Friday, August 27, 2010

Hotel Derek

Logo from Hotel Derek website
 
So, if you are a regular reader of my blog (I just know you are), then you probably realize that I try to only write positive reviews. However, there are some instances where I cannot, in good conscience, do so. This is my first negative review and I feel very torn about it.

My mixed emotions come from my desire to only show the awesomeness that is our city, but for those readers who may visit someday, I feel this post is important.

Houston is a city well known for its diversity, FOOD, museums, health care and historic attractions. We also have a plethora of hotels to choose from.

Every so often, I will check in to a hotel to see if we like what they have to offer. Not that people really know who I am, but since I've gotten more followers over the year, I have decided that checking in "incognito" and at different times of the day would be the best way for me to give a complete, unbiased opinion.

I decided this time I should check out the Hotel Derek. I had driven by it a million times and I always see it on different internet sites listed as modern, sleek and geared toward the younger and more successful businessmen/women. I went spur of the moment, late one night. I checked in about 11pm and acted like I was coming in from Dallas and needed a room stat.

The valet guy was incredibly helpful, as was the lady at the front desk. I will say that Hotel Derek offers absolutely wonderful customer service. They listened to me ramble on about my hardships and my desperate need for sleep, blah, blah, blah. That, in and of itself, was worth gold.

They were able to get me the exact type of room I requested, explained to me how to get around Houston, were extremely accommodating and very nice. I requested a balcony room suite with wi-fi internet access. At $179 + tax for the King Bed suite, I was pretty impressed. That was, until I walked into said suite.

As I meandered through the lobby and wandered down the cool hallway of the Hotel Derek, I begin to feel a knot of excitement develop in my belly. "This is going to be so amazing, I can feel it" I told myself. Total luxury for much less than other places I've seen.

As I slid my electronic card key into the reader and opened the door, I was almost instantly disappointed. I should have realized that a balcony suite would be the room most smokers utilized. I was greeted with a wave a smoke that actually took my breath away and made me gag. The "luxury" was limited to the comfy bed that we slept on.

The overdone cold, sharp lines of the room and the exposed plumbing and metal in the bathroom just looked old and ghetto. There was a large bench across the bed that looked dirtier than my cat's litter box and a small little office area off to the side. I've honestly seen more luxury in a La Quinta before.

I could see how this would have been fantastic 10 years ago, but Hotel Derek is in some serious need of updating. The trickle of water that came from the shower was barely enough to get the shampoo out of my hair. The waffle-weave robe was rough and scratchy, the lighting was horrendous and I could hear traffic from the 610 loop ALL NIGHT LONG.

Being the hot-natured person that I am, I was excited to see that the thermostat was set at 60 degrees. However, after about an hour, I realized that the actual temperature in the room was increasing. It was 67 degrees when I checked in and 74 when I checked out. I know how to work a thermostat and am not crazy, so this was disappointing, to say the least.

The wi-fi made zero sense to me as my laptop could not detect it, There was a wi-fi jack in the room, but no place to plug it in. It was very confusing.

Perhaps most annoying was my inability to access the refrigerator to get a cold water. I had to call down to the concierge to GET A KEY to open the mini-fridge for a $7 BOTTLE OF WATER.

All in all, the customer service at this hotel is great, but if it's luxury you're looking for, I'd try someplace else.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kata Robata


I am always on the search for the perfect sushi place.  For some reason, whenever I find it, the Chef is always Jean-Phillipe Gaston.  Hmmmm.... I think I see a trend here.  I love what Chef Gaston cooks, or doesn't cook in some cases (raw fish, mmmm!). 

I was first introduced to my food hero when I dined at Kata Robata's sister restaurant, Soma, about a year ago.  He was able to make anything on the menu for me, Gluten-Free, and taste good.  Needless to say, Chef Gaston has always had a place in my heart.  When I found out he moved over to Kata Robata to work with World-Renown Executive Chef Manabu "Hori" Horiuchi, I knew I was going to have to make a bee-line over to Kata Robata asap.

Scallop

Wow! Wow! Wow!!!!!!!!! Am I super happy I did. Kata Robata not only lived up to my expectations, but surpassed them, exponentially! My sister and I were on a food high for the rest of the night and I swear I woke up at 3am craving some of their AH-MAZING Grilled Sashimi Grade Salmon with Yuzu Creamy Butter Sauce.  Wow, that is some good stuff.  

Per the website and per Chef Gaston, "Kata Robata" loosely translated, means "a type of grill".  The salmon was grilled to perfection, not that nasty chain restaurant type of grill.  The texture was smooth and buttery and when combined with the sauce, it made for quite a taste explosion in my grill (mouth). Get it? Grill. Ok, whatever.

Anyway, we started off with some pretty nifty cocktails and then ate about a billion different meals.  Since it is served "tapas" style, you can order everything on the menu and you really aren't a pig.  You are just doing what you are SUPPOSED to do, ok?

The steamed mussels did not have one piece of grit in them and the saki sauce complimented it beautifully.  Followed by the most unbelievable tuna tar-tar and topped off with a special gluten-free cheesecake that Chef Gaston made for me, I was in HEAVEN.

Have I made it clear yet that this place rocks?  Hands down best sushi I've ever had, best Japanese food I've ever had, best restaurant experience I've had, to date.

Thank you Chef Gaston and all the wonderful staff at Kata Robata for making my evening so spectacular!

Interior of Kata Robata


Kata Robata
3600 Kirby Suite H
Houston TX 77099
Tel:713.526.8858
Fax:713526.8859
info@katarobata.com

**All pictures and logo from Kata Robata's official website**

Thursday, August 5, 2010

White Linen Night in the Heights


It's that time of year again! Time to pull out your only white linen shirt or pants that you own and get your sweat-ridden self to The Heights asap.

Saturday, August 7 is the date for Houston's biggest party, "White Linen Night in the Heights".  Fashioned after the "White Linen Nights" parties in New Orleans, The Houston Heights version promises to be just as fun, eclectic and HOT.  Or, as the official website says: "Sultry, Steamy, Exotic and Artfully Provocative".

Here is an excerpt from the official "White Linen Night in the Heights" website, explaining the history of this celebration and what it means:

About White Linen Night in the Heights:

White Linen Night began in New Orleans‘ French Quarter’s Arts District as a way for artists and patrons to celebrate their city’s creativity while wearing cooling apparel to escape the summer heat. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, several business owners relocated to The Heights and set up shop in their new community. Recognizing an opportunity to carry on the tradition set forth by the Crescent City, the new merchants approached neighboring business owners about starting a new event that mixed New Orleans soul with Heights heart. Today, White Linen Night in the Heights is a neighborhood-wide event. It’s held the first Saturday evening in August and draws an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 attendees. Like in New Orleans, event-goers wear white linen and take to the Heights’ streets to celebrate art, culture and community while taking in some of the best entertainment, boutiques and shops, art galleries, restaurants and eclectic bars in Houston. “It’s a way of showing everyone in the city a good time and letting them know what we’re all about,” event organizer Mitch Cohen says. For more information, visit http://whitelinennightHeights.com.

About The Houston Heights

The Heights, Houston‘s oldest planned community, was annexed to the City of Houston in 1918. The area still has many of the original Victorian homes and classic Craftsman Bungalows that it did in its early stages of development, with the addition of new construction that mimics the original architectural vision, sharing tree-lined streets alongside modern homes that reflect the diversity of the residents. Warehouses, old gas stations and old grocery stores have been converted into homes, cafes, restaurants and bars. Gourmet food markets, one-of-a-kind shops, restaurants and bars, and fine art galleries pepper the community. The Heights is home to more professional artists than any other area in Texas – one of the hottest professional art scenes in Texas and is home to the Heights First Saturday and the First Saturday Arts Market. The Heights unofficially now includes the Woodland Heights, Norhill Heights, Sunset Heights and surrounding tiny subdivisions that have all grown together into an eclectically charming area. 

There is no way to go to this event and not find something fun to do.  Between the "First Saturday Arts Market", the Fashion Show and all the participants throwing their own shin-digs, you are bound to find something you will enjoy.

There will also be a great community driven party held at the "Christine Tremoulet photography studio" located at: 1024 Studewood St. Houston, TX 77008.  This party will start at 6:30pm and continue until midnight.  There will be live music, food and tasty adult beverages.  Sponsored by SLGT (if you don't know what that is, then I feel bad for you), this party is going to be the most happening spot in The Heights!!

Hope to see you there.  Don't forget to bring your spray mist and hand-held fans.....It's hot outside!