The Hit List: New Houston Restaurants For October 2020

Smoked Beef Flat Rib Noodles and Pork Belly Bao at Xin Chao

As we head into fall, Houston restaurant owners continues to navigate the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the difficulties, some are still daring to open new eateries. The latest crop of openings include familiar favorites in new locations, rebirths of longtime classics and new ideas from locally renowned chefs.

Acadian Coast, 2929 Navigation: From John Avila of El Burro & the Bull and Henderson & Kane,  and Jean-Philippe Gaston, formerly of Izakaya and  Kata Robata, comes Acadian Coast, which is slated to open later this month. The menu is expected to put an emphasis on Gulf Coast seafood while adding Creole, southern and Canadian influences. While the full menu was not available at press time, expect dishes such as freshly baked beignets (for breakfast), steak tartare and housemade gumbo, as well as New Orleans-influenced cocktails like hurricanes and mint juleps.

Brochettes de Crevettes (shrimp skewers) at Bistro 555 in Memorial. Photo by Paula Murphy.

Bistro 555, 13616 Memorial: After 22 years, owner Genevieve Guy closed Bistro Provence, making way for a fresh concept in the same space called Bistro 555. The dining room is beautifully remodeled, with blue walls and a spiffy polished concrete floor stained to a glossy amber-gold. Like Bistro Provence, Bistro 555 focuses on classic French dishes, but the culinary viewpoint is expanded to include Alsace, Guy’s homeland in eastern France. Alsace borders on Germany, so don’t be surprised to see those influences expressed in dishes such as Wienerschnitzel with a rustic, vinegary-tart German-style potato salad alongside.

The menu is seasonally driven, so expect it to change regularly. At the moment, diners can find autumnal entrées such as the Quenelle de Saumon Haeberlin (wild salmon filet, snapper mousse with a white wine shallot sauce), Côte de Porc Marinée aux Herbes, (an herb-and-olive oil-marinated pork chop) and Cuisse de lapin à la moutarde (rabbit leg with an oregano mustard sauce). Those who enjoy wine will find many reasonably priced and enjoyable French selections by both the glass and bottle. For more details, read Phaedra Cook’s article about the opening.

Polenta Taragna at Bludorn Restaurant. Courtesy photo.

Bludorn, 807 Taft: This new entry is from chef Aaron Bludorn, whose experience includes a stint at Daniel Boulud’s Café Boulud and appearances on Netflix’s “The Final Table”, and his wife Victoria Pappas Bludorn,who grew up in Houston’s in Pappas restaurant family before attending the International Culinary Center and also working for Boulud. Located in the former The Pass & Provisions space (rest in peace), Bludorn serves a European-inspired menu that incorporates both Gulf seafood and creative takes on classics. The dishes include Gulf Cioppino, a seafood soup with redfish, crab, shrimp and tomato broth, and Tamale Pie, made with short rib, ancho chili and cilantro. From the raw bar, diners can enjoy raw, fried or roasted oysters.

Certified sommelier Molly Austad brings over a decade’s worth of experience to the curated wine and beer list. In addition, there are original cocktails such as Yuzu Sour made with Japanese whiskey, Cynar, yuzu, and star anise and Army & Navy made with gin, orgeat, lemon and Angostura. Those with a sweet tooth will want to save room for dessert from pastry chef and fellow Boulud alum Alejandra Salas, who recently worked at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry.

Burger with a beer flight at Katz’s new location. Courtesy photo.

Katz’s, 2200 North Shepherd: This longtime late-night food destination opened up its Heights location earlier this month. Combining a New York-diner vibe with modern touches, the menu offers beloved, old-school favorites such as all-day breakfasts, bagels with lox, traditional deli sandwiches like the Reuben, alongside newcomers like pan-seared sea bass. The bar menu, first introduced at the Montrose location, received an update with new cocktail, beer and wine selections. Just like the original location, “Katz’s never closes.”

Roasted and coated in a lemon and herb jus, the half chicken is a specialty at Ostia. Photo by Sandra Crittenden.

Ostia, 2050 Dunlavy: Last month, Travis McShane, who recently returned to Houston, opened Ostia in Montrose. The earthy and inviting space includes a main dining room with lots of natural wood and comfortable brown leather booths, ample outdoor seating, a welcoming bar and a fully exposed kitchen. Inspired by “seasonality and spontaneity,” the menu is set to change frequently. It currently features highlights such as roast peppers, eggplant and ricotta salata on toast, bucatini with walnut sage pesto and pecorino and marinated summer squash in balsamic. For more details, check out Sandra Crittenden’s first impressions.

One of Street to Kitchen’s curry dishes. Courtesy photo,

Street to Kitchen, 6501 Harrisburg: After hosting many popular pop-ups, chef Benchawan Jabthong Painter, formerly of SaltAir and Theodore Rex, and her husband Graham Painter opened Street to Kitchen at the end of the summer. From a modest strip center in the East End, the couple are serving what they call “unapologetically authentic” Thai food. Standouts include chicken massaman curry with jasmine rice (all the curry pastes and sauces are housemade), stir-fried Thai basil beef, fresh-and-spicy green papaya salad and Thai fried chicken. Diners can order via the restaurant’s website for pickup or delivery to or to eat at one of the on-site picnic tables.

Nguyen-er Nguyen-er Chicken Dinner! at Xin Chao. Photo by Ryan Baker.

Xin Chao, 2310 Decatur: MasterChef winner and chef-owner of The Blind Goat, Christine Ha, and Saigon House’s Tony J. Nguyen have teamed up to offer modern Vietnamese fare at Xin Chao. Housed in the former home of the original Beaver’s and Decatur Bar & Pop-Up Factory, the redesigned space has a contemporary modern feel. A centerpiece is the black-and-white mural by Houston-based artist Caroline Troung that features Hokusai-inspired ocean waves and lotus flowers. There is also spacious patio with plenty of seating.

Houston Food Finder’s Ryan Kasey Baker recently noted standout dishes such as the Smoked Beef Rib Flat Noodles, featuring a massive, fall-off-the-bone beef rib, and Nguyen-er Nguyen-er Chicken Dinner!, which features a half or whole chicken that is bathed in lemongrass buttermilk batter and deep fried to create a crackling crust. While the cocktail program is still in progress, Xin Chao offers unique takes on classics like Lemongrass Mojito and Tamarind Old Fashioned.

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