Owner of Tobiuo in Katy Plans to Open Money Cat Restaurant in Houston
Chef Sherman Yeung, who owns Tobiuo, a Japanese restaurant in Katy, is making plans for his first restaurant in Houston. Called Money Cat (not to be confused with Theodore Rex chef/owner Justin Yu’s popular pop-up brunches and limited-edition menus), it will be located in the Kirby Grove center at 2925 Richmond, next door to upscale Indian restaurant Kiran’s. Like Tobiuo, Money Cat will be a modern Japanese restaurant that goes beyond sushi, and it’s expected to open this summer.
Yeung is personally taking on Money Cat’s executive chef role. He plans to build on his experience not only at Tobiuo, but also Uchi, Yauatcha and Izakaya WA. To prepare for returning to the kitchen, Yeung recently staged at Michelin-starred Birdsong in San Francisco, where he worked on his skills as a saucier, and at Smyth in Chicago, where he says he learned about new ingredients and techniques for building depth of flavor.
To assist, he is transferring some of his more experienced Tobiuo team members to Money Cat, including Le Chau, whose two decades of industry experience includes Roka Akor, Oporto and RA Sushi. In addition to being Money Cat’s general manager, Chau will also develop the cocktail and wine program. Ashley Castro, who has been with Tobiuo since 2018, will serve as assistant general manager.
Also moving to the new spot is pastry chef Jiolo “Jio” Dingayan, a recent Culinary Institute LeNôtre graduate whose prior experience includes being a line cook at the now-closed Potín. At Money Cat, Dingayan is stepping into the chef de cuisine role, and like Yeung, he also prepared by staging at Michelin-starred restaurants, n/naka and n/soto in Los Angeles.
“Money Cat is a much more personal project for me, and I don’t want to just be comfortable; I want to challenge myself,” says Yeung via press release. “I feel it’s the duty of those in the restaurant industry to share what we know about food, both with peers and guests. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned during my stages to provide a richer experience and appreciation of our food. And I’m excited to serve anyone who enjoys great food.”
As first- and second-generation Asian Americans, Yeung and Dingayan are calling the food at Money Cat “New Japanese,” which will take some inspiration from regional American foods. There will be a commitment to using local ingredients, and while the dishes are intended to be fun and light-hearted, the execution will rely on time-honored Japanese and French techniques. Some planned dishes include a variety of sushi, a katsu sando on housemade milk bread, Osaka-style okonomiyaki (a savory Japanese pancake) with bonito butter, and kabocha ravioli. Yeung is experimenting with koji fermentation and hopes to offer his own housemade miso, soy sauce and koji butter.
Dingayan is using his education and pastry chef background to create Money Cat’s bread program and desserts that will focus on “interesting flavors” and “more savory elements,” such as a seaweed-laced chocolate dessert.
Drinks will include cocktails that are more adventurous than those currently served at Tobiuo, a curated wine and sake list and a special tea service.
Money Cat’s 4,100-square-foot space will be decorated in a minimalist, modern, Japanese style with “crisp lines, warm wood and earth tones, black marble tile work setting off the wraparound bar and semi-open kitchen, which is fronted with a high-top sushi bar and wooden shelves lined with ceramic serveware.” There will also be intriguing-sounding cube light installations.
Of course, you can’t have a restaurant called Money Cat without a plethora of the namesake figurines (called maneki-neko, or beckoning cat, in Japanese). There is a plan to display a wall full of gold ones at the entrance. “I have always been fond of money cats. They’re super cute, plus there’s history behind them, and they’ll provide good fortune to the restaurant,” Yeung explained.
When it debuts, Money Cat will only serve dinner, with both a tasting menu and a la carte options. The hours will be from 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 4 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A “social hour” is planned, and during that time, guests can take advantage of discounted drinks, sushi and hot food specials. Parking should not be a trial for visitors, since there’s a garage onsite, as well as valet and street parking.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.