Two fresh faces are leading the culinary program at Montrose’s favorite boutique hotel. La Colombe d’Or recently welcomed chef JB Babaran to lead its kitchen and Calvin Salemi as food and beverage director.
Babaran and Salemi replace chef Jonthan Wicks and front of house specialist Chris Fleischman, both of whom helped the hotel open its restaurant Tonight & Tomorrow and its companion Bar No. 3 last year. The property closed for two years during which it received a $10 million renovation and real estate development firm Hines partnered with La Colombe d’Or’s owners the Zimmerman family to build a 34-story luxury high-rise on the property.
Babaran, a native of the Philippines, brings experiences from River Oaks Country Club, The Houstonian, and Turner’s to Tonight and Tomorrow’s Kitchen. Salemi’s resume includes work in Paris, Bangkok, and New York City’s acclaimed Minetta Tavern. He comes to Houston from Guam, where he led all food and beverage outlets at Dusit Thani, a five-star luxury resort.
“Our new culinary and beverage teams bring a tremendous amount of creativity and experience to La Colombe d’Or and have put together exciting seasonal menus and flavors for visitors of our hotel,” hotel principal Dan Zimmerman said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming our hotel guests and our local community to experience what only we can deliver within our unique environment at La Colombe d’Or.”
Babaran’s new menu includes dishes inspired by both coastal European and classic French flavors. They include: cacciucco, a stew of lobster, octopus, shrimp, clams, mussels, scallop, and finfish in a red wine tomato broth; sauteed Gulf red snapper topped with jumbo lump crab; lamb shank barbacoa; and more. Of course, La Colombe d’Or classics like crab ravigote and French onion soup remain available.
Bar No. 3’s new seasonal cocktail menu takes its names and inspiration from sculptures found on the hotel property. For example, the ‘East of the Pecos’, a drink made with tequila and mezcal, is named after the cantilevered, yellow-painted steel installation by artist Rolf Westphal. Similarly, ‘RockGrowthRoot,’ a cocktail that combines dark rum and coffee liquor, is named after the Corten steel installation by Arik Levy. Pair them with new dishes on the bar menu such as a duck carnitas tostada or steak frites.
“I’m thrilled to call La Colombe d’Or my new home and bring my cooking techniques to a Houston institution,” Babaran said. “As a long-time Houston resident, I understand the palate of the city and look forward to introducing new and interesting flavors and ideas on our seasonal menus in the restaurant and bar.”
As part of the renovations, La Colombe d'Or now offers 32 rooms divided between the mansion, the tower, and nine garden bungalows that are grouped around a common courtyard. Hotel guests have access to a variety of amenities shared between the hotel and residences: multiple gardens, a private park, a state-of-the-art fitness facility and pool with downtown views, and an art gallery with rotating exhibits.