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Major Restaurant Closes

Katsuya suddenly closes to make way for a hot new local restaurant

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Photo by © 2012 Ryan Forbes
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Katsuya chef

Katsuya — the hot sushi restaurant in West Ave that stood out as a favorite of pro athletes and scene setters alike — has closed, clearing the way for another high-end restaurant to take over its coveted space.

Sources tell CultureMap that the shuttering has nothing to do with the dramatic restaurant's culinary success — the swanky LA-import didn't lack buzz or crowds. Instead the restaurant is closing because of disagreements between its partners. This move was apparently in the works for months.

Master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi — who built the celebrity-beloved sushi concept in LA, Miami and San Diego — no longer wanted to be involved with the Houston project, according to our sources. Instead, the local GEG Group involved in Katsuya has turned to Korean chef Donald Chang — the man behind Uptown Sushi, Nara and Bluefin — to helm a new restaurant in the space.

 Katsuya's most striking features — its much buzzed over Philippe Starck design — will get a complete makeover from architect Isaac Preminger.  

A new version of Nara is now slated to open in the Katsuya spot this fall.

“We’ve been waiting for the right time to do this,” Chang said in a statement. “We’ve seen restaurants around town feature one or two Korean items on their menu. I want to give the full inspired menu while blending it with my Japanese cooking background to create an experience like none other in this city.”

Chang grew up in Seoul, South Korea and he's been in Houston for 37 years.

Katsuya's most striking features — its much buzzed over Philippe Starck design — will get a complete makeover from architect Isaac Preminger. The goal is to make the restaurant a more comfortable space, one where the chefs will be put on center stage and be visible to diners. An outdoor patio and a Bun Bar also will be created.

The dramatics aren't completely going away either. A large Sakura tree made from petrified wood and hand-made pink silk leaves will greet diners at Nara's entrance.

But it's still quite a change from Katsuya.

The LA import had a hype-filled opening in West Ave last year. Starck laid out its interior like a bento box to create interlocking private dining spaces, a complement to the sushi and robata offerings that promised to be Japanese cuisine shaped for an American palate.

With Chang, the emphasis could be returning more to the food rather than the scene. 

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