The Hit List: New Houston Restaurants to Visit in November 2021
The holiday season is around the corner and Houstonians will have a plethora of choices for dining out before the end of the year. New additions this month include a downtown brasserie from a popular bakery and well-regarded chef, a neighborhood spot in Garden Oaks and a high-end northern Italian restaurant in the Galleria area. We think there is something for everyone this season, so without further adieu, here are our must-visit restaurants for November.
Alba Ristorante, 1080 Uptown Park: Housed inside Hotel Granduca, this recently opened northern Italian restaurant gives a stylish makeover and a new menu to the former Ristorante Cavour location. Chef Maurizio Ferrarese, a native of Italy’s Piedmont region who was executive chef of Quattro and Roma before joining the Hotel Granduca team in 2018, has cultivated his version of upscale northern Italian fare. Highlights on the menu include antipasti, such as Albese Beef Tartare made with 30-day aged Piedmontese beef tenderloin accented by bagna càuda (an anchovy-garlic sauce) and mustards, and scallops served with truffles, Modena balsamic and porcini mushroom dressing. Entrées include cast-iron seared Mediterranean Branzino Filet with glazed carrots, carrot reduction, saffron potatoes and caviar.
There are also options for those with dietary preferences and sensitivities, like the vegetarian Sweet Corn Ravioli served with brown butter, sage and Parmesan shavings and the gluten-free Cream-less Cauliflower Soup and Caviar made with roasted cauliflower, cipollini onions, black garlic and Italian caviar drizzled with crème fraîche. The space is also home to a Champagne bar that offers cocktails such as the Alba Kiss with vanilla bean-infused Barolo grappa, and an extensive wine list that features many Italian vintages.
Chivos, 222 West 11th: This modern Mexican restaurant from Night Moves Hospitality, which is also behind Space Cowboy and Trash Panda Drinking Club. Chef Thomas Bille is overseeing the new restaurant in the former Calle Onze location after garnering attention for his prior spot, Belly of the Beast in Spring. Diners can expect creative dishes such as Pozole Dumplings served with pork broth, almond salsa macha (a salsa made with fried nuts or seeds, dried chiles and chile oil), Brussels sprouts and thinly shaved radish, the simple but elegant handmade flour tortillas with truffle butter and salmon roe spread, and hamachi tiradito. Behind the bar, Leesly Valdez (formerly of Monkey’s Tail, Calle Onze and Space Cowboy) is mixing up cocktails that showcase under-appreciated Mexican liqueurs and spirits. Try the D.F., a riff on the Manhattan with Mexican whiskey and tamarind bitters, or the West Tejas made with tequila and Nixta Licor de Elote, a corn liqueur from Jilotepec.
Common Bond Brasserie & Bakery, 800 Capitol: Many Houstonians are familiar with the pastry delights found at Common Bond’s several locations. Now, it’s time to get acquainted with the group’s newest project: a full-service brasserie serving lunch and dinner. Common Bond Brasserie & Bakery is located downtown above the Understory food hall in the Bank of America Tower. The 5,000-square-foot space, which includes the bakery, was developed by executive chef Jason Gould (former chef and owner of the long-closed but still-missed Gravitas), president Chris Fannin and CEO George Joseph. It currently offers breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., happy hour Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., a bar menu with snacks and dinner from 4 to 9 p.m.
Lunch features Common Bond classics such as Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Flatbread and coq au vin. The brasserie’s French-inspired dinner menu, which is unique to this location, is comprised of a focused selection of appetizers, sides, fresh oysters, petite and grand seafood towers and entrées. Standout appetizers include Citrus-Poached Lobster (Maine lobster, coconut milk panna cotta, ruby red grapefruit, avocado, Thai basil dressing and sesame tuile) and chili-sesame glazed crispy pork belly served with apple and arugula salad. Entrées include Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb with Moroccan spiced carrots, farro pilaf, and mint chimichurri and Seafood Bouillabaisse made with Gulf fish, shrimp, mussels, scallops, tomato broth, toasted baguette and saffron.
Be sure to save room for desserts, which were created by executive pastry chef David Berg, such as the Chocolate Gateau with chocolate mousse, devil’s food cake, glacage chocolate, raspberry coulis and crème chantilly.
Concura Italian Bites, 4340 Westheimer: In the works for almost a decade, this coastal Italian spot from fashion and design consultant Jessica Biondi is now open. Bondi, a native of Fano in the Marche region of Italy, tapped chef and fellow countryman Angelo Cuppone to helm the kitchen. (He’s spent the past few years satisfying Houstonians’ cravings for authentic Italian food at Roma in Rice Village.) Concura offers a cozy aesthetic and features a rotating menu of small and large plates. The current offerings feature starters such as Foie Gras Di Baccala (cod liver foie gras and squid ink Easter bread) and main courses like Gnocchi Zafferano E Gamberi with housemade gnocchi, saffron and shrimp. Concura also has a focused wine list, with an emphasis on Italian vintages, and over a dozen wines by the glass along with a variety of bottles from around the globe.
d’Alba Craft Kitchen & Cocktails, 3715 Alba: Industry veterans Daut Elshani (of Underground Hall, Beer Market Co.), chef Geoff Hundt (Local Foods and Benjy’s) chef Mike Hartley (Brasserie 19) and bar manager Kehlen Selph (formerly of Anvil Bar & Refuge) joined forces this year to bring this neighborhood restaurant to Garden Oaks. The menu features shareables such as Alba Balloon Bread made with pesto, garlic and truffle honey, and Chile and Lime Roasted Cauliflower. There are also larger plates, like Gulf fish served with roasted sunchokes, English peas, bell peppers, cilantro and grilled corn chutney, and the Falcon Lakes Burger served on a brioche bun with Fontina, aioli, arugula, house pickles and bruléed onions.
d’Alba also features a selection of rotating housemade pastas like campanelle tossed with basil pesto, Parmesan, English peas, cherry tomatoes, basil and summer squash and wood-fired pizzas that emphasize meatless options like wild mushroom and sweet potato with béchamel, cacio e pepe, truffled arugula and lemon zest.
Cocktail enthusiasts can peruse a menu organized by spirits. There are takes on classics such as the upDated Old Fashioned made with Forester 100 infused with dates and roasted pumpkin seeds, and the Callabria Collins made with Citadelle gin infused with lemongrass and lemon. In addition, there is an extensive wine list for by-the-glass and bottle options.
Mahesh’s Kitchen, 6019 City Walk, Sugar Land: Fort Bend County gets a spot on this month’s Hit List with the opening of Mahesh’s Kitchen. Currently serving lunch and dinner, this upscale Indian restaurant is serious about its spices, reportedly receiving over 300 pounds every month directly from India. Newcomers Neelesh and Shubhangi Musale dedicated this sophisticated space and menu to Shubhangi’s late brother Mahesh, who passed away before realizing his dream of attending culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Diners can choose from an ample selection of appetizers such as traditional samosa (which come two to an order) and pani puri with spiced green peas, potato, mint, sweet and spicy chutney. Entrées include murgh makhani (aka butter chicken), made with fresh tomatoes, free-range chicken, butter, garam masala and cashew nuts, and Goan Sear Halibut made with coconut, chili, cashew nut, curry leaf, and malabar sauce. Mahesh’s also features a full bar, cocktails and a wine list featuring a selection of organic options. For more, read about writer Sandra Crittenden’s recent visit.
Mozambik South African Kitchen, 5805 Westheimer (in the Galleria) and 1201 Lake Woodlands Drive, The Woodlands: After working with the Peli Peli group for a few years, South African chef Ryan Stewart acquired the last two Peli Peli locations in the Galleria and the Woodlands. The extensive menu pays homage to the diversity of influences found in that country, particularly that of Portugal. Diners (especially those who previously patronized Peli Peli or Peli Peli Kitchen) will find familiar dishes such as peri peri chicken and espetadas, or skewered meats such as filet mignon or pork belly (Mozambik also offers a version with mixed vegetables), served with a choice of sauces. However, it is the new items, such as the Bunny Chow — a half-loaf of hollowed-out bread filled with brisket curry — that breathe fresh life into South African food options in Houston. Executive chef Macey Maples, formerly of Peli Peli, will be introducing new menu items every six months, such as the current Crispy Cauliflower Wings (available now). Mozambik also offers a wide array of South African wines and cocktails such as the Madagascar Mule, which blends ginger beer, lime juice and mezcal with Madagascar vanilla.
ReikiNa, 799 Town & Country: Recently opened above Urban Outfitters at CityCentre, this intimate tasting menu restaurant has seating at one large table for just 20 diners. Chef Thomas Stacy, formerly of Uchi, built the 11-foot communal table himself from 200-year-old white oak barn siding. Guests at ReikiNa are served an eight-course tasting menu that changes roughly every 6 weeks.
Joining chef Stacy is pastry chef Carla Briseño and chef de cuisine Jacob Larimore, both alumni of Spanish restaurants MAD and BCN Taste & Tradition. The current tasting menu offers selections such as Bluefin Akamai Tartare made with passion fruit, ginger and beet tartare with goat cheese, and Pig Head Torchon made with pickle-berry jam, cornbread and miso carrots. Reservations can be booked via Resy, and the cost is roughly $150 per person.
Those looking to sample ReikiNa with less commitment can visit the new, in-house café Thursday through Saturdays from 4:30 through 10:30 p.m. Reservations are not required, and guests can order sashimi, charcuterie or a Wagyu burger served with koji pickles, Boston lettuce, miso jam, lemon aioli and white cheddar.
Toro Toro, 1300 Lamar:Chef Richard Sandoval has just opened the 6th location of his pan-Latin steakhouse inside the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Houston. It’s actually his second concept inside the hotel; the first being bourbon-focused Bayou & Bottle. Both are part of a phased hotel renovation project that’s spanned the past five years.
Sandoval’s menu emphasizes churrasco-style steaks, exotic game and seafood, with dishes such as the enormous 52-ounce Mezcal-Flambéed Prime Tomahawk and South Texas Antelope Tenderloin from Texas’ Broken Arrow Ranch. There is also Grilled Spanish Octopus and raw fish dishes such as Peruvian Ceviche, hamachi with leche de tigre, sweet potato, red onion and canchas (toasted corn).
Accompanying the hearty fare is an extensive wine list featuring several Latin American-based wineries in addition to cocktails like the Mercado Margarita with jalapeño-infused tequila hibiscus, passion fruit purée and hibiscus-rosemary foam and the Negroni Norte with mezcal, Campari and Carpano Antica vermouth.
URBE, 1101 Uptown Park: Chef Hugo Ortega and restaurateur Tracy Vaught’s newest eatery recently opened in the Galleria area. It finally gives Houstonians a chance to visit an Ortega restaurant dedicated to his love of causal Mexican street fare. Housed inside the former Café Express, the location is unique to the H Town Group because it serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as frozen and non-frozen drinks developed by beverage director Sean Beck. URBE serves breakfast Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Diners can choose from smaller items, such as breakfast tacos, as well as more substantial dishes like pambazo torta or Chilaquiles Gordos.
Lunch options, also served Tuesday through Friday, include the blue corn tortilla quesadilla made with squash blossom, squash, corn, quesillo and mole Amarillo, and assorted tacos (three per order with corn tortillas) such as tacos al pastor (trompo pork in achiote with charred pineapple, onion, cilantro and habanero salsa) and tacos de birria (braised beef in adobo consommé with and quesillo).
The dinner menu is served Tuesday through Saturday and features many of the lunch menu favorites along with a few larger mains. Brunch is also served Saturdays and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., respectively. Read more about URBE in Ryan Kasey Baker’s “First Bite” article.
Winnie’s, 3622 Main: Housed inside the former Natachee Supper & Punch space (which closed during the pandemic) Winnie’s (named for nearby Winbern street) gives former Bernadine’s alumni — Graham Laborde, Benjy Mason and Chris Roy — a chance to turn their Peacemaker po-boys pop-ups into a full-time gig.
In addition to po-boys, the new menu features snacks such as Pimento Queso served with housemade tortilla chips and fried pickled okra served with reaper remoulade plus salads, including the Muffaletta Chopped Salad.
Garrett Jones, formerly of Johnny’s Gold Brick, and Tina Marie Brackett, formerly of ‘93 Til and The Sugar Room, created a cocktail list that includes classics, frozen drinks, and cocktails on tap. A few of the creative libations include H-Town Irish Coffee, a frozen riff on Irish and iced Vietnamese coffees inspired by the Erin Rose in New Orleans, and Ranch Claw, a ranch-water-meets-White Claw creation that employs tequila and grapefruit. Day-drinkers might be thrilled to hear that all house cocktails are a mere $5 until 5 p.m. daily.