Underbelly, 1100 Westheimer Road, Houston 

The name has all sorts of connotations and I must admit to being a bit wary accepting the invitation to dine there. No idea why, but it just brought out the wrong reaction ! Like most downtown restaurants valet parking is almost obligatory with the plethora of towing signs and reserved parking. The entrance is small and almost hidden on the side of the accompanying wine bar but once inside you are given a warm welcome by the polite and efficient hostesses. We were slightly early for our table but were given the option of going to the bar or waiting at the table. We chose the latter. The waiter immediately appeared and was attentive, asking us if we would like cocktails or just water until the other guests arrived. The menu is delivered in various old book covers, a nice touch and a good talking point. We had time to browse the menu and wine list without being hurried.

The decor and style of the interior is what could be described as modern southern. The high vaulted ceiling and solid walnut tables give a very pleasant atmosphere, decorations around the room remind you of the roots of Houston as well as the chefs inspiration. The open kitchen is a nice touch and lends the homely touch to the whole design. The seats are comfortable and the whole scene setting was a catalyst to an enjoyable atmosphere. 

The menu had choices which should suit every palate. Small dishes as starters and them some family style meat based dishes which were all delivered at the same time. My small dish was Tete de Cochon, quite literally Pigs head but was really variation of eggs and bacon. The thinly sliced meat was succulent and tasty, the egg cooked to perfection. 

This restaurant has its own butchery and prepares its own meats, some of which are visible in a glass cool room adjacent to the restaurant. This gives the meat a great head start. We opted for the pork and beef. Both of these meats were full of flavor and had been superbly cooked to render simple flavors and good honest cooking. 

The Chef, Chris Shepherd certainly is talented, the food was of a very high standard, the flavors sumptuous and the menu exciting. 

The wine list starts off with some great foodie ales, my only concern here was the prices. I was reluctant to spend $30 on a bottle of beer irrespective of how good it may be. The wines are dominated with European wines which was a bit of a surprise given the theme of the restaurant. One good feature however is that you can always BYOB for a oddest corkage fee of $15 which we did. Somehow French wine didn't ring true for me with great Southern cooking, and I'm glad we did opt for the BYOB option. 

In summary, this has to go on the "we must go back" list and when writing this I was already planning the next menu choices in my mind which is always a good sign.

Address: 1100 Westheimer Road, Houston, Texas 77006

Phone: 713.528.9800

Contacts www.underbellyhouston.com

© John Holmes 2014