Compared to the frenetic pace of the last few months, the pace of openings has slowed a bit, but Houston restaurants continue to generate lots of news. Here’s a quick look at all the recent happenings worth knowing.
Chefs on the move
A number of area chefs have changed jobs recently. Clark Cooper Concepts announced last week that it has “amicably separated” from longtime executive chef Brandi Key. The chef played an instrumental role in the company, contributing to the openings of (the now shuttered) Coppa Ristorante and its sibling Coppa Osteria, Punk’s Simple Southern Food, SaltAir Seafood Kitchen (closed last year), and The Dunlavy event space.
Key tells CultureMap that she’s working on a self-described passion project called The Kitchen Key, which will teach “the basics of home cooking and cooking with kids through the use of multiple social media platforms.”
Martha de Leon, the chef who won last year’s CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Rising Star of the Chef for her work at Pax Americana, has left her position to move to Seattle with her husband, Abe. Pax owner Dan Zimmerman tells CultureMap that Pax has hired de Leon’s replacement and will “have an entirely new menu in the next month or two as well as some planned cosmetic updates.”
Former Underbelly sous chef Gary Ly has changed his plans. Originally tabbed for one of the concepts at downtown’s upcoming Bravery Chef Hall, Ly has instead decided to move to New York, to work as a sous chef at celebrity chef David Chang’s restaurant Momofuku. Diners can wish Ly bonne chance on February 6, when the chef will host a pop-up at Eight Row Flint devoted to the Lunar New Year with a bowl of wonton noodle soup with smoked pork broth and charred Chinese broccoli.
Everything that’s old is new again at Boheme, where chef Rishi Singh has returned to the kitchen after a two-and-a-half year stint at downtown tapas restaurant Batanga. The chef’s influence can already been seen on the patio bar’s menu in dishes like smoked barbacoa tacos, shrimp toast, and a new pizza that uses a variety of Asian sausages.
Finally, visitors to Star Fish might notice a familiar face in the kitchen. Veteran Houston chef Joseph Stayshich (Benjy’s, Karbach Brewery) has made the jump from Eloise Nichols to Cherry Pie Hospitality's Heights-adjacent seafood restaurant.
Openings and Closings
Speaking of Montrose patio bars, Doc’s Motorworks Bar & Grill has closed after three years in business. Rumors that Ruggles Black chef Bruce Molzan would take over the space and rebrand it as Ruggles Ice have not come to fruition, according to a report in the Houston Business Journal. While the space’s future is uncertain, don’t expect a prime location in Montrose (with respectable parking) to stay empty for long.
Pondicheri has brought its contemporary Indian cuisine to the Asia Society Texas Center. Pondi Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday with a menu that mixes favorite dishes from its larger sibling with a few one-offs, like a chickpea pie and a Bournvita ice cream sandwich.
Bacon Bros. Public House, the South Carolina-based bar and restaurant, has closed. Known for its housemade charcuterie and barbecue, the restaurant lasted less than a year in Sugar Land Town Square.
River Oaks has a new destination for doro wat and kitfo. Acclaimed Ethiopian restaurant Blue Nile has opened a second location at 3030 Audley St. in the space previously occupied by Luigi’s Cucina Italiana.
Kura Revolving Sushi Bar, the California-based restaurant that opened its first Houston-area location last year, has added an additional outpost in Sugar Land at 13513 University Blvd. While no one will confuse its cuisine with the quality found at an intimate omakase feast, being able to receive two pieces of nigiri for only $2.25 has its own rewards.
Other news and notes
The day is drawing near when Kenny & Ziggy’s will sell its 2 millionth matzo ball. The lucky schlemiel who orders the winning ball will receive prizes, a $100 gift card, and a t-shirt that reads “My Matzo Balls are Bigger than Yours!” At the present rate of sales, the restaurant expects a winner to be crowned sometime during the week of February 5.
None of the employees of Aqui, the Houston restaurant opened by Austin chef Paul Qui, have commented publicly about what it's like to work somewhere where the owner has been accused of domestic assault, until now. Pastry chef Jillian Bartolome addresses a variety of topics, including negative publicity and questions she's received from friends about her decision, in this conversation with San Francisco chef Richie Nakano on ChefsFeed.
Cane Rosso may be known for pizza, but chefs Jonathan Jones and Matt Wommack want it to be known for burgers, too. On Wednesday nights, both the Heights and Montrose locations are offering the Ghostface Squealer Burger (beef and ghost pepper bacon patty with habanero slaw, pickles, spicy mayo, and double American cheese, $12) and the Cane Rosso Burger ($10) served with potato puffs.
Veteran Houston bartender Chris Morris (Hunky Dory, Radio Milano) will present the regalo cocktail he’s created for the Bacardi Legacy cocktail competition at four venues this week. Find the drink (a mixture of rum, champagne, mango nectar, sugar, and basil leaves) on Wednesday, January 31 at Sloan/Hall from 5 -7 pm; on Thursday, February 1 at South Bank Seafood Bar from 4 - 8 pm; on Friday, February 2 at Ladybird’s from 6 - 10 pm; and Saturday, February 3 at Johnny’s Gold Brick from 8 pm until close.