Openings & Closings: No More Nara

Nara's chances at West Ave were never very good.
Nara's chances at West Ave were never very good.
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

It wasn't a big stretch to guess that the chances of Nara Sushi & Korean Kitchen at West Ave on 2800 Kirby weren't good. Its demise adds one more to the "Restaurant Death Toll" that includes Trenza, Ava and Nara's predecessor in the exact same space, Katsuya by Stark. The Korean-Japanese place lasted 14 months before succumbing to a host of issues, including a bad review from the Houston Press, a mixed review from Alison Cook at the Houston Chronicle and, worst of all, a big visibility problem that prevented passersby from seeing the restaurant from the street.

Chef-owner Donald Chang had some savvy plans to give Nara its best possible chance of survival, asking the landlord, Northwestern Mutual, for a few concessions. The specific requests were, "placing visible signage for the restaurant on Kirby Drive, giving their guests complimentary valet parking on Kipling Street, and relinquishing the private room back space in order to make the large 6,898-square-foot restaurant more manageable and profitable." Ultimately, the landlord responded with a 10-day vacate notice.

As reported earlier this week, Nara's last day is Saturday, January 31. Chang is reportedly looking for a new location to open a different concept.

North Italia specializes in scratch-made pizza and pasta. It plans to open in BLVD Place at the beginning of March.
North Italia specializes in scratch-made pizza and pasta. It plans to open in BLVD Place at the beginning of March.
Photo by Fox Restaurant Concepts

According to a press release, a new restaurant is coming very soon to BLVD Place at 1700 Post Oak. North Italia is opening a big 4,500 square foot restaurant at the beginning of March. The small chain, which currently has six restaurants in four states, makes pasta and pizza from scratch daily. A chef from Arizona named Taylor Domet is running the kitchen. North Italia also offers cocktails, wine and beer.

Greg Morago at the Houston Chronicle has an update on the upcoming closure and move of El Tiempo 1308 Cantina on Montrose. El Tiempo executive chef and spokesman Domenic Laurenzo anticipates the last day at the new space will be March 27 or 28 before it takes over the former La Casa Del Caballo space at 322 Westheimer.

Speaking of La Casa Del Caballo: interesting things are afoot. The company's home page has a note that it's reopening in March and there's also something called Carlos' Chop House listed there. We've requested further details on where the new location is and if Carlos' Chop House is a separate entity.

Culturemap Houston's Eric Sandler reports that Landmark Hospitality Group, the owners of Mr. Peeples, Hearsay Gastro Lounge, Hearsay on the Green and 51fifteen in the Galleria, are opening a barbeque restaurant in Midtown. There's a legit pitmaster involved: Cedric Williams, who received statewide acclaim for Williams Smokehouse in Acres Homes. Sadly, a fire destroyed it in 2007.

Once a restaurant decides to stop offering lunch, it rarely attempts it again. However, Triniti at 2815 S. Shepherd is resuming the midday meal on February 3. It discontinued lunch service about a year ago. Lunch is from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Just a few of the intriguing new offerings are oysters on the half shell with poke, pique criollo, smoked tomato cocktail and salted crackers; and corned hamachi salad with potatoes, Brussels sprouts, turnips, frisee, walnuts and creamy grain mustard dressing.

That's it for Openings & Closings this week. What did we miss? Send your info to dish@houstonpress.com or leave it in the comments below.

Now, turn the page for a list of all the restaurant openings and closings we reported on in January 2015.

 

Openings 41 Degree Sake 17513 State Highway 249 Akasaka Japanese Restaurant & Lounge, 6833 W Sam Houston Pkwy. S. Bahama Buck's, 11300 Katy Freeway Big Eyed Fish, 908 Henderson Cabo Baja & Mexican Grill 544 Sawdust El Pollo Loco 390 South Mason, Katy Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, 12407 FM 1960 W. Frenchy's Chicken, 7903 Beechnut Fuzii Restaurant, 12755 Southwest Freeway, Stafford Genesis Steakhouse & Wine Bar, 5427 Bissonnet Gray's Public House, 510 Gray Gringo's Mexican Kitchen, 19330 I-45 N. Henke & Pillot, 809 Congress Hot Breads, 8401 Westheimer LA Crawfish, 939 W. Bay Area, Webster Los Cucos Signature Café, 1111 Studewood Mazcalzone, 1500 Shepherd MOD Pizza's, 5777 San Felipe North Harbor Bistro, 10920 Fry, Cypress Oporto Fooding House & Wine, 125 West Gray Osaka, 3149 Hwy 6 South, Sugar Land Pho Us, 5553 Highway 6 Pinkberry, 1700 Post Oak Rice & Spice Indian Restaurant, 2402 Bay Area Blvd. Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q, 20500 Southwest Freeway Ruggles Green, 2501 Research Forest, The Woodlands Saravanaa Bhavan, 8350 Westheimer Snap Kitchen, 250 W. 20th Snap Kitchen, 405 Montrose Sweet Paris Crêperie and Café, 797 Sorella Weights + Measures, 2808 Caroline Wing Zone, 2811 Business Center, Pearland

Re-openings Kolache Shoppe, 3945 Richmond (remodeled) Los Tios, 3308 Texas 6 (remodeled)

Extended Hours Triniti, 2815 S. Shepherd (now offering lunch) The Union Kitchen, 4057 Bellaire (now offering breakfast)

Closings Berryhill, 3407 Montrose The Bird House, 606 E. 11th Dua, 1201 Westheimer I Love This Bar & Grill, 1000 West Oaks Mall Osteria Mazzantini at 2200 Post Oak

Temporary Closings Ruggles Green, 2311 West Alabama (moving to 2305 West Alabama)


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