Rising chef with Hugo's cred rolls out new Mexican restaurant in downtown food hall
Ixím, which Reading says means “corn” in ancient Mayan, will serve Mexican-inspired meat and seafood dish such as ceviches, grilled meat platters, and more. Work has already begun to transform the former Cherry Block space into Ixím, with an opening planned once all of its equipment has arrived and its staff is trained.
“What we really want to strive for is authentic ingredients, modern cooking techniques, and plated in a rustic way,” Reading says. “It’s going to be where you’ll have salsa that looks like your grandmother made it but done in a really fine style.”
Some of the specific dishes include: molcajete de mariscos, a sharable dish brimming with five kinds of seafood and a selection of salsas; parrillada de carne, a mixed grill platter with housemade chorizo, lamb loin chops, and flank steak served with tortillas; and tablitas de res, marinated, crosscut short ribs served with house pickled vegetables.
Although the restaurant lacks the physical space to grind its own corn, Reading says he’s working with a local tortilleria that will make different corn and flour tortillas for him.
The 29-year old chef took a somewhat unlikely path to opening a traditional Mexican restaurant in a Texas food hall. After dipping his toes into the business as a 15-year old dishwasher at a country club, Reading attended the Culinary Institute of America and worked for James Beard Award-winner Michael Schlow in Boston where he got a solid grounding in fine dining French and traditional Italian cuisine.
Eventually, he made his way to Houston where he worked for two years at Caracol, Beard award winner Hugo Ortega’s Mexican seafood restaurant near the Galleria. The restaurant offered Reading his first professional experience with Mexican cuisine as well as the opportunity to travel to Mexico with Ortega.
“He’s taken me to Oaxaca, he’s taken me to Mexico City, to a lot of different places [in Mexico]. I really fell in love with the cuisine,” Reading says.
Laid off from his job at the start of the pandemic, Reading spent much of the last year working as a private chef. At one dinner, he met Jonathan Gallardo, who owns Bravery cocktail bar Secret Garden. They partnered up to launch Ixím, and its food will be served both in Bravery’s main hall and to customers at Secret Garden.
Chef Rebecca Aguirre, a Mexican native who worked with Reading at Caracol, will join him in the kitchen and offer further guidance on the ins and outs of Mexican fare. He understands some people will be skeptical about Ixím, but he hopes the quality of his food will win them over.
“I’ve done my homework. I’m still willing to learn,” Reading says. “My sous chef will be helping me tremendously.”