One of the South’s hottest dining destination just keeps on getting hotter. Yes, by that we mean Houston, where ethnic diversity and the bounties of the Gulf Coast, not to mention a strong dining public, have been driving explosive restaurant growth for several years now. Indeed, new restaurants are cropping up weekly. Forbes Travel Guide has the delicious details on four of the latest ones to visit in the Bayou City this fall.
For a taste of Spain in Houston, look no further than this September-opened address, Houston’s first authentic modern Spanish restaurant. The menu, created by Costa Brava transplant and executive chef Luis Roger, reads like an ode to Spanish cuisine with dishes such as jamón ibérico de bellota (prized Spanish ham made from pigs fed acorns), boquerones en vinagre (pickled anchovies) or the house specialty of caldereta de bogavante con arroz (lobster bouillabaisse with rice). Set in a 1920s Victorian mansion in the Montrose District, there’s an arthouse feel (cream-colored palette, simple, clean lines, authentic works by Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso on the walls) to the intimate establishment. The shiny white bar is small but well stocked — get a classic gin and tonic, or order the Txakoli to see the bartenders pour from at least two feet above the glass.
Located in the heart of downtown, Houston’s summer-opened South African restaurant and bar is edgy and sexy at the same time. Crystal chandeliers hang from a two-story ceiling, while animal trophies, including the gazelle-like springbok, jut from the walls, where they are juxtaposed next to framed rugby jerseys from the South African national team of the same name. A long, glossy dark-wood bar provides ample seating for nursing a drink (their Pimm’s Cup is a standout) or watching a game. From the kitchen, Los Angeles transplant and executive chef Seth Greenburg, whose résumé includes a stint at legendary L’Orangerie, is cooking up items like the boerewors roll (beef and pork belly sausage on a hot dog bun); lamb sausage with farm egg, harissa butter and fries; braised oxtail with red curry, glazed carrots and Yorkshire pudding; and bunny chow (lamb curry with mango chutney stuffed in a bread bowl).
They call it modern American cuisine, but the food at Pax Americana — small plates created using the finest native ingredients by executive chef Adam Dorris — has such a strong pulse on the local palate, and the diversity of the ethnicities represented here, that it should be called modern Houstonian cuisine. A skillet of runny eggs gets a Korean dose of flavor from a kimchi aïoli and a fresh herb salad. Melt-in-your-mouth smoked brisket is marinated in nine spices and finished off with a black garlic glaze, creating an old Texas barbecue with Chinese-esque flavoring. The two-month-old space is cozy without being fussy, and that’s mostly thanks to an Art Deco-inspired bar (get the Fig Mai Tai or a Brut Rosé to start), and wall art that includes a burnished metal sculpture of the United States and an Andy Warhol piece of Mao Tse- tung.
Along with owner Chris Balat, critically acclaimed chefs Justin Basye and Chris Leung form the backbone of Museum Park Cafe, an eatery set in an airy warehouse-type space offering contemporary Southern-influenced American cuisine. Since the restaurant’s September debut, a standout on the starter menu has been the roasted bone marrow, two long cut bones topped with shallot confit. Pastas (think gnocchi, bucatini, spaghetti and garganelli in traditional sauces) are made in-house. Entrées run the gamut from Atlantic scallops to double-cut rib eye, with optional sides like cheddar and scallion biscuits, and roasted wild mushrooms. To-die-for sweets by Leung also make this a worthy dessert destination. Don’t miss the chocolate financier or the fluffy corn fritters with coffee ice cream