The Galleria's "jewel box" will add a Michelin star to its collection. The Simon Property Group announced on Sunday that it has partnered with global restaurant empire the Hakkasan Group to bring its upscale dim sum and patisserie concept Yauatcha to Houston.
Set to open in late 2016 or early 2017, Yauatcha's outpost at The Galleria will be the first location in the continental United States. Currently, the restaurant only has locations in London and India; a location is also coming to Honolulu.
Instead of a traditional dim sum restaurant that serves the meal during breakfast and lunch, Yauatcha serves the meal during lunch and dinner and pairs it with a sophisticated French patisserie. The combination of the high-quality food and a beverage program that blends an extensive range of teas with a full cocktail menu has earned the London outpost a Michelin star for the past 10 years.
Hakkasan executive vice president for restaurants Didier Souillat tells CultureMap that, once the company decided to bring Yauatcha to the U.S., Houston emerged as a good fit.
"We want to bring it to a city with high growth . . . as well as the tourist population and international background," he says. The opportunity to be in the stand-alone "jewel box" that will sit in front of The Cheesecake Factory and house Miami-based luxury boutique The Webster led the company to The Galleria.
Souillat and a team from Hakkasan have already begun to visit Houston and assess the city's restaurants. In addition to the restaurants currently in The Galleria, Souillat says he intends to visit Mala Sichuan and other Chinatown establishments. "I think there is a gap in the market at the high end Chinese market with dim sum that we’re going to try to fill," he says.
In London, Souillat says the restaurant appeals to different people throughout the day. Tourists and shoppers are constant, but the rest of the crowd starts with business meetings at lunch before shifting to ladies who choose it for tea in the afternoon and then young professionals at night. Clearly, that's a different environment than Houston dim sum restaurants like Fung's Kitchen and Arco Seafood.
"I think it’s a big deal for Houston. It’s a big deal for the Galleria," adds Simon senior executive vice president David Contis. "It once again reaffirms how powerful a draw Houston Galleria is to not just restaurants but all the luxury brands."
Contis notes that adding a restaurant like Yauatcha that's both new to the market and has an international reputation should appeal to the 25 to 30 percent of the Galleria visitors who arrive from overseas, but he rejects the suggestion that additions like this one are part of a rivalry with newly opened luxury shopping area River Oaks District.
"If you walk Houston Galleria, you see no barricades. Every one of our spaces is leased and open," Contis says. "We have tons of traffic. If you look at the demand for space, we have a lot of it. We had to manufacture space to fill the demand we have."
Next on Contis's agenda is finding restaurants to fill the space created by moving and renovating Saks Fifth Avenue. Asked about the rumor CultureMap reported that those plans include global burger juggernaut Shake Shack, he demurred.
"How about if I just smile and say I can’t comment? I do love their burgers and their fries and their onion rings."