The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston, is commonly referred to as “the bubble” because of people’s propensity to not want to leave once they get there. It is beautiful, affluent and a great place to shop and eat. The Woodlands offers many restaurant choices from fine dining to typical chain faire, but it struck culinary gold with Hubbell & Hudson Bistro and Chef Austin Simmons.
Chef Simmons began his culinary career straight out of high school and hasn’t looked back. He has worked at several famed restaurants including The Mansion at Turtle Creek and Blackfinn, both in Dallas, as well as at Tesars Modern Steak and Seafood under Chef Jon Tesar. In 2012 he became the executive chef at Hubbell & Hudson Bistro where he began to tell his own story by cooking food that is simple and flavorful. Simmons uses the best ingredients available and sources in Texas or as close to Texas as possible. His menus have a few staples that you can find year round, but many of the dishes change seasonally.
During my visit, I started with the Himachi Crudo which is served with a topping of san bai zu granita. At first bite your mouth is a bit confused by the cold topping, but quickly falls inline with the flavors. Also, on the appetizer menu is wine braised octopus, with artichoke and fennel salad served with a prosciutto chip. Let’s just stop right there and admire all the flavors in one dish. Instead of overpowering one another – they work together to make each one wonderful. Another stand out is the crab and truffle pasta with a parmesan cheese gratin. It is a menu staple, because after one bite you will be counting the days until you can come back and order it again.
Even the “normal” fare on the menu is far from mundane. Many restaurants serve lamb, but none serve it like Chef Simmons. The Baguette Crusted Rack of Texas Lamb is everything you’d expect: juicy, tender and cooked to perfection, but what makes his rack of lamb different from all others is its perfect crust. The outer layer has such a beautiful color and flavor you will want a piece with each bite.
Hubbell & Hudson Bistro offers a complete experience from the wonderful signature drinks, which also change seasonally, to its beautifully crafted dessert menu. Pastry Chef Nguyet Nguyen makes all of the pastries and ice creams in house daily and they do not disappoint. Freshly made chocolate chip bread pudding with butter pecan ice cream, marshmallow fluff and grand marnier anglaise – do I really need to say more? Yes, I do because I also tried a selection of three of Ngyuen’s ice creams and they were fantastic. The mint chocolate chip was wonderful with just the perfect taste of herbal mintiness.
Chef Austin Simmons is a chef on the rise, at only 28 he is delivering food on the level of a seasoned veteran. It’s exciting to think of what we have to look forward to, as he has many years in front of him to delight our taste buds. Chef Simmons is a person you want to befriend on the off chance that he would invite you over for a home cooked meal; it didn’t happen to me, so I guess I will have to follow the masses back to Hubbell & Hudson Bistro again and again.
By Gabi De La Rosa