To those in the know, Chef Hugo Ortega’s name is synonymous with quality…and creativity, integrity, diligence, talent…the list of adjectives could fill this page.
His story of coming to Houston from Mexico many years ago and working as a dishwasher is inspiring. Obviously, hard work, determination and character do matter especially in a country that offers so much opportunity as ours.
His long-time successful dining spots–Hugo’s, Prego’s and Backstreet Café–never disappoint. So, Chef Hugo fans, it should come as no surprise that his new Uptown venture, Caracol, shines as well.
Caracol’s menu is extensive and features a variety of fresh seafood, a Mexican Coastal Kitchen, as it’s called.
A recent lunch at Caracol began with a delicious amuse bouche—a demitasse of roasted tomato soup with a toasty spice of clove and cinnamon. Delish!
Oyster fans, you can choose from Gulf oysters on the half shell or wood grilled oysters with chipotle butter.
I chose the latter which were rich and slightly sweet (I was expecting more of a chipotle spice), a pleasing appetizer for any oyster fan.
There are many enticing items on Caracol’s menu like colorful ceviches, a beautiful boneless butterflied whole fish, even a Texas Kobe strip steak adorned with one of Hugo’s signature moles.
I opted for the tuna tartar tacos with their bright, zesty kick of pico de gallo and creamy lime sauce. These were wonderful, and so was what came next—the beautiful chile relleno! Hard to say which dish I liked best.
The grilled chile relleno, described on the menu as a fish stew-stuffed poblano pepper, was truly stuffed with fish, some delicate sautéed veggies like fresh green peas, and then topped with a red pumpkin seed sauce…so good it was tempting to lick the plate clean!
By all means, save room for dessert. Chef Hugo’s brother, Ruben, is the talented pastry chef.
I recently featured Caracol’s signature dessert on KPRC—El Coco. It’s a chocolate sphere loaded with coconut ganache, butter cream and other delectable delights. It is served with a small mallet—your tool to break into its lusciousness.
Caracol offers a creative selection of wines, cocktails and local craft beers. BTW, this cool spot is also open for brunch.