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.
On a whim, we decided to have a late dinner after a show at the Allen Center. Arriving a few minutes after 9 p.m., I was a tad worried it would be too late to order. To be courteous, you ask for an answer, not a polite answer, but an honest answer. The bartender sweetly replied that there was no problem and added that the kitchen stays open until 10 p.m. It was Friday, so the place was open until midnight. The sounds of early '90s R&B came through the speakers and people were bopping along to the rhythm of the music. There were a few guests in the main dining area along with a large party closing out and a couple of gal pals seated at the bar. We opted to plant ourselves on a couple of oversized stools alongside them.
The interior is spacious and uncluttered, with not too much color on the walls, save for a large nondescript painting hung on the back wall. Super-high ceilings with an intricate display of lights draped in a series of iron-wrought rings covered the main dining room. The back wall of the bar is mesmerizing, with its bright blueish glow that channeled its way through each bottle on the shelf. A dozen beer selections were offered, including a couple of Dogfish Heads (Namaste and 90 Minute IPA), which is a pretty rare sight in most restaurants, a few locals from Brash, Saint Arnold and Buffalo Bayou, and an impressive display of home-brewed bitters sat on the bar top.
Enduring Moments, Whispering Sheets and Abstracted Zen, to name a few, were intriguing names for cocktails. The bartender overheard us remarking about the drinks and tapped a gentleman at the end of the bar. Chef Haywood happened to be sitting a few stools down and happily came over to shed some light on the names. Haywood created the cocktail recipes. These were his babies. With a sly smile, he told us "whispering sheets" is like "quiet seduction." Ahhh, that sounds nice. We shared a laugh and I politely excused him so he could return to his unwinding-after-a-long-day position at the end of the bar.
The charred grapefruit paloma caught my eye, and my guest wanted to check out the sorghum old-fashioned. The paloma was made with reposada and grapefruit in all its glory, from the charred fruit and simple syrup to the bitters and soda. The drink was crisp, tart, tangy and refreshing; it was exactly what I wanted. My date's old-fashioned was very nicely fashioned indeed. I think his exact words were "This is an old-fashioned," with a satisfying smile across his lips.
We spent an awfully long time perusing the eclectic menu, not because it was overwhelming, but more so because it all sounded incredibly appetizing. We could barely read past the starters without ordering everything listed. How do we choose between jerk ribs, Thai fried chicken, pork boudin croquettes and kitfo (Ethiopian beef tartare)? Haywood returned later during the meal to check on us and mentioned that Kitchen 713 is inspired by global flavors. "The plan is to take five countries at a time and let them inspire our menu," he said. The bartender mentioned her favorite was the crispy okra, but my taste buds were screaming for the jerk ribs.
Marinated and smoked in a mixture of Caribbean spices and what I presume to be Thai spices, the ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and sweat-inducing hot. I was really surprised by the level of heat. We devoured these ribs lickety-split. (I definitely tasted fish sauce in the mix, but one can only surmise.) Not sure why these were listed in the starter section; it was more than a generous portion of very large, meaty ribs. Add a side of jasmine rice and an entrée is born.
The Dazzled by Duck, which appeared in the soups and salads section, was totally an entrée and not just a bowl of soup. The bowl of ramen noodles came dressed with eight slices of tender, perfectly roasted duck breast, pickled cabbage and pickled mustard greens. It was apparent that a lot of care was taken to produce the broth, which was flavorful, deep and clean.
The New York strip chicken-fried steak on the menu boasted a duo of gravies, one with a mushroom reduction, the other with andouille, all on top of mashed potatoes and sautéed greens. The potatoes were fluffy and light and the greens were cooked and seasoned well. The mushroom brown gravy rocked, but the andouille gravy sported some Creole spices that didn't mesh well with the other components. A traditional creamy white gravy would've hit the spot.
We finished the night with a playful adult version of milk and cookies. The salted caramel vanilla bean milk shake comes with or without a shot of bourbon, and the miso chocolate chip cookies were baked fresh, soft and chewy. We couldn't taste the miso, but it was not missed in all that deliciousness.
I was one of the few unfortunates to have missed the first iteration of Kitchen 713. Word on the street was this place had "global soul." Kitchen 713 seems to be inspired by international flavors, but is rooted in Southern techniques and charm. The staff is attentive and accommodating. We overheard a lingering guest from the earlier birthday celebration come over to Haywood to personally compliment the male server who tended to her party. It's nice to witness kindness. From the bartender to the guy drying dishes, everyone shared a genuine smile with us.
Kitchen 713, 4601 Washington Avenue, Kitchen713.com
Hours: Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sundays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Closed on Sundays.
Happy Hour: Tuesdays through Fridays, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.