My first visit to chef Vanarin Kuch’s new EaDo bakery cafe took place weeks ago, but the textures I encountered there were so vivid it feels as if it were yesterday.
That first bite of Kuch’s beef pho kolache told the tale: a thin crackle of shiny, deeply browned crust; a scent of star anise; the give of soft baked dough, the slight resistance of beef chunks. Finally the big surprise — a delicate, puddinglike center that turned the whole bun celestial.
Hey, even the unusual Salty Cambodian coffee drink had texture for days. Kuch calls on his Cambodian roots to change up Houston’s much-loved Vietnamese coffee by adding house-cultured butter to the creamy, lightly sweetened espresso mix. Sip this rich, slightly viscous liquid all the way down, and you encounter snappy salt crystals lurking at the bottom.
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Kuch, the Houston-reared son of Cambodian refugees, has had an interesting career. After serving as the opening pastry chef for Tiny Boxwoods, he competed on TV chef shows “Top Chef: Just Desserts” and “Chopped.” He’s spent time honing his skills in New York and Chicago.
Now, in the same EaDo district where his relatives have operated seafood and doughnut shops, he presides over a cool, crisp sliver of a room with an inviting long counter, midcentury-modern lounge furnishings and an Astroturfed back patio shared with neighboring businesses. The music’s great — I clocked everything from James Brown to contemporary R&B the early afternoon I was there — and the light-filled surroundings make the pastry case shine.
1110 Hutchins, No. 102; koffeteria.com
Open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays
The daily assortment of baked goods might include Kuch’s buzzed-about Hot Cheeto Croissant with nacho cheese, one of those pop-culture items beloved of the Instagram set. No, I have not summoned up the courage to try it, or the Hot Cheeto Grilled Cheese, either. Go ahead and sue me.
What I did try, and admire, was a vast cinnamon roll swirled with an exceptionally savory cream cheese icing, all fluff and smoothness. And a Danish pastry studded with cherries and a lively, tart goat-cheesecake mixture. I thought the croissants and laminated pastries were on the heavy side and could use some lightening up. But the flavors and ideas were there, and I can’t wait to see how Kuch develops his repertoire. He strikes me as a huge talent.
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After all, his version of a gluten-free pineapple upside-down cakelet, rimmed in patterned tiles of white chocolate, fairly sparkled with bright fruit. The day’s purple-potato and mushroom quiche arrived like a gorgeous mosaic slab, its consistency as trembly as just-made custard. (Our server, one of a team of exceptionally nice staff, advised us to note the “jiggle.”)
Even the simple green salad served with the quiche hit all the right notes. “I could spend way too much time at this counter,” I told the friend who had joined me.
I expect big things of this promising new spot. And I expect that very Houstonian beef pho kolache — its brittle top crust achieved with an air fryer, as I have since learned — to become a staple in my life.
Please note, if you go, that Koffeteria is cashless.
Source: Thanks https://www.houstonchronicle.com/entertainment/dining/article/Alison-Cook-s-promising-first-taste-of-EaDo-15010148.php