Top Chef star's new restaurant
Houston's Top Chef Season 19 star joins NYC veteran to open Heights 'New Asian American' restaurant
One of this year’s most eagerly anticipated new restaurants has opened its doors. Jūn begins dinner service on Tuesday, February 7.
Chefs Evelyn Garcia and Henry Lu have teamed up to open Jūn. Best known for her run to the finals of Top Chef’s Houston-based, Season 19, Garcia also served as the executive chef at Decatur Bar & Pop-up Factory, where she earned praise for her Thai dishes, and as the chef-owner of Kin, the stand she operated at the Politan Row food hall that evolved into a regular vendor at a number of Houston-area farmers markets.
Prior to returning home to Houston, Garcia worked at a number of prominent New York restaurants, including Jean George Spice Market and Kin Shop, which was created by Top Chef season one winner Harold Dieterle. Lu brings a similarly impressive resume from New York, including time at Pearl and Ash, Brooklyn’s Llama Inn, and as the executive chef of the Four Happy Men Hospitality Group.
Together, the two friends have created a restaurant they’re describing as “New Asian American.” It includes a range of influences that blends their diverse professional experiences as well as their time living and eating in New York.
“[The menu] showcases our background as first generation children with an eclectic upbringing and having both worked in New York City restaurants,” Garcia writes in an email. “We think of food in a similar way, which is why it's so effortless for us to create together.”
Jūn’s menu includes a wide array of dishes, including a charcuterie board with house-cured meats and smoked rye bread; beef tartare with toasted rice; and carrots with salsa macha, Salvadorian cheese, and quail egg. Entrees include a whole roasted fish that’s seasoned with guajillo and fried chicken that’s marinated in shrimp paste.
Top Chef fans may recognize the shrimp aguachile, which is similar to the snapper dish Garcia created to win the challenge in episode six. Similarly, the lamb with curry takes inspiration from the brisket curry she served in episode five that had Padma Lakshmi raving “Where have you been all my life? This is the curry I’ve been looking for.”
All that eating happens in a 57-seat dining room. Located in the former Steel City Pops/Central City CoOp space at 420 E 20th St., Garcia explains that one specific design feature sold her and Lu on the space.
“The location has always had the bones for a beautiful restaurant in my eyes so when it was brought to us as a potential location we were ecstatic,” she writes. “We both have only worked in open kitchens in New York, so just the thought of us having a completely visible kitchen is what sold us.”
They worked with Houston’s Gin Design Group (The Lymbar, Mala Sichuan’s Heights location) on the interior. Local artists, including Sierra Estes and Demi Mixon Kahn, have their work on display at the restaurant.
Garcia and Lu introduced Jūn with a series of pop-ups over the past few months. Word of mouth from last week’s invite-only, friends and family services has been overwhelmingly positive. All that’s left is to open the doors. So, chefs, do you feel ready?
“We prepared, prepped and even prepped our staff for what's about to come. Eventually, you have to let it all just happen,” Garcia writes. “One thing we know for sure is that we are able to adapt and pivot as we need when these doors finally open.”
Jūn opens for dinner nightly at 5 pm. Weekend brunch service will begin in the coming weeks.