navy blue-dorn casts off in rice village
Bludorn team reveals chef and menu details on highly anticipated new Rice Village seafood restaurant
Aaron Bludorn’s next restaurant is starting to take shape. The chef, along with his wife Victoria Pappas Bludorn and partner/general manager Cherif Mbodji are ready to reveal some details about Navy Blue, the new seafood restaurant they’re opening in Rice Village.
Scheduled to open in November at the former Politan Row space (2445 Times Blvd.), Navy Blue will be, well, the Bludorn of seafood restaurants. That is, a modern fine dining restaurant with highly polished service and an eclectic menu that pulls from a wide range of influences: everything from classic Gulf coast fare like blackened snapper to East Coast favorites and French-influenced dishes.
“Here’s the thing about Bludorn. I don’t think we came down here to open a French restaurant,” Aaron Bludorn tells CultureMap. “Fried chicken and prime rib would tell you otherwise, although it’s rooted in French cuisine. At Navy Blue, we’re leaving it open. We’re calling it American seafood.”
To lead the kitchen, Bludorn and Mbjodi recruited chef Jerrod Zifchak, who worked with them at New York’s Cafe Boulud and took over as executive chef when Bludorn left for Houston. He also brings experience from Le Bernadin, New York’s legendary three-star Michelin seafood restaurant.
“Rarely in this industry do you find people you really like to work with,” Zifchak explains about his decision to team up with Bludorn and Mbodji. “We meld really well together. When I heard about this opportunity, it was really enticing. The fact that it was going to be seafood, and I wanted to get out of New York and go to a new city. That’s how it all started.”
Executive chef Jerrod Zifchak.Photo by Michael Anthony
The trio aren’t quite ready to discuss specific dishes that will be served at Navy Blue, although Bludorn acknowledges he doesn’t want any overlap between his two restaurants. Still, he shared some thoughts about the menu’s approach, which will be built around a la carte proteins that can be paired with a wide array of sides. Another detail he adds is that Bludorn’s ability to let people order oysters three ways — raw, baked, or fried — could be expanded to other ingredients such as shrimp, lobster, clams, or even fish.
“What I love to see at Bludorn are four people at a round table and it’s just covered: for the appetizers, for the main course,” Bludorn says. “It’s way more food than you need. It feels like a feast. It’s very lively. That’s the kind of dining I enjoy. I think this menu will make that even more accessible to do with seafood.”
“It’s not going to be limited to Gulf seafood, Zifchak adds. “It’s going to be heavily-inspired with whatever we can get from the Gulf Coast, but we are going to play around with a lot of different things that aren’t necessarily from the Gulf.”
In terms of service, Mbodji says he will apply the lessons he’s learned over the past two years. For example, he knows that drinks need to arrive quickly and parents who are paying babysitters don’t typically want to allocate three hours to their meal. Valet parking will be available for those who don’t want to search for an open meter or a spot in the nearby garage. Other lessons will reveal themselves once the restaurant opens — such as the best path from the kitchen to the dining room to allow for synchronized delivery.
“We know it’s going to be very hands-on. It’s going to be very detail-oriented,” Mbodji adds. “There are elements we’ll bring into play to elevate service as much as possible.”
All the eating will take place in a room with a very different layout than Bludorn. Since it’s essentially a large rectangle, the design began as a blank slate. Expect a private dining room that can also be used for regular service, a bar that’s in the middle of the dining room instead of off to the side, and an open kitchen. At 7,100-square-feet, Navy Blue is slightly smaller than Bludorn, but the shape will allow it to seat approximately the same number of people.
Having grown up in the Pappas Restaurants family, Victoria Pappas Bludorn knows a little about serving seafood to Houstonians. She sees Navy Blue as being a good fit for the city.
“Pappadeaux has their finger on Cajun, and I think they do it super well. Navy Blue has the opportunity to define what they do really well,” she says. “My dad would say he didn’t know how popular Pappadeaux was going to be. It’s left up to Houstonians to decide what’s going to be Navy Blue’s most popular item.”