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New Midtown seafood restaurant is bringing major chef power and caviar dreams

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Former Pesce chef Mark Holley will open a seafood restaurant in Midtown in January. Courtesy of Mark Holley
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The former Sushi Raku space will be remodeled to reflect Holley's Southern cuisine. Photo by © Jill Hunter
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A large raw bar will replace the existing sushi bar.  Courtesy of Jack Thompson Photography
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Places_Food_Sushi Raku_interior

"I want to take the 25 years of experience I have and roll it up into this restaurant." 

That's how former Pesce chef Mark Holley describes Holley's, his new contemporary, American, seafood restaurant during a tour of the space that previously housed Sushi Raku in Midtown.

Although Holley considered a smaller spot in Montrose, he settled on the larger space, because "I need the room to satisfy my appetite for creativity. Now I can express myself to the fullest."

 "I want to reintroduce caviar to Houston."  

That creativity will manifest itself in a dual-concept restaurant that aims to be inviting to its Midtown neighborhood. While things are still very much in the planning stages, that could include late night hours.

The front half of the restaurant will be centered around Raku's old sushi bar. Holley will transform it into a raw bar that will serve oysters, crudi and caviar. "I want to reintroduce caviar to Houston," Holley says.

There will be a large selection of vodkas and champagnes, along with recommended pairings, to go with the oysters.

Since the sushi bar has a vent hood, Holley plans to install a grill for grilled oysters. And yes, Pesce fans, that restaurant's signature raw seafood towers will also make an appearance.

Holley's Other Side

 For now, Holley is concentrating on the seafood restaurant of his dreams.  

The back half of the restaurant will offer "a contemporary feel on an American seafood restaurant" where Holley will blend Southern influences, Creole layers of flavor and the approach to Italian cuisine he learned from Pesce's original owner Damian Mandola. Holley will source from the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the East Coast, West Coast and Alaska. Occasionally, there might be some international fish on the menu, too.

"I'm a big fan of Dover sole, as well as John Dory and Branzino. I'll do them from time to time when they're fresh and available," he says.

Most of the restaurant's design elements will be modified. "We'll keep the marble (on the sushi bar) and some of the wood. Other than that, everything's gone," Holley says. The renovation will also include knocking down walls to give diners a view of the kitchen.

Finally, Pesce's famous fried chicken dinners will return, eventually. Maybe one Sunday each month when the restaurant is closed. For now, Holley is concentrating on the seafood restaurant of his dreams — with a planned opening date of early next year.   

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