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New River Oaks restaurant hopes to bring a new twist — and high-end American beef

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Chef Fritz Gitschner September 2013
Chef Fritz Gitschner worked at the Houston Country Club for almost 20 years. Now he's set to open 60 Degrees Mastercrafted next month. Photo courtesy of 60 Degrees Mastercrafted
60 Degrees Mastercrafted bar Houston construction September Aug. 30
60 Degrees has been documenting its progress on Facebook. Here's a shot of the bar area under construction Photo courtesy of 60 Degrees Mastercrafted
60 Degrees Mastercrafted bar Houston construction September Aug. 27
Among the exterior changes are new, expanded patios and a relocated entrance.  Photo courtesy of 60 Degrees Mastercrafted
Chef Fritz Gitschner September 2013
60 Degrees Mastercrafted bar Houston construction September Aug. 30
60 Degrees Mastercrafted bar Houston construction September Aug. 27

Chef Fritz Gitschner, who's set to open the new restaurant 60 Degrees Mastercrafted at the end of October in the former Palazzo's space on Westheimer, has a straightforward philosophy when it comes to cooking.

"Food has to have flavor. Food has to make sense. It has to be appealing in terms of presentation," Gitschner tells CultureMap. My food is American cuisine, but it basically comprises everything from around the world — 25 years ago I was traveling all over the world. I worked in the Middle East. I worked in the Caribbean . . . 

"I’m trying to incorporate that into my cuisine. Some people would say it’s fusion. I don’t like the word fusion. Most of the times you do fusion it becomes confusion."

Gitschner, on the other hand, thinks food should be simpler.

"I like to present food when it’s cooked properly and you can identify the product," he says. "But you have a little twist with it. Where’s the flavor profile coming from? Something when you go out, you remember it."

 One example of the restaurant's twist on American classics will be a classic bowl of Texas chili.  

The menu at 60 Degrees will be built around Gitschner's high regard for akaushi beef, which is a breed of Japanese cattle that are raised in America. When Gitschner was the chef at the Houston Country Club, a salesman approached him about serving the beef. To evaluate it, he flew in top quality Kobe beef from Japan.

"Surprisingly, the beef that is raised here compared with the Japanese one in texture, flavor and tenderness," Gitschner recalls. "So then I really got interested in it. I started using it at the club." 

As for the restaurant's billing itself as "ranch to table," Gitschner defines it as "Here, we source the chickens directly from the person who produces it, the pork, everything else. Even the fish, we work directly with the fishermen rather than a fishmonger."

One example of the restaurant's twist on American classics will be a classic bowl of Texas chili.

"For me, chili is not ground beef, it’s diced beef," he says. "Out there in the earlier days, you had chuck wagons with no meat grinders. They also didn’t have the tomato product  . . . We created a beef chili using that style of cooking . . . We’re serving it with a Mexican crema foam rather than just Mexican crema, and then I dust it with some Amaretto coffee . . .

"What I did, I took it apart and reassembled it. It’s still chili, but when you’re eating it, there’s something different."

Not fusion, but . . .

Another aspect of the menu will include dishes with an Asian influence such as miso salmon and Korean style beef barbecue, but Gitschner will be putting his own spin on the dishes. "It’s not a Chinese dish like you’d get in a Chinese restaurant. You may have that flavor combined with something else, like French, so it makes it interesting," he says. 

 Then there’s that little surprise that comes into your mind. "Where do I want to eat? Let’s go to Fritz." 

Inside, the restaurant will feature wood accents in the main dining room, bar area and two private dining rooms.

"I wanted to have a setting that is comfortable but not identified as a theme restaurant, per se," Gitschner says. "It was very important that we struck a balance between modern and rustic in a comfortable atmosphere."

That means not skimping on the details like silverware and wine glasses. "It was very important when you have cutlery in your hands that it doesn’t feel like pressed stainless steel, it has weight to it. For the wine glasses, we’re using Schonwald, which is out of Germany. I believe that when you have a very nice glass the wine tastes much better," the chef says.

Although the Houston restaurant scene continues to attract national attention, Gitschner isn't concerned with establishing a restaurant that competes with the current culinary superstars.

"I’m not out here to be the new cutting edge restaurant in Houston," he says. "It’s a comfortable, neighborhood restaurant with a twist where you go, 'Hmm, what is happening?' Then there’s that little surprise that comes into your mind. 'Where do I want to eat? Let’s go to Fritz.' "

When it opens, 60 Degrees Mastercrafted will be open for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner Monday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday. Follow the restaurant's progress on Facebook.

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