Speaking off the toque: Benjy Levit, co-owner of benjy's [2424 Dunstan, (713)522-7602] and Dish [2300 Westheimer, (713)528-2050].
Q. Does decor in a restaurant influence the styles of food served, or are the two always independent of each other?
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A. Yes, it does seem to. I had eaten in restaurants in New York and Los Angeles that combined a minimalist decor with traditional home-style comfort foods and were very successful. I thought that would work here. When we saw what was happening, that people were not finding what they expected on the menu, we started asking customers about what they thought. The article ["The Apple Martini Tour," by Robb Walsh, October 19, 2000] certainly got us thinking and talking about what customers were expecting. It was actually a turning point. The original chef, Aaron Guest, was good at creating these sorts of updated comfort foods. Now we have a new chef, Dan Capello, who has developed a new menu that meets people's expectations when they come in for a meal. It's more like the menu at benjy's. The connection in people's minds with benjy's also seemed to shape their expectations in regards to the style of the food. We have also changed the lighting here, changed the color of the light, in two of the dining areas. Now, I think, people feel the menu and the interior decor are more in sync.