Killen’s TMX, chef Ronnie Killen’s eagerly anticipated Mexican restaurant, held a two-day soft opening over the weekend of December 29-30. The chef invited a small group of media members in for a first taste Saturday night.
As Killen told CultureMap back in October, Killen's TMX brings together two distinct styles of cuisine: the Tex-Mex items that first appeared on the dinner menu at Killen’s Barbecue and the more traditional Mexican cuisine that the chef became interested in during travels to Mexico. At TMX, diners may opt for queso, enchiladas, and/or tamales loaded up with barbecue brisket, but they can also choose for delicate ceviches, a tuna tostada, or smoked scallops in green mole.
Most critically, Killen, working with director of operations Graham Laborde and Killen’s STQ executive chef Teddy Lopez, found a way to give some of his signature items a TMX twist. For example, creamed corn comes in empanada form. Beef ribs, a favorite at both the barbecue restaurant and STQ, get a barbacoa-style treatment with a slightly spicy adobo topping. Instead of STQ’s pork belly with cherry habanero barbecue sauce, TMX serves the fatty meat with a little bit of skin on that’s smoked and then fried, chicharrones style; the result is juicy meat with a crispy, crunchy bit on top.
All of the dishes are prepared on-site. Meats are smoked at the restaurant, and TMX also makes its own masa for tamales and corn tortillas. Chips (cut and fried in house, natch) get paired with either a slightly spicy red salsa or a milder, acidic green salsa. As Killen explained after the meal, he’s looking for balanced flavors that will appeal to a wide audience, rather than something that’s too smoky or too spicy for most people to enjoy.
Speaking of crowd-pleasers, pastry chef Samantha Mendoza has developed some new options for the restaurant. Cinnamon-dusted churros with semisweet chocolate sauce and dulche de leche ice creamed emerged as an early favorite, but a delicate chocolate dessert and a riff on tres leches also earned fans.
Killen’s restaurants have never been known for their design, but TMX has more style than his other endeavors. Tiles, lighting fixtures, plateware, and more have all been sourced from Mexico, giving the space a cohesive look and feel.
Killen acknowledged that the menu will expand a bit in time. Currently, the restaurant’s only chicken dish is chicken tinga in either enchilada or taco form; chicken fajitas are conspicuously absent (beef and carnitas are available). Currently, the only shrimp dish is campechana, and the menu doesn't have any sort of steak preparation. Since those are pretty important items, expect to see them on the menu at some point soon.
Similarly, the cocktails feel like a bit of a work in progress. It only currently offers three made with tequila and two with mezcal. Available on the rocks or frozen, the margarita could’ve used a little more tequila bite, but one frozen cocktail, the rum-based Getaway Car, delivered a boozy punch.
Both Killen’s Steakhouse and Killen’s Barbecue have become destination restaurants that draw diners from far beyond Pearland. A hosted media dinner with the full attention of Killen and his staff on its second day of business is too soon to form a firm opinion on whether TMX will achieve a similar status, but it’s off to a good start.
For now, the restaurant will be open for dinner beginning January 2, 2019. Lunch will follow in time.
Killen's TMX; 9330 W. Broadway St. in Pearland; 832-664-8696; Tuesday through Sunday 5 pm to 10 pm. Reservations available on OpenTable.