Texas has never been a vegetarian’s paradise, but if there’s one chef that can change the way you think about a meatless meal, it’s Justin Yu.
And great news: If you’re ready to challenge the norm, Yu is offering two multi-course vegetarian meals on Saturday, July 30: A lunch seating at noon and a dinner seating at 6:30 p.m. The seated meals will take place at Umai in Bellaire’s Chinatown — six courses for $75 per person, including alcohol. And if you’ve been to one of Yu’s meals before, you know you can probably expect an extra one to two courses thrown in for good measure.
You might remember Yu from last year’s popular pop-up, the Just August Project. There he collaborated with chefs Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan to create outrageous courses full of jaw-dropping culinary acrobatics. He popped up again earlier this year to offer a multi course beer dinner with Justin Vann at the Ralph Smith Photography Studio; each course highlighted aspects of his recent staging experience abroad.
Yu is ready to challenge our usual: A vegetarian dinner, he postulates, can set off just as many fireworks as any meal out there.
While Yu’s previous dinners have relied heavily on his most recent experience at the time, this new vegetarian dinner will combine techniques gleaned from his experience as a whole, a sure sign that the young chef is coming into his own.
Much of his inspiration stems from his time at Ubuntu and the Green Zebra — two vegetarian restaurants globally regarded for their ingenuity — but diners can expect to see elements garnished throughout his well-rounded experience. After all, Yu’s resume includes stops at some of the world’s most highly regarded restaurants — in Chicago, Napa Valley, Belgium, Denmark and Houston. He calls this new vegetarian offering “a modern interpretation of the summer growing season,” and we can’t wait to see exactly what that entails.
Why vegetarian? Despite our reputation as a meat-lover’s Mecca, our burgeoning desire for local produce has turned our attention squarely on the veritable vegetable — no fettucine alfredo allowed. Yu is ready to challenge our usual: A vegetarian dinner, he postulates, can set off just as many fireworks as any meal out there.
It’s an underdog stance for sure — but he’s got whisk, steamer, and saucepan in hand, ready to prove his theory correct. “Last year during Just August I wanted to do more vegetable dishes,” Yu says, “but you really have to hit it before the full summer heat sets in. This year I wanted to do something before it got too hot.”
The young chef plans to source ingredients from several of his favorite market vendors — like Utility Research Garden and Knopp Branch. Take those lush local flavors and combine them with Yu’s mind-blowing modern techniques, and you can watch the magic happen.
Drink pairings will come from Justin Vann, beverage guru at Central Market. Now Vann’s got quite the task, here … While meat-rich dinners offer a basic pairing roadmap, vegetables dishes are more dynamic in nature.
But Vann, who likes to use lesser known, more underappreciated beverage styles, can certainly handle the challenge. There will likely be some beer, some wine and perhaps another creative drink stuff or two thrown in, too.
To reserve your spot for the 20-seat meals, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Once your spot is confirmed, you’ll receive a PayPal request to put down a $35 per person deposit.
You’ll need to bring the remaining $40 per person (plus any gratuity) with you to the dinner. Please note that dinners are vegetarian, but not vegan.