Family-owned eatery makes dinner zesty
Four words that you would never expect to see in the same sentence are, “Fine-dining Mexican food,” yet it is exactly what you will find at Hugo’s on the corner of Westheimer and Mandell.
An immigrant from Puebla, Mexico, chef Hugo Ortega brings his family history and heritage of rustic Mexican cuisine and introduces some French techniques to provide some of the best Mexican food you can find in Texas.
Now, for the skeptics out there who believe that Mexican restaurants are a dime a dozen and that an enchilada at one taqueria is the same anywhere else, while that may be true for some, this is an exception to the rule.
Ortega takes pride in everything that comes out of the kitchen, from the molès, the cheeses, tortillas, beans, and pastries — they’re all made in house by him and his skilled staff, including his brother, who is the executive pastry chef.
For a group of four to six people, the appetizer platter is perfect to start out with. It’s a long narrow tray teaming with tamales, sopesitos, which are fried bowls of masa filled with different sauced meats, sweet plantain empanadas and crispy fried chicken tacos; with so many great dishes on one plate, to sum it up as a whole would be a disservice.
I worked my way across the plate, starting with the tamales, masa-wrapped meat rolled in a plantain leaf pocket, so tender and moist, but it doesn’t disintegrate in your mouth like it was overcooked.
Three sopesitos laid on the platter each filled with a different meat, adobo spice rubbed rabbit, braised lamb with a spicy barbacha sauce, and goat with ancho chili sauce all nestled in handmade fried bowls of masa dough are an excellent balance of flavor and texture.
The plantain empanadas are an intriguing concept. A paste made of sweet plantains is wrapped around refried beans and then fried, creating a great contrast of sweet and savory, along with a slight crisp from the fried plantain paired with the smooth refried beans inside.
Some might recognize the fried tacos as flautas; whatever you want to call them, it doesn’t change the fact that they are tasty.
Drizzled with a salsa verde and topped with thin strips of radish, it is a simple addition to the platter, but it doesn’t take away the fact they are some great tacos.
For the main course, a plate of duck legs cooked confit, a French cooking technique, involving cooking a protein in its own fat to help develop natural flavors, taking something great and cooking it in awesome to make something that is fall-off-the-bone incredible.
The duck is then covered in a poblano mole, a rich thick sauce which is a food staple in Mexican cuisine; depending on which Mexican family you talk to, the recipe can vary in number of ingredients and instructions much like how Texans are with their barbecue.
To finish off the meal, and put a final nail in the coffin and bury any hopes of keeping a healthy diet, we ordered the chocolate filled churros with Mexican hot chocolate.
Fresh churros fried to perfection, rolled in sugar and stuffed with chocolate makes for a nice treat.
I am not too big on the complex desserts with different kinds of fruit gastrique and blown sugar sculptures; just keep it simple and tasty, and I am a happy man.
A place to keep in mind for special occations or a night out, Hugo’s delivers. and you leave satisfied.