A veteran restaurateur has tapped a rising star chef and an industry veteran for his buzzy new project. Ian Tucker, the Irishman-turned-Texan behind Balls Out Burger, has hired Dominick Lee and Todd Leveritt, to see as executive chef and general manager, respectively, for Poitín (put-cheen), his restaurant and bar that’s coming to Sawyer Yards later this year.
Tucker told CultureMap in August that Poitín represents something that he feels Houston is missing: an all day bar and restaurant with a casual environment where the drinks are as good as the food and service. The location features an expansive patio with a view of the downtown skyline.
“I guess I’m trying to put together the best of a few places,” Tucker said on CultureMap’s “What’s Eric Eating” podcast. “Places that do amazing food, but that might not have the best drinks. Other places that have amazing drinks but maybe not the best food. Other places that have amazing atmosphere but not the best product. I’m trying to combine all those things.”
To help him realize that vision, Tucker tapped Lee. The chef comes to Poitín after spending the last year as the executive sous chef at Kiran’s; the New Orleans native tells CultureMap that he wasn’t necessarily looking to leave the fine dining restaurant, but Tucker made him a compelling offer by giving him lots of input on Poitín food and design.
“I’m able to design the entire kitchen based on how I would want it to be and how I would want it laid out. I’m really interested in restaurant design,” Lee tells CultureMap. “To create my own menu, the entire menu, without an outside influence from an owner standpoint. That kind of trust I really appreciate.”
Lee says he’s developing a menu that’s inspired by Houston’s immigrant communities with dishes that utilize locally grown, seasonal produce. Although he’s not ready to divulge specific dishes, expect him to highlight both his personal history and his professional background by blending in both Creole and Indian flavors. He adds that he learned a great deal by working for Kiran’s chef-owner Kiran Verma.
“You learn how to really work all day and focus in on the most important details,” Lee says. “Chef Kiran, she owns the restaurant herself. She’s there every day. Her most important goal is to make sure the guest enjoys the food and really enjoys the experience. It’s fine dining, but she also is a very gracious host. You learn to do that from her.”
As for Leveritt, the restaurant industry vet brings an extensive resume to the role with stints at everywhere from Gravitas and Museum Park Cafe, to El Big Bad.
“As a professional who strives to challenge myself with new opportunities whenever possible, joining the team at Poitín will be an exciting new venture,” Leveritt added in a statement. “I am looking forward to working alongside Ian, who has proven to be a skilled restaurateur in Ireland and will no doubt be an excellent leader at Poitín.”
Construction on the space is ongoing. Lee says the current plan calls for it to be complete in mid-April. Training and practice service would begin after that, with an eye on an opening in May for lunch, dinner, and brunch. The chef offers a succinct summary of his vision for the restaurant.
“I really want to bring a fine dining aspect in a more casual environment, where people can have perfectly executed food, made from scratch, with great, bold flavors,” Lee says.