Hot Chef Bolts Austin For H-Town

Hot young chef abandons Austin's unprofessional sushi scene for a small restaurant near Houston

Hot young chef abandons Austin's unprofessional food scene for Houston

Preview Modern Seafood Cuisine New Zealand ora king salmon with apple emulsion, edamame puree and pickled lemon
Preview will feature Ora King salmon from New Zealand as in this dish that includes an apple emulsion, edamame puree and pickled lemon. Photo by © Ruby Chu
Jason Liao chef
Jason Liao is set to shake up Sugar Land's dining scene.  Photo by Wade T.
Preview Modern Seafood Cuisine scallops with sweet potato gnocchi, candied bacon and white truffle oil
Scallops with sweet potato gnocchi, candied bacon and white truffle oil Photo by © Ruby Chu
Preview Modern Seafood Cuisine ceviche tuna ceviche, torched scallops and snapper chips
Tuna ceviche, torched scallops and snapper chips Photo by © Ruby Chu
Preview Modern Seafood Sugar Land October 2013 logo
Will a chef driven concept succeed in Sugar Land? Find out starting in November. Preview Modern Seafood Cuisine/Facebook
Preview Modern Seafood Cuisine New Zealand ora king salmon with apple emulsion, edamame puree and pickled lemon
Jason Liao chef
Preview Modern Seafood Cuisine scallops with sweet potato gnocchi, candied bacon and white truffle oil
Preview Modern Seafood Cuisine ceviche tuna ceviche, torched scallops and snapper chips
Preview Modern Seafood Sugar Land October 2013 logo

Why would 25-year old sushi chef Jason Liao abandon a successful career as a sushi chef in Austin to open a 38-seat restaurant dubbed Preview: Modern Seafood in a Sugar Land strip center?

"No guts. No glory," the chef tells CultureMap.

Although he worked at Austin sushi restaurants like Umi Sushi Bar and Nanami Sushi Bar, Liao says he's tired of "unprofessional" practices like marking out the price of a menu item and replacing it with a handwritten one. "Burned out" by Austin, he decided there has to be a better way to serve seafood and he's returned home to Houston to start over.

"It's a transition time for Houston (restaurants)," Liao says. He cites restaurants like Oxheart and Underbelly as inspiration and the was drawn by the lure of being part of a "big movement. I want to be a part of it." But not with a sushi restaurant.

 "Burned out" by Austin, Liao decided there has to be a better way to serve seafood and he's returned home to Houston to start over. 

"Sushi bars are like Chinese restaurants now," Liao explains. "They have the same menu layout, the same items." Instead, Preview will feature a flexible, seasonal menu with items that change every couple of weeks. He's working with Ora King for salmon and will leverage his other connections to bring in fish from Japan and elsewhere.  

In a style that sounds similar to Cove Cold Bar, dishes will be slightly larger than tasting menu portions.

"I'm against the traditional setup of appetizers, entrees, desserts," Liao says. He believes it doesn't make sense for diners to "spend $38 on salmon" when a more affordable, smaller portion delivers the same flavors and experience. He concedes that the small plates concept can "get a little expensive," but thinks Sugar Land diners, who are typically seen as gravitating towards more family-friendly fare, will embrace the restaurant.

"No one has done it yet," Liao says of this style of restaurant in the suburb, but he thinks it "will eventually catch on." A family friend owns the space, and former customers have become investors.  Can a small, chef-driven, dinner-only restaurant succeed in the suburbs?

"It's only 38 seats," Liao says. "I'm not trying to turn tables."