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Crispy pork ribs with fermented black bean mole and spring onion at UB Preser

FEATURES

10 Most Exciting New Restaurants

By Ray Dennison and Robin Barr Sussman

Maison Pucha photos by Jenn Duncan | Poitin photo by Trevor Gerland

06.26.18

The 50 finest things hitting the Houston food and drink scene

1 UB Preserv
After winning a James Beard Award for best chef in the Southwest in 2014, Chris Shepherd has expanded his culinary empire to include multiple concepts in the city. This latest venture takes dishes from several ethnic backgrounds and reflects the local landscape and the city’s position as one of the country’s most diverse. Pork dumplings with soy chili and black vinegar, rice salad with herbs and tomatoes, and chicken wings are great for sharing. Crawfish and crispy noodles come smothered in a garlic butter sauce and show off Shepherd’s affinity for Asian flavors, while a roasted Gulf red snapper is served whole and covered in a bright salsa verde. For dessert, a carrot cake gets upgraded with a unique spice blend, and on the weekends the kitchen doles out a dim sum brunch. 1609 Westheimer Road, 346.406.5923

2 Mastro's Steakhouse
Tilman Fertitta’s The Post Oak Hotel has landed as the city’s newest luxury addition, and the massive compound on the West Loop glitters with Las Vegas glamour. Mastro’s Steakhouse is the culinary jewel in the crown, offering up classic steakhouse fare like prime steaks, a jaw-dropping tomahawk chop and Japanese wagyu served with sides like lobster mashed potatoes, Gorgonzola mac and cheese and truffled sauteed mushrooms. Across the valet circle, Willie G’s Seafood serves locally and internationally sourced fruits of the ocean in an equally elegant setting, while the hotel itself also has dining options. Colorfully decorated Bloom & Bee—think pink—serves New American cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while dimly lit cocktail lounge H Bar serves martinis and sushi. 1650 W. Loop S., 713.993.2500

3 Fig & Olive
The Galleria continues to transform into a serious dining destination, and one of the latest additions is a branch of this Mediterranean concept from New York. Next to Saks, it features an outdoor terrace great for brunching, while the interiors have warm accent colors, light wood floors and rosemary bushes between banquettes. A huge display of olive oil greets diners at the host stand, setting the stage for the menu's inspiration. A large selection of crostini offers must-have starters; then, enjoy entrees like a balsamic-glazed short rib, squid ink paella or Chilean sea bass with roasted sunchoke, rapini and mascarpone. The signature Fig & Olive cocktail—a potion of muddled grapes, basil, lemon and New Amsterdam gin—and an international wine list pair with everything. In the Galleria, 832.871.3468

4 Emmaline
Seasoned restaurateur Sam Governale brings a new hot spot to Montrose, offering American fare with European flare. The large space sports massive windows that allow floods of natural light and take in the view of the large, dog-friendly terrace, with its stoic massive oak tree. Roasted eggplant served with country bread, and charbroiled mollusks with robiola cheese and caviar begin the meal, which can then move on to pasta and oven-fired pizzas or main dishes like cioppino, seared scallops with mushrooms and squash, or a pork chop with fennel apple sauce and glazed root vegetables. The weekend brunch is hopping, or swing by for a leisurely lunch and enjoy the Sammy, a stack of seared steak, horseradish cream and provolone on Italian bread. 3210 W. Dallas St., 713.523.3210

The dining room at Maison Pucha

5 Maison Pucha
After cutting his chops for many years in the kitchens at La Table and Philippe, Manuel Pucha and his two brothers, Christian and Victor, opened this Heights spot last fall. The Ecuadorian chef has now branched out on his own to create dishes that merge French technique, classic European dishes and the occasional unique flavor inspired by his native South America. Starters include a shrimp ceviche and ponzu crab with avocado, shishito peppers and cilantro, while Peking duck with orange-ginger glaze shares the space on the entree menu with classics like steak frites and trout almondine. Victor serves as pastry chef and has crafted a strong dessert menu that features a chocolate, passion fruit and vanilla souffle, as well as an Ecuadorian chocolate tres leches. 1001 Studewood St., 713.637.4976

6 A'Bouzy
Champagne fuels an endless party at this River Oaks watering hole run by Shawn Virene. The name’s a play on words and an homage to a town in France’s famed Champagne region, and the extensive wine list features more than 1,000 bottles, with no fewer than 250 vintages of bubbly. Classic French and Italian fare make up the menu; standouts include foie gras mousse, bouillabaisse, redfish with a beurre blanc, and a duck breast seared with five spices and served over cauliflower and Brussels sprouts with a honey, soy and chili sauce. The bar is a great place to see and be seen. The main dining room features several wine display cases and dangling glass globes, and the patio is large and very popular during cooler weather. 2300 Westheimer Road, 713.722.6899

7 Aqui
James Beard Award-winning Austin chef Paul Qui has brought his unique blend of Texas and Southeast Asia cuisine—Qui’s Filipino heritage plays a major role here—to Montrose in an elegantly simple space designed by A Parallel Architecture. The main dining room has soaring gabled ceilings and walls of glass that allow an abundance of natural light. The open kitchen buzzes with a team of experts who prepare small, sharable plates like hamachi crudo with jalapenos and citrus; tapioca dumplings with pork and peanuts; a vegetable stir-fry with soy bean sauce; and a wagyu skirt steak with soy-charred onions. A strong sake and wine program rounds out beverages, but definitely start with one of the superinventive cocktails. 520 Westheimer Road, 713.360.7834

8 Nobu
World-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa has finally brought his iconic sushi empire to Houston, opening a 10,000-square-foot space in the Galleria. Executive chef Carl Murray and executive sushi chef Eiji Saito turn out classic Nobu favorites like black cod with miso and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno, as well as cooked dishes like cherry blossom-smoked wagyu beef served in a pot, whole king crab leg with black truffle panko crust, and lobster shiitake salad with spicy lemon dressing. The bar also has a Japanese happy hour that includes specials like rock shrimp tempura and ceviche tacos to pair with beer, wine, sake and cocktails like the Yuzu Kumquat Cooler made with vodka, kumquat, mint, orange, monkfruit, lemonade and soda. In the Galleria, 832.987.2599

9 Alice Blue
Shade in the Heights has transformed into Alice Blue, a neighborhood bistro that serves cuisine inspired by Houston’s many cultural influences. Flavors are bright and fresh in appetizers like squash fritters with cilantro and yogurt, marinated shrimp with herbs and radish, and grilled eggplant with pistachio and pomegranate. Pastas include a squid ink spaghetti with jumbo lump crabmeat, salami and preserved lemon, and mains boast snapper with romesco sauce, fingerling potatoes and olives; flank steak with asparagus and green garlic bearnaise sauce; roast chicken with squash, salsa verde and black garlic aioli; and fried quail with peaches and yogurt. Thanks to great tile work, the space is colorful and airy, and brunch is a hit with the locals. 250 W. 19th St., 713.864.2050

10 Poitin
Restaurateur Ian Tucker and chef Dominick Lee have opened Poitin—the name comes from an Irish distilled beverage—in Sawyer Yards just off of Washington Avenue. The warehouse space has a dining area, private room, large bar and an expansive patio, plus incredible views of Downtown. Lee’s menu is international, showing Creole and Southern roots from his native New Orleans, as well as Indian flair picked up during his time at Kiran’s. Hummus served with house bread, mussels with shallot and saffron, and pork skins are a few of the starters, while mains include a cauliflower steak with pickled chipotle aioli, a marbled bone-in short rib or whole fried market fish with papaya salad, grilled mango and sticky rice. The cocktail list is expansive, and it's a great spot for brunch with a view. 2313 Edwards St., 713.470.6686 

Crispy duck leg confit at Poitin