Cravers of Chinese food, rejoice: Mary Li has brought soul-satisfying Asian food within reach of those who refuse to crawl along Bellaire on the regular.
Ginger & Fork (the name represents both a crucial ingredient in Asian cooking as well as the restaurant’s “east meets west” sensibility) opened on March 15, tucked just off of Shepherd near I-10 in the former La Fisheria space and serving up upscale Hong Kong-style Cantonese dishes.
Hallmark dishes includes the bone brittle flounder, where flounder is fried so deeply that the delicate bones nearly shatter, a stir-fried ginger and onion lobster, and silk egg chow fun. On our visit, we began with the spicy tofu cubes and chilled woodear mushroom medley, a pleasant duo of dishes: the tofu was very mildly spiced, but crisply fried; the mushrooms were nicely textured but otherwise unremarkable.
Don’t be scared away by the “spicy” labels—the spicy asparagus shrimp was toned down in spice, and the juicy shrimp found a vibrant backdrop in the sauce-glazed asparagus. The G&F fried shrimp was very similar to the spicy tofu cubes with the same flavorful salt and pepper batter, though the shrimp didn’t quite retain the same juiciness as the neighboring asparagus shrimp. The seasonal Chinese greens (currently pea shoot greens) were expertly sautéed and seasoned.
I like my eggplant stir fried until it’s so tender it nearly melts in your mouth, and that’s precisely how one of the standouts—the spicy eggplant—was served (although again, the spice level was mild enough for a wimp like me to enjoy it fully). The steamed seabass in soybean sauce was another must-order: the buttery seabass comes bathed in a flavorful broth with just enough dabs of a pungent, briny soybean sauce on top to balance the delicate fish.
Sampling all four desserts on the menu (the fresh fruit plate, a chocolate mousse cake, a ginger cheesecake parfait, and the crowning jewel—a pear crème brulee) allowed several of them to rise to the top. Though I wouldn’t call myself a cheesecake fan, I kept going back to the cheesecake and graham-layered parfait sprinkled with just the mildest bit of earthy ginger powder. And if only the golden crust adorning the small boat of crème brulee were shattery rather than bendy, the decadent crème brulee studded with fresh bits of pear would be perfection.
The long list of interesting cocktails designed by Li (formerly a bartender at Tony Mandola’s) are also worth a peek. The signature whisky root ($12) incorporates ginger and thai basil along with Buffalo Trace bourbon, Benedictine and orange bitters; dragon fire ($14) is a gin-based cocktail with ancho chili liqueur, bitters, lemon juice and freshly muddled dragon fruit; and their take on a margarita—the ginger margarita—incorporates both ginger and ginger liqueur.
While prices are higher at Ginger & Fork compared to most Bellaire establishments ($8-$10 for appetizers and soups, around $15 for noodle or vegetable dishes, and mid-twenties for fish or meat dishes), the prices make sense in the context of the more upscale ambiance. Whether you stop in for a 2-course business lunch ($20 on Tuesdays-Fridays from 11-2pm) or for dinner any day of the week (except Mondays, when it’s closed, and Sundays, when it’s open until 3:30pm), Ginger and Fork is a satisfying stop for a well-executed Cantonese dishes.