Photo courtesy of Balmain/Facebook

Shoppers have yet another haute reason to shop River Oaks District. French fashion powerhouseBalmain has made its debut, opening its first flagship boutique in Houston at the ultra-luxe shopping destination.

This Houston addition marks a milestone for Balmain, as it joins iconic U.S. destinations such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Las Vegas for 50 global flagship boutiques.

The grand unveiling of this boutique celebrates Balmain's fusion of couture heritage and 21st-century fashion — a combination that resonates perfectly with the diverse community of the Bayou City. Balmain's popularity lies in its ability to harmonize edgy, youth-infused ready-to-wear pieces with timeless classics that are the staples of a well-curated wardrobe.

At the new boutique, the brand's fans, often called the Balmain Army, will find men's and women's apparel collections, along with its signature line of handbags, shoes, and sunglasses.

Balmain's Houston boutique is lavish at more than 1,700 square feet and includes design elements such as parquet flooring, marble shelves, and antique furnishings. There are also elements exclusive to the River Oaks District location, crafting an unmistakably Balmain ambiance.

Balmain Houston The 1,708-square-foot boutique showcases the brand’s global store concept with elegant design features.Photo by Balmain

"We are thrilled to be expanding in Houston, a city many of our esteemed clients call home. Houston's international flair and reputation as a shopping destination align seamlessly with Balmain's ethos. This first-to-market boutique is a significant step as we establish a stronger presence in Texas," Emily Vannucci George, Balmain's President of the Americas, shared in a statement.

Balmain's roots go back over 75 years when young designer Pierre Balmain deviated from established norms, instantly establishing his eponymous house as a trailblazer in haute couture. Balmain's trajectory continued to grow, adding to the resurgence of Paris as the world's fashion epicenter.

Fast forward to 2011, and the torch of innovation was passed to creative director Olivier Rousteing, who continues to build upon Balmain's storied legacy — one that continues to Houston.

Balmain Houston

Photo courtesy of Balmain/Facebook

Fans, often referred to as the Balmain Army, can look forward to both men’s and women’s apparel collections, as well as signature handbags, shoes and sunglasses.

Photo by Debora Smail

River Oaks District heats up with Houston's newest Italian hot spot and fresh, healthy Mexican restaurant

ROD's 2 new restaurants

River Oaks District welcomes two new restaurants this week. One is the Italian fine dining concept that development has been missing while the other is an all-day cafe with roots in Mexico City.

Together, Bari Ristorante and Ojo de Agua add to River Oaks District’s status as one of the Inner Loop’s most lively dining destinations, joining everything from Steak 48 and Le Colonial to CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Best New Restaurant winner MAD.

Let’s start with Bari, which opened Monday, May 15. Located in the former Tom Ford boutique, the new Italian restaurant is led by chef Renato De Pirro, a veteran of the Hotel Granduca and the Dallas-based Lombardy Group who is also a certified Italian master chef, according to press materials.

He’s joined by operating partner Thomas “Tommy” Nally, whose resume includes Toulouse and other restaurants. Both men have lengthy careers that also include time at The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. While all of River Oaks District’s other restaurants are part of larger groups, a representative tells CultureMap that Bari is funded by an anonymous group of “private investors.”

Open daily beginning at 11 am, De Pirro’s menu focuses on Italian classics that many diners will be familiar with. Meals at Bari could start with items such as beef carpaccio, frito misto, or steamed mussels. The housemade pastas include favorites such as tagliatelle carbonara, spaghetti vongole, and pappardelle bolognese. Pizzas are produced in an imported oven.

Moving on to entrees, the selections begin with seafood options such as salt-crusted branzino, Dover sole, grilled salmon, and risotto with a range of shellfish. Those with more carnivorous habits may opt for a bone-in veal Milanese, ribeye tagliata, or a chianti-braised short rib. Pair them with Italian cocktails such as the negroni or bellini or selections from an Italian-oriented wine list.

“We look forward to welcoming diners to Bari,” Nally said. “The menu is a fantastic combination of dishes from Italy that are on everyone’s short list when visiting any of the major cities to seaside resorts.”

Turning to Ojo de Agua, the all-day cafe opens this Wednesday, May 17 in a new space that’s across from Hopdoddy Burger Bar. Houston will be the restaurant’s second American city, joining an outpost in Miami and more than 40 locations across Mexico.

The 3,200-square-foot restaurant’s interior features details such as native succulents, wicker chairs, and lamps made from milk bottles. Local graffiti artist Daniel Anguilu contributed a mural of a mockingbird, Texas’s official state bird.

Open daily from 8 am until 7 pm, the menu covers a range of tastes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mornings could start with a fresh juice or smoothie from the juice bar or a breakfast classic such as chilaquiles, acai bowl, or avocado toast. Lunch options include sandwiches, salads, bowls, tacos, and more. They’re paired with wine, beer, and wine-based cocktails.

“We’re excited to give Texas a first taste of Ojo de Agua’s vibrant flavors and fresh ingredients,” partner Rafael Montero said in a statement. “Our healthy menu and our extensive menu of juices and smoothies will resonate with Houston’s diverse clientele.”

Bari Ristorante spaghetti vongole

Photo by Debora Smail

Bari's spaghetti vongole.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Fantastic visuals and original story make The Creator a must-see sci-fi film

battling bots

In the relatively risk-averse world that is modern Hollywood, getting an original story is a rarity. The vast majority of potentially blockbuster movies these days are ones that have a connection to some kind of existing intellectual property that already has a well-established track record. So anytime something interesting arrives that’s not a sequel/reboot/remake/commercial for a product, it deserves to be celebrated.

And that goes double when it’s done as well as the new sci-fi film, The Creator. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world in 2065, 30 years after a sentient artificial intelligence detonated a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. Joshua (John David Washington) is an American soldier who for years worked undercover alongside A.I.-enhanced robots, many of which are fitted with clones of human faces, to try to find their reclusive leader, Nirmata, in a part of the world now called New Asia.

A personal tragedy sends him into exile, but he’s recruited back into service by Colonel Howell (Allison Janney) to seek out and destroy a weapon that may turn the tide in the war for good. Turns out the weapon is a robot in the form of a child (Madeleine Yuna Voyles), and when Joshua discovers that fact, he finds it impossible to carry out the mission. Instead, he does everything he can to protect the girl he calls Alphie, with the military hot on his tail all the while.

Written and directed by Gareth Edwards (Rogue One) and co-written by Chris Weitz, the film is astonishing in a number of ways, but mostly for its ability to draw the viewer in visually. The CGI is amazingly believable, making it easy to immerse yourself in the storytelling. From a foreboding super-weapon in the sky called NOMAD to the futuristic landscapes to the whirring metal cylinders that appear to be the brains of the robots, the film is full of fantastic details that make it a feast for the eyes.

The concept of A.I. is increasingly being used as a storytelling tool, and here the filmmakers seem to try to play both sides of the fence. Many people in the film fear its capabilities, especially given the nuclear event. But by literally putting human faces on many of the robots, it becomes more difficult to see them as pure evil, a dilemma that’s at the core of the problem for both Joshua and the audience.

Washington, who’s fast becoming as reliably good as his father, Denzel, is the star of the film, and he does a great job in that role. But stealing the show every second she’s on screen is Voyles, who delivers a debut performance the likes of which hasn’t been seen in many years. She is utterly convincing and heartbreaking as Alphie; while the story may have worked with a lesser actor, she helps take it to completely different level.

Also putting in great work are Janney, who proves herself as badass and fearsome a military leader as any man; Mark Menchaca as her No. 2; Ken Watanabe as an A.I. robot; singer-turned-actor Sturgill Simpson as a friend of Joshua; and Gemma Chan, redeeming herself after the misfire of Eternals.

John David Washington in The Creator
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

John David Washington in The Creator.

The Creator could’ve earned praise simply by giving us an original sci-fi story. But by accompanying it with awe-inspiring imagery and performances that elevate the story immeasurably, Edwards and his team have made a film that will likely be remembered for years to come.


The Creator opens in theaters on September 29.

Astrodome transforms into 'entertainment village' in new redevelopment plan

new day for the dome?

A second life for the "8th Wonder of the World"?

"I envision a gateway to the future of NRG Park," native Houstonian Mike Acosta told ABC13. "A multi-faceted entertainment village."

Early in 2023, Acosta began the formal process of putting together a plan to revitalize the Astrodome — a building he says remains structurally sound. In light of recent statements by local officials, many made to ABC13, he's ready to match those comments with concepts.

"My goal is to bring a vision," Acosta revealed. "Let's not talk about what is difficult — that's not what Houston is. Houston is about getting things done."

What Acosta, along with three partners — all with connections to the Dome — wants to get done through an LLC called Astrodome reIMAGINEd, is use private funds to develop the Dome into a publicly accessible, revenue-generating destination to work with NRG Park's primary tenants.


Continue reading the story, with accompanying video, on our news partner ABC13.

Lance McCullers Jr., José Altuve, and Kyle Tucker Team Up for $600,000 grand slam charity bash

outta the park

Houston has long topped lists for most generous cities in America, and our celebrity pro athletes have always been MVPs in that regard.

A grand slam example is Team Up, an annual event starring Houston Astros superstars Lance McCullers Jr., José Altuve, and Kyle Tucker. The trio recently hosted their fifth annual Team Up event, which raises funds for the three beloved charities they each founded, working with the well-respected Athletes and Causes foundation.

A 30-second timeout for our Tailgate

More on the Team Up event, but first, Houstonians who want to step up for tomorrow’s athletes should hit CultureMap’s Tailgate event.

Our big, sports-themed bash returns at 7 pm Wednesday, October 25 at Silver Street Studios (2000 Edwards St.). Fans can enjoy sports-inspired bites from some of Houston’s top and award-winning restaurants and premium cocktails. Partiers can also bid on memorabilia from Texas legends, get their game on with game-day fun, and check out local sports-focused nonprofits and give back in a big way.

Early bird tickets are $35 and $60 for VIP through Saturday, September 30, then move to $50 for general admission; $75 for VIP. Find a full roster of the hot restaurants, sponsors, plus more information here. Kill any chance of FOMO and grab tickets early: Like all great CultureMap events, tickets will go fast.

Astros, A-listers, and fans Team Up for a huge night

Back to Team Up — also held at Silver Street Studios — where more than 500 fans gathered for a chance to meet the three Astros stars and for score coveted photos with them. The record-breaking event raised more than $600, 000 and support their charities: the Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation, which supports animal rescue, adoption, and no-kill shelters; the Kyle Tucker Foundation, which assists those in need of hospice care; and the José Altuve Foundation, which supports the Sunshine Kids foundation.

Astros players’ wives were on hand to support their hubbies, as well as teammates Ryan Pressly, Michael Brantley, Maurico Dubon, Kendall Graveman, and Grae Kessinger. Astros staffers also showed up to support the cause and mingle with the crowd.

Nina and Jos\u00e9 Altuve Team Up 2023Nina and José Altuve.Photo by Catchlight Group

High-rolling local philanthropists and fans checked out and snapped pics of the mini fleet of Rolls Royce and Bentley rides on display. Refreshments came courtesy of a Champagne wall and specialty spirits and cocktails from Maven (McCullers is a partner). Attendees got a chance to win jewelry or a highly coveted Astros World Series ring and learned more about each charity, including Bo’s Place.

“For us, it’s a big night to represent Houston and all the people who are here,” McCullers told us (we’ve been hanging with him at Team Up events since 2018). “We restaurants, people in the beverage space, partners — all these people who help throw this amazing event. And we have the amazing charities here and the one’s we’re here representing, so it’s just an important night for us. We’re just really proud to represent Houston, represent the Astros, and keep coming every year to make it bigger and better.”

Lance McCullers, Jr., Beau King, Jos\u00e9 Altuve, Joanne King Herring, and Kyle Tucker Team Up 2023Lance McCullers, Jr., Beau King, José Altuve, Joanne King Herring, and Kyle Tucker.Photo by Catchlight Group

The fiery, always team-first Astros ace also reminded fans not to sweat the season — and postseason. “We control our own destiny — we’re in first place,” he said. “ We’re confident in the team that we have, so we have to just make sure that we go play our best brand of baseball. If we win the division — that’s our goal — we don't have to worry about anybody else.”

We also pressed McCullers to come up with another epic slogan this year, after her dropped the unforgettable “Bury Me in The H” rally last year. (We’re waiting, LMJ.)

Dream sports packages and fur babies FTW

Emcees Julia Morales, the fan-fave Astros reporter, and emcee/auctioneer Johnny Holloway hyped the crowd for the live and silent auction, which featured a widely sought-after private dinner with Kara and Lance McCullers Jr., Altuve, and Tucker. One-of-a-kind art by Skel of dazzling portraits of Altuve, McCullers, Tucker, the team were also hot items, as well as a chance to throw the first pitch at a game plus Diamond Club seats.

Julia Morales and Johnnie Bravo Team Up 2023Julia Morales and Johnnie Bravo.Photo by Jacob Power

Even the Rockets got int the game: bidders threw their hands up for courtside Rockets tickets along with a dinner in the owner's suite, courtesy of Blake Fertitta.

Adorable puppies and doggos from Animal Shelter and Adoptions melted hearts; one adorable fur baby found a forever home with one of the volunteers. A handsome and noble service dog also reminded the crowd of the importance of saving and supporting animals.

Tena Lundquist Faust, Margie Lundquist, Sandra Cooper, Tama Lundquist Team Up 2023Tena Lundquist Faust, Margie Lundquist, Sandra Cooper, Tama Lundquist, and an adorable pup.Photo by Catchlight Group

Partiers stepping up for the grand slam night included: Nina Altuve, Samantha Scott, Kat Pressly, Joanne King Herring, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner, Donna and Norman Lewis, Frances and Tony Buzbee, Danny and Iris Shaftel, Monica and Joe Casiano, Cherie and John Lindley, Jenna Lindley, Shelli and Steve Lindley, Matthew Lindley, Randy Hopper, Bill Baldwin andFady Armanious, Randy Bates, Tama Lundquist, Tena Lundquist Faust, Christine and Steve Johnson, Jody Merritt, Edna Meyer-Nelson, Chris LaFollette, Mick Pritchett, Charlene Floyd, Bobbie Nau, Lesha Elsenbrook, Shelley Boyer, Melissa and Dan Sugulas, Katie and Jon Deal, and many more.