Houston’s newest food hall opens Friday, November 8 in Rice Village. Politan Row, the latest concept from the operators of St. Roch Market in New Orleans, opens its doors with eight restaurants and a cocktail bar.
Previously announced tenants include Cochinita & Co. (Mexican seafood), Kin (Southeast Asia), Breaking Bao (Chinese-style steamed buns), Nice Sprout (vegan comfort food), Susu Kopi and Boba (coffee and soft serve ice cream), Torshi (Egyptian), and Bar Politan, a cocktail bar with a focus on agave spirits. Joining them are Pacha Nikkei, a Peruvian-Japanese fusion concept from chef Masaru Fukuda and Ate Kitchen, where chef Keisha Griggs will serve Carribean-inspired cuisine that blends her Trinidadian heritage with French, African, Indian, and Latin influences.
Donaldson notes that he and culinary director Kirstin Moburg sought out sous chefs and pop-up veterans who are excited about the opportunity Politan Row provides them. Similar in approach to Bravery Chef Hall, the format allows diners to interact directly with the chefs preparing their meals.
“Houston has an incredible food scene. We just wanted to be part of the party,” Politan Group CEO and founder Will Donaldson tells CultureMap. “Rice Village kind of found us. When we saw the location and the fundamentals, we thought it would be really good.”
Located on the corner of Times Boulevard and Kelvin Drive, Politan Row occupies an approximately 7,300-square-foot standalone building. The design features mid-century modern touches, including a polished concrete floor, white table tops, and copper bar stools.
“When you see it, it’s a smaller room than the other food halls. It’s also much more open. We don’t have free standing stalls in the middle,” Donaldson says. “I think its aesthetically pleasing. I think it’s the most beautiful one we’ve built.”
Donaldson cites Pacha Nikkei as one of the establishments he’s particularly excited about introducing to diners, as the Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine hasn’t really established itself in Houston. Chef Fukuda has worked at some of Houston’s best restaurants, including MAD, Kata Robata, and Latin Bites. As a person of Japanese ancestry who grew up in Peru, Nikkei cuisine is his culture.
“I’m very excited,” Fukuda says. “I want to make a good impression, trying to get people to try my food. I don’t want people to think they’re just making sushi. It’s not. It’s from Peru, but it has a lot of Japanese influence.”
For example, the Pasha roll captures the flavor of ceviche by combining shirmp tempura, mango, and avocado with tuna and micro shiso on top. His leche de tigre uses Japanese dashi instead of the traditional fish stock.
Garcia comes to Politan Row after serving as the chef-in-residence at the recently shuttered Decatur Bar. She sees the food hall as the next logical step towards opening her own standalone restaurant.
“Decatur was an awesome platform, and it definitely put me out there in the sense of being more than a pop-up chef,” she says. “With Politan Row, I’m growing this brand without any outside investment. I feel like it’s perfect for me while I’m trying to evolve and grow.”
At Politan Row, Garcia will serve dishes such as dumplings, barbecue brisket roti, and three different curries, including a Filipino-style version with beef cheek. Her larb salad, which had been one of the most popular dishes at Decatur, comes along, too. She’s excited about the new space and the opportunity to earn more fans.
“It’s gorgeous. It’s so beautiful,” Kin chef-owner Evelyn Garcia says. “I think its reflective of the neighborhood and all the changes that are happening in Rice Village.”
Recent additions like Mendocino Farms, Sweetgreen, and Sixty Vines have already enhanced the mix of dining options in Rice Village. Politan Row gives diners even more to choose from. Picking favorite dishes from each of the stands will be the most fun part of exploring the new arrival.