This month’s list of new restaurants includes the newest downtown steakhouse, an innovative Mexican restaurant in The Heights, and a barbecue with huge potential. As the recent pace of restaurant openings has slowed down a bit, this month’s column also includes a few slightly older restaurants that still deserve attention.
As always, these are roughly ranked based on the priority I would give their try, but every entry on the list has something to offer. Reviews are based on actual dining experiences at listed restaurants (sometimes more than once). These are less formal reviews than a guide to what to expect with a few suggestions on what to order.
The downtown Four Seasons hotel has withdrawn its Italian restaurant Quattro in favor of this pan-Latin steakhouse concept from Richard Sandoval, the globe-trotting chef who also created the hotel’s much-loved lobby bar, Bayou & Bottle. As part of the makeover, the dining room now revolves around a bar dedicated to cocktails on one side and ceviche on the other, which is a good starting point for what sets Toro Toro apart from the rest. steakhouses.
Inspired by Brazilian churrascarias, a meal at Toro Toro can begin with shareable dishes such as smoked guacamole, an ahi tuna-based amarillo ceviche, or a Nikei-inspired sushi roll. Those who want a red meat alternative can try the salmon (served deliciously rare) with a sweet and spicy bacon-morita chili jam. Instagram-worthy presentations and table touches abound, such as in a flambéed tomahawk rib eye with tequila and sliced or the La Bomba dessert which is – spoiler alert – laid on the table to reveal various ice creams and sides.
The downtown area is full of options for people who want a traditional steakhouse experience (Pappas Bros. is a short walk from the hotel, for example). Toro Toro offers an alternative that still emphasizes beef alongside lighter, fresher dishes that could be a meal in itself.
Granted, I’m a little late getting to that import from Austin that claimed the old Bistecca space in lower Westheimer, but delayed sushi isn’t refused sushi. Chef-owner Andy Chef and sushi veteran Yoshi Katsuyama (Uchi, Aqui) form a dynamic dyno who have created a compelling menu of hot and cold dishes that are both tasty and visually appealing.
Highlights of a recent omakase included the salmon on the fire, where the flames lightly kiss slices of sashimi; a four-piece flight of tuna nigiri that included a slice of heavily marbled toro collar; and interactive wagyu beef and hot rock. Even those ordering a la carte should opt for both the signature salmon belly and the homemade chip nigiri and chocolate foie gras. Pro tip: ask Katsuyama to introduce you to the sea bass soup; it’s memorable.
After being acclaimed for his short-lived Belly of the Beast, chef Thomas Bille has found a new home in the former Calle Onze space on 11th Street. Described as an American-Mexican restaurant, Chivos applies Mexican flavors and techniques to dishes from other cultures. For example, Sichuan-style chili wontons turn into pozole dumplings in pork broth, and the bread serving turns into fluffy flour tortillas with truffle butter and salmon roe that are a must-have for anyone who tasted an order of Nancy cakes at Nancy’s Hustle.
Bille also has a solid understanding of traditional Mexican flavors, as he’s demonstrated with a seared duck breast accompanied by a complex fig mole and traditional tuna tostada. Since the restaurant is part of Night Moves Hospitality (Trash Panda Drinking Club, Space Cowboy), diners can rest assured that the cocktails are as tasty as the food.
No barbecue restaurant in Houston has the stature of this newcomer to EaDo. After years of construction, it occupies most of a block that its owners have owned in the family for over a century. His smoker features four staggered 1,000 gallon smokers and two cookers for making whole Carolina pork.
Pitmaster Willow Villarreal and Chef Jasmine Barela, who made a splash a few years ago with their Willow’s Texas Barbecue food truck, were given a considerably larger stage to show off their skills. While the pit room turns out tasty on the Texas classic – including the well-rendered, peppery brisket, juicy turkey, and lightly spiced pork ribs – it’s Barela’s sides that stand out the earliest. Crispy fries, sweet and tangy pickled tomatoes, hearty charro beans and benchmark quality chili cheese are all mouthwatering accompaniments to any three-meat plate. A full bar means plenty of drink options, especially when dinner service is added.
It remains to be seen whether J-Bar-M will join the ranks of Houston’s best barbecue grills, but his stature and culinary flair is testament to his ambitions to earn that kind of recognition.
Spring Branch BBQ Feges
Newly named one of the 50 best barbecues in the state by Texas monthly, now seems like a good time to acknowledge chef / husband and wife duo Patrick Feges and Erin Smith for this bigger, better, self-contained version of the restaurant they created in the Greenway Plaza food court. Not only does the menu feature all of the classic Texas smoked meats, but it also includes the whole pork which has become Feges’ signature item.
Non-barbecue entrees like a two-patty smash burger, porcini-crusted suspension steak and salads add depth to the menu. With more than a dozen to choose from, vegetarians could whip up a meal from accompaniments like spicy Korean braised greens, Money Cat potatoes, Moroccan spiced carrots, and chana masala made from chickpeas.
Smith’s time at Camerata means that the wine list is thoughtful and offers some possibilities for offbeat pairings. Add to that the convenience of being open for lunch and dinner, and it’s no wonder Spring Branch diners flock to this newcomer.
Lao Sze Chuan
It may be somewhat surprising to find an outpost of the famous Chicago restaurant in an obscure Katy mall, but lovers of tasty Sichuan food should make the trip. Highlights of a recent meal included roasted duck with a crispy skin, Chengdu-style green beans with lots of snap, and a fillet of fish boiled in a spicy Sichuan sauce that delivered just the right amount of. spicy Sichuan pepper. The Chef’s Special Dry Chili Chicken is a tasty, well-executed version of the fried chicken found in other restaurants.
Sao lao thai coffee
Independence Heights is a great destination for Thai and Laotian cuisine. With only a dozen tables, this humble establishment doesn’t offer a lot of frills, but the tasty dishes are certainly a draw. Consider the larb, which replaces the usual pork or chicken with a filet mignon made to order; don’t worry, there is still enough heat in it to make even chiliheads sweat (at least a little). Likewise, rib eye adds meaty depth to dishes like boat noodles, Thai pho, and red curry. The BYOB with a corkage fee of $ 5 makes it an ideal destination to bring in a nice bottle of Riesling or Champagne.
The owners of Hungry’s have added this herbal concept to their Energy Corridor location on Memorial Drive. While the menu offers plenty of meat alternatives like a cheesesteak or seitan-based gyros, the strongest dishes on the menu allow the veggies to shine. They include a poke bowl-style dish made with roasted beets and Brussels sprouts, a soba noodle salad with a sweet and spicy ginger, sesame and chili dressing, and a spinach and artichoke dip that satisfies everything. by being dairy free. Fruit juices and a well-designed cocktail menu are compelling drink options.