When I arrived back in H-town and asked friends what new restaurant they were loving, they all had the same answer, “we went to that new Mexican place off Kirby and it’s AMAZING. One of our new favorites and it has a good crowd. It’s called Yelapa, you have to go.”
Well ok then.
So on Monday Trey and I went to see what all the fuss was about. After a three course meal over two hours, I still can’t imagine how Yulapa is the talk of the town.
In my heart I know it was an off night because when I tell you this story, you won’t believe it.
We arrived to a half empty restaurant, but of course we still knew a couple sitting at one of the front tables. They insisted this was one of the best meals they have devoured in a while. No one would be able to tell they dined on chicken and salmon because their plates were wiped clean. For an appetizer, they shared a guacamole the woman insisted was “unlike any guac you’ve ever laid your lips on.” One of the ingredients was cinnamon, so this could have been true.
Apparently our table was doomed for failure because our experience wasn’t even close to complimentary. I’ll try to summarize. To begin, the waiter served us room temperature chardonnay…twice! Jay, the manager, came over to apologize, so I told him I would be writing a review (thinking this might get them on their game). So I wasn’t surprised when LJ Wiley (the Executive Chef who worked with legends like Jean George) came out with a complimentary appetizer. But I was surprised he would choose raw aged Kobe beef to bestow on guests who ordered all fish. Either way, the cut was mediocre at best.
We then waited another 20 minutes before receiving the citrus ceviche the waiter had reccommended. Again, not up to snuff with other local favorites. Although the catch was incredibly fresh, the huge chunks of fish and fruit made it impossible to get a taste of everything on one fork. When the entrees finally made it to the table, we found the mahi mahi to be cold and overcooked. The specialty cesaer salad should have been chopped and tossed, but they chose presentation instead of preparation. Now tragedy strikes. The flavors of both dishes were truly unique and uplifting instead of heavy. I wouldn’t refer to either as Mexican because Wiley’s sides and spices added complexity to the classic centerpieces and showed the possibility for perfection. After we cleaned the plates (out of shear hunger), Jay returned to ask why we didn’t dig into the pork belly that accompanied the fish. “It really makes the whole dish. Usually I have to come over and tell people to try it and then it’s gone within seconds,” he said. Figures. As for dessert, Jay brought over a Cinco Leches cake that sounded divine, but I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you it was dry as a bone. Follow that up with cold coffee and let’s just call it a night, shall we? Oh, and on your way out, please don’t notice the two women enjoying a nice hot chocolate cake covered in cream.
The worst part about this experience is that I truly believe we just fell into the wrong reservation. I think Wiley’s menu is inspired and offeres Houston a refreshing perspective on a local favorite cuisine. The complexity of the spice combinations reflects a deep understanding and passion for food.
A long story long…..You will find me there again to give chef LJ Wiley , an active twitterer, another shot to make my taste buds tingle.
Yelapa – 2303 Richmond, Houston TX 713-501-0391
(Full Disclosure: The kobe appetizer, dessert, and warm wine was comped by the restaurant.)
Photos via restaurant website.Tweet this!