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Eat This: East Texas Caviar Service at Oxbow 7

December 27, 2017 GMT

I don’t know about you, but I always feel like treating myself to a little caviar around the holidays. Traditionally, sturgeon eggs and its ritual accompaniments are laid out formally. It’s a costly indulgence; even a fussy one.

Not at chef Bryan Caswell’s Oxbow 7 at Le Méridien Houston, one of downtown’s welcome new crop of hotels featuring serious restaurants. Caswell’s “East Texas Caviar Service” is an affordable 11 bucks, and it’s a dish with style and a sense of humor.

First of all, the fish eggs involved, in keeping with Oxbow 7′s “bayou cuisine” theme, are from the Louisiana bowfin, also known as choupique - a toothy mudfish that’s more or less a living fossil. They’re as shiny and black as sturgeon eggs, but smaller. Oxbow’s version tinges them with ghost pepper - a technique I suspected might overwhelm the vital fish-egg effect.

But no! There was just enough of a chile-pepper bite to let the brininess shine through.

And the delivery system made me smile like a kid on Christmas morning. Out came a many-sailed schooner of house-made potato chips, stuck aloft on a seafoam of sauce gribiche, that dressier cousin to tartar sauce. Perched on top were the gleamy blobs of choupique caviar; tucked between the chips were the traditional bits of hard-boiled egg and minced onion, plus some green spears of chive.


I had puzzled some over the “hot link” specified by the menu as part of the dish. How was that supposed to work? Instead of a hunk of sausage, there were thin shavings of spicy link cradled among the potato leaves.

The whole thing was tons of fun to share. I’m betting it could even serve as an entry level dish for people who swear they’ll never eat fish eggs, and at a price that makes the experiment palatable.

Better yet, wine director Nate Rose’s terrific wine list offers unexpected choices to go along, either by the glass or the bottle. I was particularly smitten by a sparkling Lambrusco, a 2015 Puinello Ancestrale Rosé, that was versatile enough to go with ghost pepper choupique eggs and potato chips. Just ask Rose for a suggestion if he’s on the floor. I’ve found his pairings really interesting. Celebratory, even.

Happy New Year.