New Restaurant in the Houston Medical Center Area Wows With Fine Chinese & Japanese Fare

Molihua chefs Hideki Hiwatashi and Ho Chee Boon

Located on the second floor of the Medical Center’s Blossom Hotel at 7118 Bertner, Molihua (Chinese for “jasmine”) stands poised to wow Houstonians. Chefs Ho Chee Boon and Hideki Hiwatashi oversee a menu featuring some truly innovative, interesting twists to Chinese and Japanese cuisine. Molihua will be the third restaurant in a portfolio run by The Boon Group, alongside San Francisco’s Blue Whale Restaurant and Lounge and Empress by Boon.

This isn’t Boon and Hiwatashi’s first foray into Houston. Both were involved with upscale dim sum eatery Yauatcha, which closed its Galleria location in February 2020. 

We attended a special media preview dinner to sample a range of items from the menu… and gush excitedly over the playlist heavy on Gorillaz and Discovery-era Daft Punk

Hiwatashi and Boon bring a combined 65 years of restaurant experience to Molihua, along with stints in Michelin-starred spots such as Kikunoi Roan in Kyoto (Hiwatashi) and Hakkasan in New York (Boon). It shows. 

Interior of Houston restaurant Molihua in the Blossom Hotel
Interior of Houston restaurant Molihua in the Blossom Hotel. Photo by Brian Kennedy.

One of Molihua’s most notable strengths is how the chefs play around with texture as if with acrylic paint on a canvas. This is most notable with the starter dishes Crispy Temaki Tartare and Tebasaki Mochi Karaage. The Crispy Temaki Tartare comes folded in lightly battered fried nori, which adds an almost diaphanous, bubbly touch as a counterpoint to the fresh seafood (tuna, salmon or prawn) within. Served in a to-go box, the Tebasaki Mochi Karaage offers a unique interpretation of both Japanese fried chicken and stuffed chicken wings. The larger bone of the wing is removed, and the resulting cavity is filled with sticky rice and crab meat before frying. Biting into a wing delivers a mélange of complementary textures held together within crispy, salty skin — an enticing sensory experience.

Crispy Temaki Tartare at new Houston restaurant Molihua in the Blossom Hotel
Crispy Temaki Tartare at new Houston restaurant Molihua in the Blossom Hotel. Photo by Meredith Nudo.

Molihua’s Wild Mushroom and Black Truffle Kamameshi is another spectacular dish. Creamy, earthy and topped with fresh black truffle shavings tableside, the dish instigated the theft of mushrooms and other nibbles out of the bowl of a patient dining companion who pretended to look the other way. 

Kamameshi (literally “kettle rice” in Japanese) are traditionally intended as shared meals mixed, cooked and served all within the same iron pot, an economical culinary approach that results in delectable comfort food. One pot should suffice as an entrée if split between two diners, or as part of a more dim sum-style meal for a larger group.

Soft-Shell Crab Tempura with Mango maki rolls (top) and Naruto maki rolls (bottom) at Molihua in the Blossom Hotel
Soft-Shell Crab Tempura with Mango maki rolls (top) and Naruto maki rolls (bottom) at Molihua in the Blossom Hotel. Photo by Meredith Nudo.

Sushi fans looking for options a bit lighter than a rice bowl will find plenty at Molihua. The Naruto maki rolls include housemade pickled daikon, which adds a deliciously bright spark to the salmon, chutoro (medium-fat tuna) and hamachi (Japanese amberjack) fillings. 

Love mixing fruit and seafood? You need the Soft-Shell Crab Tempura with Mango maki rolls like you need oxygen. Sweet, salty and oh-so-fresh, it makes you hope they eventually set up for delivery or to-go orders so you can enjoy it poolside along with a Lychee Rose Martini, Kyoto Fashion or Limontini — or all of the above. 

In continuing the overarching theme of satisfying textures and fruit, fruit and more fruit — look, I own my biases — end your meal with the Passionfruit Cheesecake, served inside a passion fruit shell alongside a caramelized petit banana and scoop of vanilla ice cream. At only two spoonfuls, it provides a decadent, almost mousse-like, capper to a luxurious meal without making you leave feeling overstuffed. 

Passionfruit Cheesecake with a caramelized petit banana and scoop of vanilla ice cream. Photo by Meredith Nudo.

Hiwatashi and Boon both come to Houston with electrifying culinary accomplishments to their names. They’ve brought some impressive dishes to the local dining scene, and it makes one wonder how, over time, their perspectives and innovations may change as they spend more time in our city’s uniquely diverse cultural kitchen. It’s an exciting prospect. But for now, it’s more than enough to enjoy the exciting present.

Molihua is open daily for dinner from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Reservations may be made via its website

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