Promising, star-staffed River Oaks upscale Mediterranean restaurant shutters — with plans to reopen
One of this year’s most promising new restaurants closed its doors last weekend. Albi, an upscale Mediterranean restaurant in River Oaks, may have served its final meals, but whether it is gone for good remains a matter of dispute.
Over the weekend, an image posted to the Facebook group Houston Foodie Friends contained a message from the restaurant that reads in part “due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be closed until further notice.” The note concludes that the restaurant plans to reopen, but does not contain any information about when that might occur or why the restaurant has closed.
Despite the ambiguous nature of the restaurant's message, CultureMap has learned that Albi may or may not have closed for good.
Clé Group partner Zack Truesdell writes in a text message that the successful hospitality company — known for concepts such as Clé, Spire, Bisou, and Kiss Vibe Dining — is in negotiations to bring a new, still unnamed concept to the space. However, Truesdell notes, the deal isn’t done yet. He adds that Clé Group had no role in how or when Albi's employees received word about its current closure.
After publication of this article — and after CultureMap had made repeated requests for comment via every option available, including former public relations reps — Albi co-owner Nano Fakhoury contacted CultureMap with an update. He insists that the restaurant is only temporarily closed. According to Fakhoury, the temporary closure occurred following the dismissal of executive chef Christian Hernandez and the subsequent departure of his sous chefs.
Fakhoury tells CultureMap that his partner contacted Clé Group but says they’re committed to reopening Albi with new leadership in the kitchen. He and his business partners, he adds, have retained a new consultant to lead the kitchen and train a new team of cooks to execute the restaurant’s menu. He says the restaurant intends to reopen, but that no date has been set.
“We have our team. They’re still our team. They’re willing to come back,” Fakhoury says.
A member of Houston Foodie Friends shared this message from Albi.Houston Foodie Friends/Facebook
Open since May, Albi united Mary'z Mediterranean Cuisine owners Nano and Jimy Fakhoury with local businessman Aladdin Nimri. The two brothers and their partner worked with Ciel architect Adel Sadek on the space's luxurious design, which featured chandeliers, plush banquettes, and marble accents. It also hosted entertainment such as belly dancers that took place throughout the evening.
Albi's owners devoted similar attention to its food by hiring legendary Houston chef Mark Cox (Mark's American Cuisine) as a consultant and retaining former March chef Christian Hernandez to lead the kitchen. The menu featured dishes inspired by countries such as Turkey and Lebanon. A sophisticated beverage program included wines from the region as well as Mediterranean-inspired cocktails such as an espresso martini made with Turkish coffee.
As for Clé Group, potentially bringing a new project to River Oaks is just one of the hospitality entity's current projects. The company, which also acquired Shady Acres party spot Heights Social this summer, is building BLVD Park next to Heights Social on 20th Street.