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Photo by Jenn Duncan

A new restaurant looks to expand the reputation of one of Houston’s most exclusive sushi restaurants. Sushi by Hidden opens this Monday, December 5 in Rice Village.

As its name implies, Sushi by Hidden is a new concept from Hidden Omakase owners Tuan and Thy Tran. The biggest differences between the two restaurants will be the speed and price of the meal offered. Where Hidden Omakase serves about 15 courses over the course of a couple hours for $175, Sushi by Hidden will offer 12 courses, usually individual pieces of nigiri, in a tidy 30 minutes at a less expensive price point of $60 per person.

Dishes could include Akami (lean bluefin tuna) with chili garlic and Fuji apple, Engawa (flounder fin) with finger lime and marinated ikura (salmon roe), or dry-aged fish. Customers will also have the opportunity to purchase upgrades and supplements that can still be served within the 30 minute time frame.

The restaurant will be led by chef Jimmy Kieu, who has been working alongside Hidden Omakase chef Nikki Vongthong. He and his team will guide diners through the experience and serve each piece individually.

Located in the former Cloud 10 Creamery/The Loop space (5216 Morningside Dr.), Sushi by Hidden will seat 10 guests at a time in an intimate, 1,200-square foot space. The owners worked with Blue Kite Building Group and interior designer Rodrigo “Kico” Tovar with rT3 on a space that includes a NFT art gallery.

For now, Sushi by Hidden will be BYOB will a $20 corkage fee for bottles 720-ml and larger. It opens daily for dinner at 5 pm with lunch service to follow in the weeks to come.

Photo by Jenn Duncan

Get 12 pieces of sushi for $60.

Photo by Michael Anthony

Bludorn team's new Rice Village seafood restaurant sets anticipated opening date

In the navy

One of this year’s most eagerly anticipated restaurants will open next week. Navy Blue, the new seafood restaurant from the team behind Bludorn, begins dinner service on Friday, November 18.

Located in the former Politan Row space in Rice Village (2445 Times Blvd.), Navy Blue applies Bludorn’s template of French-influenced, contemporary cuisine to a menu grounded in fish and shellfish. Developed by chef-owner Aaron Bludorn and executive chef Jerrod Zifchak, diners will find an eclectic array of dishes that can be shared or not.

“With Bludorn, we found that the ultimate luxury was the ability to choose your own dining experience and we plan to emphasize that even more at Navy Blue,” Bludorn said in a statement. “The ability to come in and enjoy the restaurant without feeling the need to dress up or to feel pressure to adhere to traditional standards of a fine dining restaurant is what we strived to achieve at the first concept and what we will strive to cultivate once Navy Blue launches.”

Just as meals at Bludorn may begin with oysters three ways — raw, baked, and fried — Navy Blue offers diners multiple preparations of oysters; clams (casino, fried, or steamed); and shrimp (cocktail, fried, or BBQ). Other starters include three varieties of caviar, tuna crudo, and crab cakes.

The trio theme continues in the entree section with the ability to order whole Dover sole as almondine, Oscar, or Provencal and lobster as boiled, grilled, or Thermidore. Other entrees include blackened snapper; swordfish au poivre; and salmon with sauce grenobloise (browned butter, capers, parsley, and lemon). Non-seafood eaters will find roast chicken and steak with chimichurri.

In between, diners can enhance their meals with soups and salads like gumbo, mussel bisque, and a Caesar with boquerones. Seafood pastas like linguine vongole, lobster ravioli, and risotto with lobster and cuttlefish round out the offerings.

“We wanted to create a menu with plenty of options and the same kind of approachability that guests love at Bludorn,” Bludorn said. “What oysters are to Bludorn, which are done 3 ways — fried, baked, and raw — clams, shrimp, and Dover sole are to Navy Blue. We’ll also have a running rotation of fresh fish with preparation suggestions, but guests can swap it out however they want. We are nothing if not flexible when it comes to putting our guests’ tastes first — that’s why we are here, and we love what we do.”

Diners can have confidence in the kitchen. Not only did Zifchak succeed Bludorn as executive chef at New York’s Cafe Boulud, he also worked at Le Bernadin, New York’s three-star Michelin restaurant that’s among the country’s top destinations for seafood.

Jerrod Zifchak Navy Blue restaurant Executive chef Jerrod Zifchak. Photo by Michael Anthony

Beverage options start with a seafood-friendly wine list that contains selections from France, Greece, Italy, Spain, America, and more. Cocktails include a range of martinis along with a few tiki-inspired libations.

Inside, Bludorn, his wife Victoria Pappas Bludorn, and partner Cherif Mbodji worked with Austin-based Föda Studios, Courtney Hill Interiors, and Gensler to transform the 7,100-square-foot-space into Navy Blue. Details include tables separated by white oak partitions, a steel and driftwood installation in the bar, and a 40 seat private dining room.

"There's not a lot seafood restaurants across the country that have gained any national notoriety. People are seeing an opportunity," Bludorn said on a recent episode of CultureMap’s “What’s Eric Eating” podcast. "Joshua Skenes did Angler, Fermín Núñez just opened Este. I think, where better than Houston to be the next one of those restaurants that opens and focuses on American seafood."

Photo by Michael Anthony

Navy Blue's Jerrod Zifchak, Aaron Bludorn, and Cherif Mbodji.

Photo by Danh Phan

Houston's 'Chinese takeout bar from the future' unboxes cool new Rice Village outpost

Rice Box Village

Houston’s favorite Blade Runner-inspired Chinese takeout bar will soon add a fourth location to its roster. The Rice Box is coming to Rice Village.

Slated to open later this fall at the intersection of Times Boulevard and Morningside Drive, the new Rice Box will be the restaurant’s biggest location yet — approximately 60 indoor seats, which is roughly double the size of the River Oaks restaurant that opened in 2019. Plans to open the restaurant have been underway since 2020, but Rice Box owner John Peterson waited until the morning of Thursday, October 13 to announce the new location with a movie poster-inspired social media post.

Rice Box Rice Village movie poster Coming attractions.Courtesy of The Rice Box

“We’ve been looking at Rice Village for a very long time,” Peterson tells CultureMap. “If you’re from Houston, this is the stomping grounds for everybody.”

The Rice Box is one of several new restaurants to open in the area over the past couple years. It will be located across Morningside from Israeli-inspired Hamsa and its sister concept Badolina Bakery, as well as a few steps away from Navy Blue, Aaron Bludorn’s eagerly anticipated new seafood restaurant.

“It’s special to be in ground zero in Rice Village. It’s gone through so many changes,” Peterson says. “Aaron Bludorn is opening right down the street from me. It’s hilarious.”

Formerly an auto repair shop, demolition work revealed the building has a core of structural steel. In keeping with the Rice Box’s futuristic and dystopian design, the restaurant is being built inside the steel beams. Skylights will allow diners to, in Peterson’s words, “look straight through to the sky.” It’s a fitting setting for a restaurant that started as a food truck and was founded by a long time car enthusiast.

‘There’s definitely some volume that’s turned up on the atmospheric details, especially since this will probably be the largest store we’ll ever build,” he adds.

Customers can expect a menu that’s mostly the same as the Heights and River Oaks locations. That means American-style Chinese favorites like General Tso’s (available with chicken, tofu, or cauliflower), Chinese broccoli with beef, fried rice, lo mein, and more. Ingredients and cooking techniques have been refined since the food truck days, but Peterson wants the Rice Box to be true to what it has always been.

“At the end of the day, we’re a Chinese takeout bar,” he says. “I stay in my lane.”

Rice Village will get an upgrade in the beverage department. Peterson says he’ll add one more nitro tea to thee restaurant’s offerings as well as 15 beer taps and a high-end soda dispensary that will serve “a fantastic Coca-Cola Classic.”

“We’re bringing classic American Chinese takeout — a place where you want to get shrimp fried rice or lo mein with an egg roll or General Tso’s chicken for an affordable price,” Peterson says. “We’re that offering. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for students and people in the Village.”

Photo by Danh Phan

Expect a similar interior design as the River Oaks location in Rice Village.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

2 local booming 'burbs rank as top destination for movers, plus, why Houston isn't a great place to visit

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. 2 Houston suburbs roll onto top-15 spots on U-Haul’s list of growing cities. They're the 13th and 19th most popular destinations for movers.

2. 2 smokin' Houston-area barbecue names fire up new restaurants in bustling 'burbs. Both restaurants are ranked among the state's 50 best barbecue joints by Texas Monthly.

3. Ken Hoffman chides New York Times' Houston travel guide and explains why our city isn't a great place to visit. Our columnist explains why 36 hours doesn't do Houston justice.

4. 10 Houston restaurants score coveted James Beard Award nominations. Perhaps one of them will follow up Julep's big win last year.

5. Houston Olympic superstar Simone Biles shares new Wheaties box cover with her legion of fans. It's the second time Biles has been featured on the cereal box.

Wildly popular Nashville hot chicken chain cancels plans for first Houston location

No Hattie B's for now

Looks like Houstonians will have to wait a little longer than expected to try one of the most famous suppliers of Nashville hot chicken. Hattie B’s has canceled its plans to open a location in the Heights, a representative tells CultureMap.

The representative cited “construction costs for the ground-up build and other issues with this particular site” as reasons for the decision not to move forward. An eagle-eyed user on the Houston Architecture Info forum spotted a leasing notice for the property at 1808 N. Shepherd Dr. that had been scheduled for Hattie B’s.

In response to CultureMap’s request for comment about the property being for lease, Hattie B’s supplied a statement from co-founder Nick Bishop, Jr.

“While we have made the very difficult decision not to move forward with the project in the Heights, our commitment to finding a home in Houston remains strong. We love this city and have always imagined a Hattie B's here.”

First announced in 2021, Hattie B’s intended to open a 3,800-square-foot restaurant designed by Texas’s acclaimed Michael Hsu Office of Architecture that would have had seating for 175 people. Potentially, the design could be utilized for a new location.

Founded in Nashville in 2012, Hattie B’s serves tenders, sandwiches, and bone-in chicken at five different spice levels: Southern (no heat), mild, medium, hot, and the signature Shut the Cluck Up. The restaurant has four locations in Nashville along with locations in Atlanta, Birmingham, Dallas, Las Vegas, and Memphis. It has plans to open in Austin next year.

Texas-based Cinemark theater chain hosts Oscars-themed movie marathon

big-screen moves

The Cinemark movie chain is giving movie buffs an opportunity to brush up on the Oscars.

Plano-based Cinemark Holdings, Inc. will host its annual Oscar Movie Week festival, this year running from Monday, March 6 through Sunday, March 12, in anticipation of the 95th Oscars ceremony, which airs on March 12 on ABC.

The theater chain will air all of this year’s Best Picture and Best Live Action and Animated Short Film nominees, at more than 120 participating Cinemark theaters nationwide.

According to a release, passes are now on sale now at Cinemark.com/movieweek.

A full Digital Festival Pass is $40 and includes showings for all Best Picture and Best Live Action and Animated Short Film nominees. There's a perk! If you purchase a festival pass, you get 50 percent off any size popcorn during Oscar Movie Week.

Individual showtime tickets will be available starting January 27 at standard pricing, with showtimes beginning March 6.

All Best Live Action and Animated Short Film nominees are bundled into one viewing for just $10 from March 10-12.

For other brushing up, take a look back at what CultureMap’s film critic, Alex Bentley, had to say about each of the nominees (listed in alphabetical order) when they were originally released.

Cinemark has been hosting other similar marathon events such its collaboration with ESPN to bring college football games to the big screen.

The event takes place at these theaters across the U.S., including the following locations in Texas:

  • Houston: Cinemark Memorial City
  • The Woodlands: Cinemark 17
  • Austin: Cinemark Southpark Meadows
  • Denton: Cinemark 14
  • Fort Worth: Ridgmar Mall
  • Grapevine: Cinemark Tinseltown
  • Plano: Cinemark Legacy
  • Plano: Cinemark West Plano
  • San Antonio: Cinemark San Antonio 16