Sweet El Meson in the Rice Village

    Sometimes things just refuse to go the way you plan.

    I’ve been looking forward to the fried chicken at this place called Number 1 Chicken Rice & Seafood for half a year. It’s in Houston, so I have two time windows each year, each a couple of weeks long, to plan my voyage. Last winter we hit the place less than an hour after they closed (which was like 8 pm, I think), this June we were even more determined. According to Aaron’s sources, they open on Sunday between 6 and 7 pm. Strange, but okay. We camped out at the museum for over an hour because the museum is relatively near Number 1 Chicken, and we didn’t want to take any chances. At 6 we drove into its parking lot. The OPEN sign wasn’t lit up. Aaron checked the schedule posted on the door: they’re closed on Sunday. Fine. I’m not meant to eat Number 1 Chicken’s fried chicken. Surely there must be other fried chickens somewhere along Alameda. Following Varun’s advanced GPS system that didn’t allow us to type in anything unless the car is stopped (for safety reason, even though the one who punched the buttons wasn’t the driver), we drove to a few more possible-blogging-material spots, one of them no longer exists. And all of them were closed. We weren’t even meant to eat on Alameda?!

    Accepting fate, we gave up on Alameda and headed back to the Rice Village, Aaron’s “hunting ground”. Between Picky Varun and Picky Mai, we settled into El Meson. Cuban.

    Here we were in this pretty good-looking Latin American place with frescos of flamboyant girls in flamboyant flamenco dresses and a generous bowl of Andes Mint at the front desk, from which we took (quite) a few as we walked in. The guys were wondering if they have free chips and salsa here (you know, like at the usual Tex-Mex resto in your neighborhood strip mall). We were hungry. Well, they do. The chips and salsa came out after we ordered. I was a bit sad that I couldn’t get the paella (minimum order of 2 people, and yet another thing that didn’t go my way that day), so I got two tapas plates.

    If you have a sweet tooth like me, and I don’t mean just a liking for dessert but a liking for sweetness in everything from meat to noodle soup(*), El Meson is for you. The plantains are one thing, but the cinnamon pineapple that goes with the crab cakes ($9.95) and the honey-glazed pork belly ($9.95) are sweet enough to be desserts. The crackling skin offered a nice textural contrast, but slices of poached apple didn’t help toning down the sugar.

    I liked the plantains in Varun’s Pollo Salteado ($15.95, grilled chicken sauteed with onion and pepper in sherry sauce, served on rice and black beans with a side of grilled plantains), but Varun found them too sweet.

    For dessert, we took “some” more Andes Mint. 😉

    Address: El Meson
    2425 University Blvd.
    Houston, TX 77005
    (713) 522-9306
    Dinner for 3: $65 – For more pictures of our food, see Photon Flavors.

    (*) There are many noodle soups with a sweet broth. Not sweet like your banana cream pie but when you taste the first spoon, you’d go “wow this broth is sweet!” Examples are Lao and Cambodian noodle soups (such as hu tiu). One of my favorite ingredients in the Korean mul naengmyun (cold buckwheat noodle soup) is the Asian pear, which is sweet. But it’s nothing new really, all broths need some kind of sweetness, either from bone marrow or from mushroom.

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