Longtime Restaurateur Benjy Levit Reveals a New Rice Village Bistro
Benjy Levit, first known for his eponymous restaurant, Benjy’s (now closed) and later, his successful Houston chain, Local Foods Market, is increasing his Rice Village presence with new restaurant Eau Tour. The bistro is opening March 21 at 5117 Kelvin, next door to the neighborhood’s of Local Foods and Levit’s charming, speakeasy-style wine bar, Lee’s Den.
Billed as a “community bistro,” Levit’s goal with Eau Tour is to “open an intimate space with a refined but not too serious dinner party atmosphere with food meant to be passed around accompanied with fun tunes.”
The intimate 2,000-square-foot space that was once home to Thai Spice has undergone a transformation, and now has bar seating for 11 guests, booth and banquette seating for 60 and covered patio, perfect for the upcoming spring weather. Garnish Design has reimagined the space with vivid pops of colors (a mix of chartreuse green, dusky rose and gray-blue), playful, vintage light fixtures and custom stained-glass windows. However, the design firm preserved the original 1960s terrazzo floors and D’hanis-brand brick walls from its days as a bank.
The menu offers seafood-forward, contemporary, French cuisine, some of which will emerge from a Josper wood-burning oven. Levit has tapped executive chef Kent Domas, previously of The Classic, Alice Blue and Bernadine’s to helm the kitchen.
Domas’ menu includes a fruits de mer section that offers fresh Gulf and East Coast oysters, razor clams and cured trout belly. A caviar and roe section boasts Kaluga and Calvisius sturgeon caviar.
Appetizers include seafood bouillabaisse, baked mussels with snail butter and scallop crudo with a citrus vinaigrette, blood orange and pistachio dukkah (a mixture of herbs, nuts and spices). Larger dishes on the menu include Parisian gnocchi with caramelized onions, olives, anchovies and creme fraiche, seared snapper with cauliflower meuniere (a brown butter, chopped parsley and lemon sauce), and seared duck breast served with lentils and butternut squash. Desserts feature Gateau Basque with infused Texas strawberries and orange blossom cream, and Pecan Banana Upside Down Cake with ube and rum.
Eau Tour will feature wines as well as a “heavy pour” cocktail program. The latter includes reimagined classics such as Le Vieillard Nouveau, an old-fashioned using barrel-aged gin, demerara simple syrup, and Amer liqueur, and Aneth Avec a dill-forward cocktail with house aquavit and Lillet Blanc. For those who want to sample a little bit of everything without overindulging, all cocktails will be available in a small “shot-sized” format. The wine program was curated by Ryan Cooper, formerly a sommelier with Goodnight Hospitality and Camerata at Paulie’s, and who recently started local wine education program, everywine, will offer a concise and comprehensive selection of wine from France’s classic regions, as well as wine produced in American regions.
We named Lee’s Den one of our favorite new restaurants of 2022, so we know Levit knows how to cultivate a convivial environment centered around food and drinks. We expect his newest venture will continue a successful pattern.
Eau Tour will be open for dinner service Tuesday through Sunday, from 4 to 10 p.m.
Minh Truong is an avid lover of the Houston food scene and has written about it since 2011, starting as a freelance contributor for the Houston Press. She never stopped exploring all that Houston has to offer, and after a seven-year hiatus returned to writing about it, this time with Houston Food Finder.