Star Houston Pastry Chef Finally Has His Own Shop in EaDo

Ever wonder what a cross between a kolache and a bowl of phở tastes like? Chef Vanarin Kuch did, and now you can find out too at his new bakery, Koffeteria, which recently opened at 1110 Hutchins Street (conveniently located near Discovery Green and BBVA Stadium). After a five-year stint in New York and Chicago, the former Top Chef contestant and native Houstonian, who once ran the pastry programs at Hotel Zaza and Tiny Boxwoods, has returned to his Bayou City roots. Houston Food Finder was invited for a first taste of some of his sweet and savory pastry innovations.

The intimate cafe has only a bar and living room-style seating. Photo by Carlos Brandon.

Despite a brief permitting delay in November, Kuch got his small EaDo cafe open in roughly six months. Styled with repurposed and antique furniture, glass and silverware, the eclectic space is centered around a theme of sustainability. This includes gluten-free pasta stir sticks and no single-use plastic.

While the initial menu is fairly limited, you’ll find that the small kitchen is pumping out an impressively diverse selection of pastries. There are those that can quell your sweet tooth, and then others that serve as a hearty meal. Undoubtedly, the most buzzworthy item is the aforementioned Beef Phở Kolache. A brainchild of Kuch and genuinely reflective of Houston’s rich food culture, unctuous beef broth is poured into a golden brown bun stuffed with fork-tender oxtail. It is served with hoisin and Shark brand sriracha. It offers a singular gustatory sensation of tasting a bowl of phở and a pastry in a single bite.

Chef Vanarin Kuch’s famed Hot Cheetos Croissant. Photo by Carlos Brandon.

Another of Kuch’s creations is a Hot Cheetos Croissant, a large, photogenic pastry with the crushed, spicy snack baked into its outer layer. An early customer favorite is the Sour Cream and Onion Croissant. Inspired by the classic Lay’s chip flavor, the croissant is filled with housemade sour cream and onion dip, creating a unique savory pastry that is eerily reminiscent of its source material. For those with a sweet tooth, try one of the housemade sorbets, such Cassis Sangria or Coconut Caramelized Vanilla.

The Cambodian-American chef also fuses cultures and cuisines in his cafe’s beverages. A Koffeteria original, The Salty Cambodian is a drink based on Vietnamese coffee. Rather than condensed milk, however, Kuch melts housemade sourdough butter into an espresso to create a silky, not-too-sweet, latte-style drink that can be sipped or chugged on the go.

The Salty Cambodian is an innovative and delightful buttered latte. Photo by Carlos Brandon.

After years spent in lauded New York and Chicago kitchens such as Gotham Bar & Grill and Boulud Sud, this native son’s return to the Bayou City is already looking promising. East Downtown and the East End can certainly rejoice at this unique addition to an already impressive roster of bars and restaurants.

Koffeteria is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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