, Food in Houston’s Anonymouseater notes the upcoming launch of Pagoda Vietnamese Bistro and Bar — the latest addition to the agglomeration of restaurants off Shepherd and Durham, just south of I-10. But Pagoda appears to be struggling to gain its bearings. The restaurant’s website and menu claim:

We are the first authentic Vietnamese eatery west of downtown with a full menu comparative in traditional quality that can be found in Southeast Houston better known as Chinatown.

There’s more Houston neighborhood-related entertainment in Pagoda’s description of itself on its website:

Up and coming restaurant surely to be a neighborhood favorite to the Heights hippies, Midtown young professionals, Montrose eclectic crowd, Museum District artisans, River Oakies, and the Downtown/Allen Parkway industry professionals.

Anonymouseater provides a helpful summary — and preliminary verdict:

Translation: bringing Vietnamese food from Bellaire to a non-Asian audience with nice decor and high prices. Sounds like Vietopia? Those goals are not necessarily bad. But the food has to be compelling for it to work.

Photo of 4705 Inker St. (from 2006): HAR

04/24/08 1:12pm

Paradise Cafe, 9889 Bellaire Blvd No. 1128, Houston

A shopping center tucked off Bellaire Blvd. just inside Beltway 8 hosts a particularly intriguing restaurant row:

Within feet of Fu Fu Cafe are something like 7 or 8 eateries offering a bewildering range of options in just a single shopping strip. The gelato shop is right next to a bakery that sells French desserts, Chinese pastries and rice cakes that look like guerilla hand grenades. A restaurant a few doors down serves Braised Lion Head, a Shanghai pork meatball specialty cooked with Napa cabbage I have never come across and have yet to sample (no, it’s not made with real lion meat, I checked). Noodle House 88, which Robb Walsh swears serves some of the best Indonesian food in the country, is in the very same strip. If Indonesian food doesn’t suit you, you can order sushi from the same menu. A new dim sum place opened just days ago and already looks packed.

But some of these food establishments aren’t so accessible for newcomers, warns the author of the Tasty Bits blog:

Tucked in at the end of the strip Paradise Cafe looks almost impenetrable to a non-Chinese American. Other than the name and descriptive signs such as “noodles” and “soups”, the only real clue as to what is inside is a magazine article pasted in the window showing a chef pulling noodles by hand. I got a blank stare when I asked for a to go menu, making me even more curious. For all I know the article could have been about the importance of keeping a tidy kitchen, but the promise of hand made noodles was too much to ignore, so I made it my mission to figure out what was behind the iron curtain.

Keep reading for Tasty Bits’ lowdown on Paradise Cafe noodles!


10/30/07 2:51pm

CEO David Wu told the Houston Business Journal last year, “It’s the sort of thing you’d see in Taiwan or Hong Kong, but we’re putting it here in the U.S.”

That’s a good description of Park 8: The Land of Oz. Here’s another one, from the project website:

The Park8 is carefully designed over and over again, improving to its perfect design today. More important, it nicely put urban life and nature together with equal force. With it’s high quality exterior finish, and it’s splendidly designed floor plans, the Land of Oz emphasis on unrestrained openness and convenience. Every penny is well worth for its consideration on security and safety issues, recreational areas, leisure activity clubhouses and beautiful landscaping design.


How about a third try: three 26-story condo towers and a couple of parking garages on 17 acres next to Beltway 8, south of Bellaire Blvd., bounded by Arthur Storey Park on one side and parking lots for two two-story retail strips on the other. Also part of the project, but not shown on the plans: a new Chinatown General Hospital.

The first phase is under construction. And condos are for sale! All come with good Feng Shui and karaoke, courtesy of the 3CmyBox included in every unit. If you like the project video above, you’re going to love the development’s website, which includes a “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” soundtrack and prominently features six videos for the feature-packed 3CmyBox in the Photo Gallery section.

The project’s tagline:

A union of Western an Chinese Culture. A combination of fantasy and reality.

After the jump, off to see the Wizard!


06/01/07 10:34am

Street Sign on Bellaire BlvdOver at Houstoned, professional barfly John Nova Lomax and crooner David Beebe take a long, strange trip down the entire length of Bellaire Blvd.—on foot. Lomax’s conclusion:

If Westheimer is mainly about the fetishes, broken dreams and vanities of Anglo whites, and Shepherd is all about the needs of cars, Bellaire is a world market of a street, a bazaar where Mexicans, Anglos, Salvadorans, African Americans, Hondurans, stoners, Vietnamese, Chinese, Koreans and Thais go to shop and eat.

The report from western Chinatown:

Tall bank buildings are sprouting, with glass fronts festooned in Mandarin. Strip malls fill with Vietnamese crawfish joints, Shaolin Temples, and acupuncture clinics. As we crossed Brays Bayou, a huge temple loomed in the distance, and it didn’t take much imagining to pretend you were gazing across a rice paddy toward a Vietnamese village. A Zen center abuts one of the last businesses in town to carry the all-but-forgotten A.J. Foyt’s once-omnipresent name. A couple of ratty old apartment complexes have changed into commercial buildings, each unit housing its own business.

The rice paddies, of course, have left the neighborhood.

More highlights of their journey, as they walk east: live turtles in the water gardens outside the Hong Kong City Mall; front-yard car lots in Sharpstown; Jane Long Middle Schoolers rushing convenience stores; the “Gulfton Ghetto.” Plus, this illuminating report from Alief:

Alief Ozelda Magee, the town’s namesake, is buried right there, under a slate-gray monument with a touching epitaph: “She did what she could.” And hell, maybe she still is. The adjoining apartment complex, which is rumored to cover some of the graves here, is said to suffer from a poltergeist infestation.

Photo: Cruising down Bellaire, by flickr user corazón girl