"I am working in one of the best-equipped kitchens I've ever worked in," says Joel St. John of the new Merche Restaurant (21208 Northwest Fwy., 281-949-5999), which just opened adjacent to the North Cypress Medical Center. "Merche" is the nickname of Mercedes, the wife of owner Robert Behar, who's passionate about food and a great cook himself. Together they have developed a menu that is a fusion of Italian, Spanish and other Mediterranean cuisines.
A native Houstonian, St. John is not new to the kitchen, having worked for 20 years in New Orleans for Commander's Palace and Mr. B's, then right here in H-town at The Brownstone, Harry's Kenya, The Houston Brewery and Spencer's. "When I interviewed for the job, it was one of the toughest interviews I've ever had," says St. John. "I cooked for three days solid. They put me through the grinder, I guess, to see if I could cook."
Apparently, he made it through with flying colors. "We have a really terrific pizza," he says, "since we have a brick oven, and my favorite is the one with caramelized onions, balsamic vinegar, spinach, portobello mushrooms and sour cream. Also, our wood-fired colossal pork chop and our buttered snapper have been flying out the door."
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