According to informed sources, Heraclitus, the fifth-century BCE Greek philosopher, once observed that "one cannot step into the same river twice." No doubt the less subtle minds of Greece reacted to that statement the way contemporary people respond to the pronouncements of Jack Handey, but that's a chance you always take when you make philosophy your career choice. We sophisticated, fast-paced moderns, on the other hand, know exactly what he was talking about.
In fact, Heraclitus's observation could be applied to certain Houston restaurant locations. Eat there once, come back hungry another day, and -- presto-bingo! -- there's a new management and a new menu confronting your astonished visage.
The converted house at 4315 Montrose Boulevard housed 43 Brasserie earlier this year. The brasserie, a venture by Monica Pope and Andrea Lazar, the same chef/manager team that has operated the highly regarded Boulevard Bistrot [4319 Montrose Boulevard, (713)524-6922] just down the street for six years, lasted only a few months. On November 18 the same building was the scene of an opening party for Aries [(713)526-4404].
This time the space is home to a serious restaurant conceived by the husband-and-wife team of Scott and Annika Tycer. The couple, both a mere 30, have packed a great deal of serious restaurant experience and education into their short professional lives. Annika sports an MBA from Stanford and has worked in Houston at Tony's [1801 Post Oak Boulevard, (713)622-6778] and Arcodoro Ristorante Italiano [5000 Westheimer, (713)621-6888]. Scott attended the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon, and has worked as the executive sous chef for Wolfgang Puck's Spago in Palo Alto, California. (For those unfamiliar with the Left Coast dining scene, we'll put that résumé item in a Houston perspective: Assisting Puck in the kitchen is the equivalent of a heart surgeon working on Dr. Michael DeBakey's operating team.) Scott, a native Houstonian, also has worked locally at benjy's [2424 Dunstan, (713)522-7602] and the late Ritz-Carlton.
The interior has been redone in an uncompromisingly contemporary style by the Houston team of Carl Eaves and Daniel Kornberg. (Eaves is responsible for the look at the Daily Review Cafe, 3412 West Lamar, (713)520-9217.) The menu is equally fashion-forward, with seldom-seen ingredients combined in risky ways. (A good example from the appetizer menu is "Pan Roasted Hudson Valley Foie Gras, toasted coconut brioche and kiefer lime syrup.") In order to acquaint Houstonians with some of these unique combinations, Aries will offer diners a complimentary amuse-bouche, a palate tickler or appetizer. There also will be a nightly prix fixe dinner menu consisting of five courses. For adventurous local foodies, this could be the breakthrough restaurant of the new millennium.
In less encouraging news, Big Time Cafe [3700 Washington Avenue, (713)861-3010], a popular Heights sandwich shop, has suspended operations. Tired of the long hours and little rewards, owner Keith Coit apparently has prepared his last Carpetbagger, Allie and Sharecropper. If these are alien names to you, more's the pity.
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In Rice Village, the Sabroso Grill [5510 Morningside, (713)942-9900] precipitously closed down at the end of October. The principals were Arturo Boada and his two partners, Larry Martin and Edgar Carlson, who do business as a company named Hospitality U.S.A. Boada is now the executive chef and partner, along with his longtime Solero [910 Prairie, (713)227-2665] partner Sharon Haynes, in the brand-new Century Diner [1001 Texas Avenue, (713)223-0602]. The diner was fixin' to open for most of this past year -- and finally did so on November 13.
Boada's former partners own three beer-and-bands joints, beginning in 1977 under the name Sherlock's Baker Street Pub [2416 Bay Area Boulevard, (281)461-4702; 1995 West Gray, (713)521-1881; 10001 Westheimer, (713)977-1857]. Without even changing telephone numbers, they will redo the old Sabroso location to house the 221-B Baker Street Pub and Grill, with a menu of "soups, salads and pub dishes" -- such as that perennial British reform-school favorite bangers and mash. An opening is promised for the first week of December. For those who still would prefer a fish taco to fish and chips, former Sabroso chef Marivel Gomez will remain in the 221-B Baker Street kitchen.
Also in the first week of December -- Wednesday, December 6, to be exact -- the Bombay Palace [4100 Westheimer, (713)960-8472], a branch of a small international chain of Indian restaurants, was supposed to host a charity benefit and grand reopening party at its new location. The old site, across the street at 3901 Westheimer, has been razed to make way for the H-E-B Central Market, a supermarket that will answer most every home chef's heartfelt prayers -- and one that may have every other chain's management reaching for the Maalox. According to Bombay Palace spokesperson Karen Henry, permit troubles have delayed the opening until sometime in the near future. The charity benefit for the Rudy Tomjanovich Foundation has been rescheduled for January 25.
A novel change of ownership that we missed earlier this year took place at what is now Hessni's Restaurant and Piano Bar [2006 Lexington, (713)523-2428]. For years the location housed Renata's restaurant under a series of owners. When Hessni Malla, the executive chef at Houston's late Tour d'Argent, took possession of the location in March, he kept the name and menu of Renata's until a sign maker could deliver the new billboard, which finally arrived in July. With the sign came Hessni's own, more continental menu.