It's that time of month again. Time when we wrap up all of the best restaurant food we've found our way to in the past month. And yes, spring is officially starting on March 20, so you should probably catch up on these restaurants now, because there's many more well on the way.
The borscht at Riel
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
First Look at Riel
“I’m going to make us borscht,” is what my sister said the day she’d returned from a summer abroad in Moscow, freshman year of college, a large paper bag of beets in her hands. Borscht, I learned, was a messy, taxing soup to make, one that required a sharp knife, numerous cigarette breaks and the sole desire to destroy your mother’s kitchen. Even the cat’s bowl seemed to have pink water for days after, and I recall, after taking my first slurps of that gritty fuchsia broth, the unacceptably dirt-laden flavors of that hours-long toil. Borscht stained my teeth and clogged my braces with great white shark-level beet carnage. I offered a fake smile and obligatory thanks, overwhelmed with the desire to put down the bowl and heat up my usual evening nachos in the microwave.
Twenty years later and my sister and I decide on another dining experiment for the sake of overcoming our borscht bias. This time we’re in the Montrose area at the recently opened and critically hyped Riel, a new modern American eatery at 1927 Fairview, where Manitoba native and chef Ryan Lachaine, a former sous at Houston vanguards Underbelly and Reef, brings the multicultural flavors of French-Canadian, Ukrainian and Houstonian — including Japanese and Southern — cuisines to the table via a brief and pretty stellar list of (mostly) small plates.
Cheese, glorious cheese, at Rise No. 2
Photo by Troy Frields
Second Time Around Was The Charm at Rise No. 2
The salad Niçoise was crafted with a generous mound of spring-mixed greens tossed with thinly sliced red onions, capers and olives piled atop roasted fingerling potatoes. Six small slices of seared ahi tuna, rubbed with toasted sesame seeds, and wedges of a boiled egg flanked the hill of greens. From our seats, we were lucky enough to catch the salad’s creation. The sous chef took an unusual amount of care constructing the plate, and it was well worth the wait.
Wet-aged 16 ounce rib-eye steak ($50).
Photo by Mai Pham
First Look at One Fifth Steak
Among the flurry of restaurants that opened in the two weeks just before Super Bowl LI, One Fifth Steak, by James Beard Best Chef Southwest 2014 winner Chris Shepherd, centrally located on lower Westheimer in the heart of Montrose in a space that formerly housed Mark’s American Cuisine, was arguably the buzziest.
The smoked jerk ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender. Jerk ribs ($14)
Photo by Cuc Lam
New Digs, New Plates, Same Southern Charm at Kitchen 713
Back in October of 2014, James Haywood and Ross Coleman opened Kitchen 713 in a humble little space with only enough seating for 33 diners at the corner of Canal and North Hagerman in Second Ward. The guys decided to shut down back in June of last year in order to transition into a new, larger space with a more prominent address in the Washington Corridor.
At 4601 Washington, Kitchen 713 has made itself at home, now with enough seating for 220 diners. In late December of 2016, the restaurant reopened in the space of former TQLA and Commonwealth. The old days of a walk-up order-at-the-window/counter setup are no longer true. In fact, you'd never even know that was ever the case.