robb report loves houston (again)
2 top Houston eateries reserve spots on Robb Report's prestigious best new restaurants list
Expect to see a few more Bentleys in the parking lots of two Houston eateries, as they have been selected by Robb Report magazine for its list of America’s 10 best new restaurants.
For those unfamiliar, Robb Report is a magazine devoted to the world of luxury. Its 35th annual Best of the Best Awards cover everything from watches to watercraft to restaurants.
Written by culinary editor Jeremy Repanich, the Best New Restaurants list finds that restaurants are finally recovering from pandemic disruptions such as staffing shortages and price increases.
“Last year, when I started up our annual search for America’s best new restaurants, the scene across the country felt like it’d hit a lull,” he writes. “That burst of energy in 2021 when restaurants came roaring back had dissipated. But among a sea of sameness, chefs and restaurateurs were still pushing creatively. And as 2022 turned to 2023, you could sense the industry regaining its footing in cities all around America.”
Turning to Houston’s representatives, Repanich praises Navy Blue both for the menu created by Bludorn and executive chef Jerrod Zifchak as well as the service, which is overseen by Bludorn’s wife, Victoria Pappas Bludorn, and business partner, director of operations Cherif Mbodji.
“What pushes Navy Blue to a higher level is the warmth and expertise of the front-of-house staff. They’re present without being intrusive and knowledgeable without droning on. It’s a venue that runs with the slick ease of an expert orchestra,” he writes.
Navy Blue has consistently earned recognition since it opened last fall. Texas Monthly named it the state’s best new restaurant of 2023. It also earned multiple nominations in the 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, including Best New Restaurant, Rising Star Chef of the Year, and Pastry Chef of the Year.
“We are honored to be included and this is truly a testament to the hard work and passion of our entire team,” Mbodji said in a statement. “Houston has an affinity for exceptional dining experiences and we look forward to continuing to bring that to this great city.”
At Jūn, Repanich hails the way that Garcia and her business partner, chef Henry Lu, blend their backgrounds — her Salvadoran and Mexican heritage with his Chinese — to create dishes such as beef tartare with toasted-rice-powder aioli and a black-sesame buñuelo and charred carrots with salsa macha, Salvadoran cheese, and an oolong tea–pickled quail egg.
“Fusion has almost become a dirty word in restaurants, conjuring up images of chefs inorganically mashing together cuisines, like a burger with a bun made from ramen noodles. But some of the most exciting food moments come through cultural exchange. Such is the case at Jūn by Kin,” he writes.
In an email, Lu says he and Garcia appreciate the recognition, because it’s a tribute to the hard work their team has put in to make the restaurant a success. He also notes that the restaurant’s food has resonated with Houston’s multicultural families. Lu and Garcia earned a Rising Star Chef of the Year nomination in the 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards.
“We are a small restaurant with a unique story and point of view and [feel] honored that people in Houston have really taken us in,” he writes. “So many families of mixed culture and backgrounds have told us time and time again that they feel seen through the food we are creating. What’s so exciting for us is that this is our origin story and this is the foundation we are making to create more and more.”
Robb Report knows Houston well. Last year, it ranked Mediterranean tasting menu restaurant March as America’s no. 2 best new restaurant. It also named James Beard Award winner (and CultureMap wine columnist) Chris Shepherd the best chef in the world in 2019.
In addition to the two Houston establishments, the list also recognizes Este, a Mexican seafood restaurant in Austin from Suerte chef Fermín Nuñez at no. 2. The Austin chef also earns the magazine’s Chef of the Year prize.
The top spot goes to Copra, a restaurant in San Francisco that showcases food from regions in South India.Other notables on the list include two restaurants from Garcia’s fellow Top Chef alumni — Kwame Onwuachi’s Tatiana in New York City and Gregory Gourdet’s Kann in Portland, OR.