Chef Austin Simmons introduces his Fall 2017 menu at his fast casual concept; one of the most unique restaurants in the Woodlands. We sample his latest work.
In the restaurant industry, resting on your laurels is a way to get left behind. No one knows this better than Chef Austin Simmons, the mastermind behind the Hubbell & Hudson family of restaurants. We sampled Chef Austin’s Fall 2017 menu at Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen, and these were some of the most exciting highlights.
First out was one of the “Opportunities”, or small plates. In this case, the Onion Rings Tower. We love onion rings, and this was a superlative example; crispy, delicious crust enveloping sweetly tangy rings of onion that didn’t pull out of the ring when bitten. It’s often simple dishes like this that are challenging to execute, and we were impressed with the finesse shown with this humble dish.
One of the biggest surprises of the evening appeared next. Lobster Stuffed Avocado is its name, and it is a revelation. A nicely sized avocado is filled with chunks of tender, flavorful lobster, a hint of miso, sliced tomato, and topped with a house hollandaise sauce.
I’m generally not a huge fan of either avocado or hollandaise. But this combination was delicious. The tender, slightly sweet lobster was beautifully accented by the creaminess of the avocado and the richness of the hollandaise. This is an indulgent appetizer, and one that we can recommend without reservation.
A sampler of the Kitchen’s new tacos appeared. (They’re served in pairs on the menu.) If you’ve ever wondered what would happen to tacos if a creative, award-winning chef decided to put his spin on tacos, here is the answer.
On the right, the Sustainable Fried Catfish taco. Those of us who grew up on catfish in the south are in for a big surprise; this is not your mother’s catfish. High quality fish, remarkably flavorful, fried in a light, crispy crust, topped with malt vinegar tartar sauce. A great choice for the fish lover.
In the middle, Pork Carnitas taco. Juicy, slightly crispy and deeply flavorful carnitas are topped with a medley of mozzarella, avocado, jalapeños, grilled onions and scallions. Deep, rich flavors in the most classic of the three tacos on the menu.
On the right; our favorite. Lobster tacos. Large, tender chucks of perfectly prepared lobster meat, buttery smooth and kicked up with the tang of miso aioli and house pico de gallo. Forget pedestrian lobster rolls; this is a delicious bite and one of the best tacos we’ve ever eaten.
Burgers & Sandwiches
We’ve learned that when Chef Austin has a new burger, it’s going to be memorable. And his two new creations at Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen certainly do not disappoint.
Here is the American Melt, Chef Austin’s take on the classic patty melt. Two quarter-pound patties of Hereford Angus beef are griddled with high quality American cheese. One is topped with oak grilled onions; the other with mushrooms. This creation is piled high on a Slow Dough potato bun, then compressed in a panini press. The result is a rich, soulful burger, with the beefy swagger of the Angus patties complemented by the earthy bite of the mushrooms. The sweet zing of the grilled onions provides a bright counterpoint to the deep flavors, and the result is a masterful riff on this American classic.
A great chef knows when to step outside the box. Here, we step outside the box and into the next room with the bizarrely delicious PB&J burger. A hefty Angus patty is slathered with house-made peanut butter (crunchy, of course), bacon jam, candied jalapeños, and arugula. Somehow, this unholy pairing of burger and sandwich works, and it works beautifully. But be prepared: One napkin (or even three) is not enough to stay tidy during this burger.
On a lighter note, there are several interesting new sandwiches on the menu. We first sampled the Prosciutto Panini. It is a simple sandwich with delicious ingredients (Prosciutto di Parma, smoked gouda, caramelized onions made elaborate with two sauces; a cool basil pesto and a sassy romesco. The contrasting nut-based sauces are the kind of unexpected, thoughtful take that Chef Austin makes look easy. The result is delicious.
Finally, a lovely sandwich designed for the health-conscious: The simply named Tuna Sandwich. A hefty slab of oak grilled tuna, seasoned with the traditional herbs de provence, then dressed with cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, and feta goat cheese spread. Zest is added with a spritz of ginger soy dressing; eating healthy never tasted this good.
Plates & Bowls
Speaking of healthy, the Super Food Bowl is sure to delight those who are serious about watching what they eat. A cornucopia of veggies (broccoli, baby corn, red bells, artichoke, chick peas, and more) are quickly heated with olive oil and topped with the delicious romesco… and a fried egg. The result is low carb, healthy and surprisingly satisfying. Vegans can forgo the egg, of course.
Here’s something that we didn’t expect: Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Ravioli. Dressed with brown butter, capers, tomatoes, fines herbes and slivered almonds, the sweet/savory balance is beautifully managed. The dish is light but satisfying, and unlike any other pasta dish you’ll find in the area.
At this point, we were slowing down, but we had to try one of the plated entrees. The Oak Grilled Pork Shanks were highly recommended, so we dug in. Three beautifully grilled shanks were sauced with Chef Austin’s H1 barbecue sauce, and served with asparagus, a very chunky house potato salad, and bacon. The flavors are subtle and balanced, with the slightly tangy barbecue sauce gently bringing out the roast pork flavor. The potato salad was a rare miss for us; we didn’t love the dish. But we know Chef Austin has mastered potato salad; the version he offered up at Hubbell’s Barbecue Festival was stunningly good. I have a feeling this dish will be perfected in no time.
One thing that Chef Austin wanted to add to the menu at the Kitchen was warm plated desserts. Something that could be shared after dinner. His offering was very clever: Dessert waffles, soft and hot, served with an amalgam of delicious toppings.
First up was the cinnamon apple waffle. Topped with an entire spiralized apple, vanilla ice cream, a drizzle of caramel, and a sprinkle cinnamon, this decadent dish is one we’ll order again. And again. And again.
The second variation we sampled was a spin on bananas. Brûléed bananas, vanilla ice cream, chocolate drizzle, and a sprig of mint combines to form a rich, creamy dish that finish the evening delightfully.
We were very impressed with Chef Austin Simmons’s new fall menu at Hubbell & Hudson Kitchen. Each time this talented chef rolls out new dishes, he ups his game and stretches the definition of what can be expected from a Fast Casual establishment. We in the Woodlands are very lucky to have a chef of this caliber doing such wonderful food.
Head on over and check it out for yourself. You may just bump into us there. Say hello… but I’m not sharing my tacos with you.