Entering Underbelly for dinner is like walking a pork belly plank, as it feels impossible to leave without pork products perusing one’s palette. Mental pork preparation is key to survival. Without looking at a menu, one can vividly imagine a pork massacre from apps to entrée. Terrifying best describes all assumptions being made. It really didn’t matter because a dessert review had already been pleasantly placed on my calendar.
We ran into Underbelly’s owner-executive chef, Chris Shepherd, at the Houston Texans Tailgate Throwdown last month. After hearing our plans for a dessert tasting, Chris’ demeanor sorda screamed– “That’s lame.” He quickly assured all involved that there are plenty of other things for Almost Veggie people to eat at Underbelly. He went on to explain that Underbelly’s menu always has something for non-carcass customers.
Underbelly’s approach to wine is admirable, seeking only family owned wineries. It’s not really about how long they’ve been in business, just that it’s a family business.
“We don’t have a liquor license, which means, drum roll please … we are your neighborhood restaurant AND wine shop! That’s right, you can roll out with a few bottles, cases or a truckload…we can make it happen. On top of our already great pricing, take an additional 20% off our list price for retail purchases. Have you been on a mailing list for a year and still haven’t received any wine? Give us a call and we’ll get you the wine for less than you’d pay the winery, I promise! Yes, it really is that simple.”
Chris went through the menu pointing out consistent dishes, as well as those just visiting. He then said he had something just for me, which was the special for the evening– because I am special. <–Really. As he spoke, the only word heard was shrimp. Pancetta as a part of this dish was not my wish.
Executive Chef Chris Shepherd’s Dish Description Reenactment:
Chris: shrimp & pancetta fritters with okra, squash, pepper aioli
AV Interpretation: shrimp
& pancetta fritters with okra, squash, pepper aioli
Misinterpreting dish details at Underbelly is just sad. A word is a word is a word! Pancetta clearly came out of his chef mouth. Unfortunately, reaching the translation part of my brain simply didn’t happen. Ouch.
My table neighbor ate every bite of the Vietnamese style meatballs. While having nothing to do with meatballs, Underbelly just so happens to have lamb ham on the menu. An investigation into how the lamb could be ham quickly became first priority. After almost 6 hours of research, tweeting Chris Shepherd was the only option.
His tweet reply maintains the lamb apparently has no ham. Plain & simple. Just like a hamburger doesn’t have ham either. It happens.
Even though pancetta was resting in my belly, having the heirloom eggplant saved the day. Lunch seems key for me, with one dish I’ve been daydreaming about for months. Chris offers seared Gulf white shrimp & pimento cheese grits! He also has a grilled shrimp salad with local vegetables and buttermilk dressing. Want!
Underbelly has 6 desserts for around $9 each. Several people have openly almost freaked out about Underbelly’s vinegar pie & salt brittle dessert, calling it the best they’ve ever had.
Chris recommended we not leave without trying the easy rider beer do-nuts with beer glaze. My first choice to taste was the peaches & cream fried pie with vanilla ice cream, which turned out to be the best, in my opinion.
Chef Chris Shepherd is a soft spoken talented guy that doesn’t need writers fluffing his stuff. This chef is serious business and it shows, but this is something everyone in Houston already knows.
FIVE: High 5!
FOUR: Please & Thank You
TWO: Double Wow
ONE: Wow + Ouch = Wouch