Opening Alert: Theodore Rex In Former Oxheart Space Is Ready To Serve
After a delay caused by flooding from Hurricane Harvey, Theodore Rex is now ready to open in the former Oxheart space at 1302 Nance. The new 28-seat restaurant, named for the nephew of James Beard Award-winning chef and owner Justin Yu, officially opens on Friday, October 6.
Jason White (who previously worked at Oxheart and was briefly executive chef at short-lived Museum Park Café) is chef du cuisine while Public Services Wine & Whisky’s Justin Vann will once again steer the wine and beer program along with sommelier Bridget Paliwoda. Diana Kendrick is maitre d’ and head of the front-of-house staff.
Don’t expect Theodore Rex to be like Oxheart, though. In a press release, Yu says it was during a guest cooking stint last year at The Restaurant at Meadowood that he realized that he’d grown tired of Oxheart’s tasting menu format. Theodore Rex will be of the “bistronomie” style. In other words, “bistro” will meet “gastronomy” in this more modern concept.
So, how does that execute on the plate? As with Oxheart, the menu is going to change frequently, driven by what excellent ingredients are locally available. The only dish always on the menu (for now, at least) is Tomato Toast. Yu describes it a “a deeply browned slab of pain de mie brushed with tomato water, slathered with tomato fondant from the crop this past summer, and finished with a salad of fantastic grape tomatoes from Dos Brisas farm.”
While Theodore Rex, like Oxheart, will give local produce plenty of chances to shine, there’s more of a focus on meats sourced from small producers such as Tejas Heritage Farm, as well as on Gulf fish. Some dishes will be limited and on-the-fly. Yu’s examples include, “a whole roasted collar of pork that we broke down, or braised cheeks of fish from huge grouper that we just butchered.”
Because of the greater meat focus, it allowed Vann and Paliwoda more freedom to expand the wine inventory and play more with pairings. The 90-bottle inventory ranges from approachable and food-friendly to “challenging” natural process selections.
The look of the restaurant was updated by Sean Garrison of Garrison Design Office, with an aim to make the space “light-hearted” and “functional.” Like Oxheart, though, Yu says plates, shelves, aprons and other good are still sourced from local crafters.
Reservations by calling (832) 978-0352 are recommended—but not required. The opening press release states, “Our bar and several tables are reserved daily for walk-in guests. Please call to check on waiting times.” Theodore Rex also takes reservations via the Resy website and app. Booking policies and a reservation link are on at the restaurant website.
The restaurant is open Thursdays through Mondays from 5 to 10 p.m.
Disclaimer: The author has a small financial interest in Theodore Rex.
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.