travel the spice route
Houston chef couple's new Portuguese-Indian canteen pours into The Heights
One of this year's most eagerly anticipated restaurants has opened in The Heights. Da Gama Canteen has begun a quiet soft opening ahead of an official opening on Saturday, May 15.
Named for Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama, the restaurant takes inspiration rom the Portuguese-Indian territories of Goa, East Africa, and Portugal. The latest project from chefs Shiva and Rick Di Virgilio, the couple behind popular Midtown restaurant Oporto, Da Gama represents an evolution of The Queen Vic, their Anglo-Indian restaurant that closed in 2018.
"The soul of the restaurant reflects the background and experiences of Shiva and myself. A love story that’s evolved into 15 years of cooking and serving Houston,” Rick Di Virgilio said in a statement. “At this stage in our story we wanted to create a unique community space, where we could continue to offer Houstonians a taste of our heritage, nutritious food, and a fun place to enjoy organic wine and creative cocktails.”
The menu offers a wide array of tapas-style small plates divided into four sections: do Quinta (vegetables), do Mar (seafood), do Carne (meat), and Pao (breads). Most are priced between $12 and $18 with only two — Goan fish curry with halibut and shrimp ($22) and Mishkaki (grilled picanha beef skewers, $24) — priced over $20.
Highlights from the soft opening menu include three chili paneer, crab pani puri, lamb rib mattar (grilled lamb ribs served with canteen curry and green peas), and prawn ambot tik (Gulf shrimp in tamarind curry). Bullet naan is available with an optional bacon topping, which seems poised to become a customer favorite.
Beverage options include a tidy selection of cocktails, both spirited and non-alcoholic, as well as a more expansive selection of wines by-the-glass or bottle and beer.
Da Gama occupies a prime location at The M-K-T, the mixed-use development on N. Shepherd Drive just north of I-10. Centrally located in the project's Building 5, the restaurant's patio looks onto the Heights Hike and Bike Trail.
Eventually, the restaurant will operate a trail-facing window that will serve drinks such as chai, organic coffee and tea, and natural wine along with snacks such as Tandoori rolls, samosa chaat, and curry bowls. The window, along with brunch and lunch service, will debut in the coming weeks. For now, the restaurant is open for dinner Monday - Saturday from 5 to 10 pm.
M-K-T will continue to see a rush of new openings throughout the coming months. The development recently welcomed Rakkan Ramen, a LA-based restaurant known for its vegan broth, with Homestead, a breakfast and lunch concept, slated to follow. Other eateries slated for the property include Blue Sushi Sake Grill, a lively sushi concept from the Omaha-based Flagship Restaurant Group, salad juggernaut Sweetgreen, and California-based sandwich concept Mendocino Farms.