going global in midtown
Houston restaurant royalty's retro-styled eatery opens in Midtown
A popular Houston chef has opened his new restaurant. The Lymbar, a new project from chef David Cordúa, is now serving lunch and dinner at The Ion, Rice University’s innovation-focused mixed-use development in Midtown (4201 Main St.).
Cordúa is well known to Houston diners. His father Michael opened his South American steakhouse Churrascos in 1988. After attending Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, the chef worked with his father at their restaurants Churrascos, Americas, and Amazon Grill until the duo parted ways with the company in 2018.
First announced last year, The Lymbar is named for Lymbar Drive, the street in Meyerland where the chef’s grandparents bought a house after immigrating to Houston from Nicaragua. Whereas most of the Ion looks bright and futuristic, The Lymbar has a retro look. Working with Gin Braverman of Gin Design Group — Cordúa’s childhood babysitter — the room is full of homey touches, including comfortable couches for seating, a bookcase with framed comics from the chef’s childhood, and a painting that includes images of both his grandmother and his wife’s grandmother.
“The Lymbar is my grandmother’s house,” Cordúa said in a statement. “It’s a tribute to all grandmothers. Mine liked well-worn paperbacks, crossword puzzles, rich food, and whiskey. Copies of Where the Wild Things Are were always around. The house stayed in our family, and it’s where we perfected our family’s hospitality. The Lymbar is the distillation of our heritage.”
“We wanted to capture the bustle of a hotel lobby, the polish of a private club. and the hospitality of the Cordúa family in the design,” Braverman added. “Mixed with a confluence of Latin American, Lebanese, and Mediterranean textures and art layered over a backdrop of classic mid-century materials such as warm woods, earthy colors, and lush greenery.”
That same combination of Latin American, Lebanese, and Mediterranean influences informs The Lymbar’s menu. It blends elements of the chef’s life: his Nicaraguan heritage, his wife’s Lebanese-Mexican heritage, his French training, and other flavors he’s absorbed as a Houstonian. Executive chef Adolfo Lopez, Jr. (Churrascos, Brenner’s on the Bayou) leads the kitchen.
Meals at The Lymbar could begin with the Rosepud, oversized potato chips with two dipping sauces; fresh corn gnocchi with smoked tomato sauce; ceviche made with snapper, octopus, and shrimp; or the truffle “Twinkies” that Cordúa created to win the first ever Truffle Masters chef competition. Three empanadas — a take on a Monte Cristo sandwich complete with raspberry vinaigrette, beef kofta with hummus, and a vegetarian one with spinach, feta, and halloumi — further illustrates the eclectic approach.
Entree choices include a French-inspired chicken ballotine with sherry cream sauce, corn-smoked lamb chops with chili glaze and cous cous, and pan-seared snapper with grilled shrimp and saffron rice. Lebanese-Mexican culture gets a nod courtesy of two Tacos Arabes platters, one with beef tenderloin and one with chicken shawarma, that are served with housemade pita bread and sauces for build-your-own-tacos. Of course, the churrasco steak the Cordúa family made famous is present and accounted for.
The Cordúa’s signature tres leches leads the dessert options. It is joined by foie gras doughnut holes, alfajores, and sweet corn flan with a Cracker Jack-style topping.
Similar care has been shown to the cocktail offerings. Choices include an Old Fashioned, a Singapore Sling, and house originals such as the gin-forward Wild Rhubarb. A tidy list of wines by-the-glass draws from France, Italy, Spain, and South America.
Currently, the restaurant opens at 11 am Monday through Friday and 5 pm on Saturday (closed Sunday). The 120-seat space features a 10-seat bar, a 10-seat chef’s counter that looks into the open kitchen, and a 12-seat private dining room.
“The Ion is a forward-thinking multi-industry tech hub, and we found a way to recreate a distinct, analog time in our lives in the middle of it all,” Cordúa said. “It’s the hearth and living room of the Ion. A few floors up there may be a groundbreaking app being developed, while downstairs we are reminding guests of a pre-digital world full of physical connection. We want The Lymbar to be like the best house party you’ve ever been to.”
The Lymbar is the latest restaurant to open at the Ion. Also present are a location of local bakery Common Bond On-The-Go, craft beer bar Second Draught, and Stuff’d Wings, a popular food truck that opened its brick and mortar location in the nearby space previously occupied by Shipley Do-Nuts. Next year will bring the addition of Late August, Top Chef finalist Dawn Burrell’s restaurant devoted to the intersection of African and Asian flavors.