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Thursday, July 7, 2011

El Xuco Xicana en Houston, TX

Summertime in South Louisiana isn't much different than summer in Houston.  Heat.  Humidity.  Afternoon thunderstorms.  Desperation for football season to get here.  The biggest distinction, from best I can tell, is the quality of the Mexican food.  For some reason it seems that authentic, delicious Mexican cuisine has trouble traveling an extra 300 miles to Baton Rouge.  Not one to worry too much, I easily solve the problem by feasting on frijoles whenever I'm in the "Bayou City" of the state to our West.

El Xuco Xicana's Milletes topped with Fried Eggs
A recent trip found me setting up a visit to Chef Jonathan Jones's El Xuco Xicana.  Chef JJ, who came to fame under his Beaver's name, recently took over the kitchen at the establishment formerly known as El Patio.  Wanting to revamp the cuisine to reflect that of authentic interior Mexican superiority with a Texan twist, Chef JJ started massacring the menu and putting his flair all over it.  His "Comida Texano" menu made my mouth water before I could even order the signature blue margarita that reflected back to the El Patio days.

The Famous Blue Curacao Margarita from El Patio
I was joined by an excellent cast of characters for an early afternoon Sunday brunch.  We had my dear friend Amanda, high school pal Chad and his wife Ashley, Alvin and Jason from MasterChef on FOX along with Jason's bad ass lady friend, Sara Jackson and a friend of hers who are working on some food based television productions with kids in the Houston area, and a fella named Jay, who on Twitter goes by @GunsandTacos (clearly fits in well with my @BiteandBooze mentality), with his wife.  We gathered and ordered drinks.  Soon enough, Chef JJ's right hand man at XX, Chef Kenny Pullin, came out to the table to greet our crew and drop off our first round of grub.

Battered Stuffed Toast at El Xuco Xicana
The Milletes made me happy to be alive.  Proclaimed on the menu to be a "REAL Mexican brunch food," the milletes featured bolillo bread toasted and topped with refried black beans, queso Chihuahua and chorizo.  Then I had the option to add a fried egg on each half of the open-faced sandwich.  As you can see, I couldn't resist!  The milletes combined classic flavors into a brunch dish that I'd eat over and over again.  Then came the battered stuffed toast.  Dear Lord.  Heaven.  And Hell.  In every bite.  The dish is constructed by stuffing Texas toast with Dulce de Leche, coating that in a Grand Marnier cinnamon batter, dropping it in a deep fryer, then topping the sandwich with ancho-maple syrup, sauteed apples, and Chantilly cream.  Each bite let me know I was alive while assuredly slowly killing me.  I didn't mind.  I took another bite.  It tasted that damn orgasmic.  

El Xuco Xicana Mojito 
Ceviche at El Xuco Xicana
The beverages at El Xuco Xicana also provided plenty of punch.  Chef JJ warned me about the strong margaritas.  After I began with the blue margarita I noticed the rest of the table drinking amazing mojitos.  I needed to try one for myself.  It did a splendid job of being thirst quenching and intoxicating.  Meanwhile, Chef Pullin brought out the signature ceviche.  One thing that I like about the menu is that it warns the diner that the ceviche changes depending on the freshness of the seafood and availability of produce.  There is no set recipe, but rather a rotating and seasonal ceviche.  Ours had a gulf drum marinated in loads of citrus.  I thought I tasted lime, lemon, and the something a little different like a grapefruit.  It also had jalapenos, watermelon radishes and avocado.  The bottom line is that the concoction used fresh ingredients and tasted equally refreshing on a hot day.  The blending of sweet, sour and spice worked magnificently.

El XX Hot Wangs
The feast concluded for me with the El XX Hot Wangs.  The wings were fried naked then tossed in a special blend that includes Jalisco Chili de Arbol vinegar hot sauce, toasted sesame, cilantro and queso fresco.  They were served with "cucumber and jicima con chili y limon".  The "wangs" were certainly different than a traditional Buffalo style hot wing with celery and bleu cheese.  That being said, I loved them!  I thought the twists were pretty ingenious and I'm a sucker for an inventive wing.  Bravo, El Xuco Xicana.

I essentially got a full meal by sampling an assortment of brunch and appetizer selections.  Truth be told, that is one of my favorite ways to experience a restaurant.  Sometimes the most creative dishes are appetizers and daily specials.  The food at El Xuco Xicano was worthy of any trip to Houston.  I have no doubt that I'll be back when I get a Mexican craving that my local establishments can't handle!

Xuco Xicana on Urbanspoon