The Hit List: New Houston Restaurants to Visit for May 2022
Houston’s vibrant restaurant scene continues to entice with new concepts offering a variety of flavors and experiences. There is a new Heights sushi spot from the team behind Kokoro and Handies Duozo, a fresh locale from chef Antoine Ware and a nifty new place from Goode Company (known for Goode Co. BBQ, Armadillo Palace and many other Houston staples).
III by Wolfgang Puck, 6550 Bertner: Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has returned (so to speak) to Houston 15 years after closing his last area location. The new restaurant is located in the former Third Coast Restaurant space on the top floor of the John P. McGovern Commons Building in the Texas Medical Center, right above the fountain.
III’s kitchen is run by chef Ronald Proano, who’s serving seasonal menus for lunch and dinner. There’s also a happy hour that runs from 3 to 6 p.m. that features bar bites such as the Smoked Brisket Sliders with Caramelized Shallot Jam, Parmesan Arancini with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Crispy Chicken Wing Karaage with yuzu kosho (a Japanese condiment of peppers, yuzu peel and salt) and honey.
III’s current menu offers globally influenced mains like the flat iron steak with blistered peppers and spicy red chimichurri, a garlicky Argentinian condiment, and grilled salmon salad that shows Japanese inspiration with its unagi glaze and pickled vegetables. Learn more about the new restaurant in Phaedra Cook’s article.
Aiko, 1902 Washington Avenue: The long-anticipated sushi spot from the duo behind the popular Kokoro at Bravery Chef Hall and Handies Douzo is in “sneak peek” mode according to Instagram, with plans to officially launch later this month. While the menu was not available online at press time, early Yelp reviews reveal that we can expect starters such as Lemon-Salted Edamame and crudos such as maguro (bluefin tuna) made with ponzu and pickled cucumbers, and BGB Sake made with Tosazu Gelée and ikura (salmon roe). The soft opening menu also offers a selection of hand rolls such as negitoro with bluefin fatty tuna, caviar and chives, and nigiri/sashimi selections with options such as kanpachi (amberjack) and the BGB Saketoro made with Big Glory Bay Salmon Belly. There are also three levels of omakase priced at $35, $55 and $95 per person.
Goode Co. Fish Camp, 8865 Six Pines Drive, Shenandoah, TX: The latest venture from Goode Company pulls from the father/son connection between owner Levi Goode and his late dad, Jim Goode. “This newest concept is especially personal to me because it’s inspired by time spent fishing with my dad on Christmas Bay,” says Goode.
Expect fresh Gulf oysters along with heartier fare such as Crispy Boudin, Christmas Bay Gumbo with shrimp and crab served over seafood rice, the company’s famous Damn Goode Burger and hearth-roasted Yellowfin Tuna topped with Gulf shrimp and Veracruzana sauce with tomatoes, olives, jalapeños and capers. Fish Camp also serves a selection of local beer in addition to classic and signature cocktails such as Fish Camp Punch made with both light and dark rums, fresh pineapple, passion fruit, tiki bitters and fresh lime.
Hamsa, 5555 Morningside: From Itai Ben Eli, chef Sash Kurgan and Itamar Levy of Sof Hospitality — owners of Doris Metropolitan steakhouse and pastry shop Badolina (also in Rice Village) — comes Hamsa Modern Israeli Cuisine. The menu from Kurgan and Yotam Dolev is aimed at delivering “dishes rich with vegetables, spices and one-of-a-kind flavor profiles.” With a heavy emphasis on family-style dining, guests will be encouraged to order a variety of salatim, a Hebrew word for a first course of dips, spreads and slaws. Dishes on the lunch menu include Cauliflower Couscous Salad, Shakshuka and grilled branzino, with dinner options such as Eggplant Balady and Arak Mussels.
Sommelier and General Manager, Melissa Rogers offers a wine list that spotlights Middle Eastern wines, including those from Israel and Lebanon. Hamsa serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. (The restaurant is closed on Mondays.) Valet is complimentary (gratuity only). For more details, check out Phaedra Cook’s article.
Lees Den, 2424 Dunstan: Local Foods owner Benjy Levit has opened this new wine bar in the former lounge space that had been part of Benjy’s in Rice Village. The new “den” offers guests ample-but-intimate seating for over 50. The interior was designed by Brittany Vaughan of Garnish Designs, the company that also worked on other unique spaces, such as Theodore Rex. The wine list (created by GM certified sommelier Chrisanna Shewbart) highlights selections by the glass and bottle designed for pairing alongside locally sourced seasonal bar bites and entrées (den-goers can also grab a bottle from Local Foods Market next door). Those looking for cocktail-themed wine libations can choose from a rotating list, such as the Spring Thyme Spritz made with a peach and thyme vermouth.
Chef Maria Gonzalez (of Benjy’s and Local Foods) offers outside-the-box bites, such as Benjy’s Hurricane Popcorn with Korean red pepper salt and chocolate covered peanuts and Bread & Caviar made with Japanese milk bread, smoked trout roe, and European butter. Those looking for a heartier meal can choose from entrée-sized mains like the Roasted 44 Farms Steak and Potato or Midnight Pasta with tomato sauce, Calabrian chilies and olives.
Loro Houston, 1001 West 11th: This outpost of the Austin-based Asian smokehouse (a collaboration between James Beard Award-winners chef Tyson Cole of Uchi and pitmaster Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue) opened in February. Housed inside the former 11th Street Church of God, the 1940’s décor has been updated with modern touches and ample outdoor seating.
Lunch and dinner service includes smaller items such as the Smoked Salmon Dip With Yuzu, Sriracha Aioli and Togarashi and the Crunchy Sweet Corn Fritters (with sriracha, aioli and cilantro) alongside more robust dishes like Loro Cheeseburger (topped with red onion-brisket jam, muenster cheese, lettuce and chili aioli) and the Smoked Baby Back Duroc Pork Ribs served with cauliflower pickles and green onions (note this item, as well as other items, are only served at certain times, so check the menu before you go). Writer Lauren Bebeau went to the soft opening, and while there appeared to still be some kinks to work out (especially with the counter ordering process), a Mango Sake Slushee might hit the spot as the Houston weather heats up.
Marmo Italian, 888 Westheimer: Baltimore-based Atlas Restaurant Group, which also operates Loch Bar and Ouzo Bay, debuted a lively, Italian chophouse in mixed-development hub Montrose Collective. The vibrant 120-seat dining space also features a 10-seat lounge and U-shaped bar. The menu from executive chef Eli Jackson and chef-partner Julian Marucci (of parent company Atlas) includes classics such as chicken and eggplant parmigiana and chicken marsala next to innovative dishes like squid ink campanelle with blue crab, uni cream sauce, basil and chile, and a colorful hamachi dish topped with basil, avocado and squid ink rice chips served over passion fruit ponzu.
With a wine list spanning over 20 pages, Marmo also offers ample beer, Italian aperitifs and both signature and classic cocktails. Happy hour features Peroni beer on tap from 3 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those looking to dine al fresco can take advantage of Montrose Collective’s shared outdoor area, which houses Marmo’s covered patio.
Moon Rabbit, 605 West 19th: This new Vietnamese hot spot in the Heights is still in its soft opening phase and only open for dinner, but we continue to hear good things about it. According to team member Rosie Puccio, diners can look forward to traditional Vietnamese cuisine with a southern influence from co-chefs Tam Nguyen and Rudy Vasquez. Dishes include veggie spring rolls, bún bò huế and Bánh Xèo Tostada.
Additional menu standouts include carpaccio made with thinly sliced beef tenderloin served with fresh greens and drizzled with a spicy citrus chẩm chéo sauce made from dried chilis, salt, garlic, cilantro, lemongrass and wild anise, and Miso-Marinated Claypot Fish with Atlantic cod, roasted Brussels sprouts and caramel fish sauce.
The drink menu currently offers bar staples such as the old fashioned and a vodka or gin gimlet, plus there is a rotating menu of signature cocktails. The latter include selections such as A Trip To Bird Island made with Cazadores Blanco Tequila, coconut matcha, lime and sugar served on the rocks, and the Hare With The Pear made with pear brandy, Spanish Cava and lemon served up.
Peony & Crane, 626 West 19th: Still in its soft opening phase, this neighborhood eatery serves Chinese food in the Heights. The menu includes a variety of vegetarian and meat-based dishes, many of which feature slightly risqué names, such as Numb-Ass Shanky Leg with Sichuan beef, peppercorn, celery, Thai pepper and green pepper; smoked bacon belly on chives; Sichuan dry-fried green beans, Smoking Lotus (spicy fried Chinese cabbage) and Fuzzy Balls for dessert (ube mochi rolled in coconut flakes). While restaurant does not have a liquor license yet, they are approved to beer and wine, and guests can order from a small selection of beer, sake or wines by the glass or bottle.
Saigon Hustle, 3323 Ella: The brick-and-mortar location of a prior ghost kitchen (the latest project from Ordinary Concepts) is giving Vietnamese-food lovers a new spot for enjoying their favorite dishes. With an emphasis on healthy and fast fare, the menu features fresh takes on rolls such as Honey Glazed Lemongrass Salmon Roll (salmon baked and broiled in honey and lemongrass glaze, then wrapped with rice paper, vermicelli, lettuce, mint and pickled carrots and daikon) and the vegetarian egg rolls made with shredded taro, jicama, onion, peas, carrots and glass noodles. Main courses like bánh mì, noodle, rice and salads let diners select the protein (chargrilled BBQ pork, ribeye, honey-soy BBQ chicken, honey-glazed lemongrass salmon or tofu) and build as they go, ordering as little or as many add-ons as they want. While Saigon Hustle does not currently offer indoor seating, there is a 40-person patio perfect for spring weather.
The Warwick, 5888 Westheimer: Named after one of Houston’s oldest luxury hotels and housed inside the former Houston’s space on Westheimer, The Warwick aims to deliver high-quality food in a luxurious atmosphere to those missing both the hotel and previous restaurant. New Orleans native Antoine Ware is consulting chef, drawing from his extensive background while also collaborating with local chefs to bring The Warwick’s Southern-influenced American menu to life.
Inside the marble and tiled space, designed by Nicki Dooms of NHI Design, diners can choose to sit in one of the custom banquettes or grab a seat in the shade on one of the two outdoor patios. There is also a private dining room for events.
Highlights on the menu include Charbroiled Gulf Oysters; Chili-Glazed Gulf Shrimp, jumbo fried shrimp tossed with a spicy red glaze; the Hawaiian Ribeye, a 16-ounce boneless prime ribeye marinated for 48 hours in pineapple, brown sugar and ginger; and grilled lobster tails poached in butter, sprinkled with Cajun spices and laid on a bed of Andouille Jambalaya Risotto.
Beverage director Andrew Grala’s cocktail list features selections such as the Desperado made with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, turbinado sugar, raspberry puree and walnut bitters in addition to an affordable wine list by both the glass and bottle. Read more in Staci Davis’ first impressions article.