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One-Fifth Mediterranean Opens Saturday

The Salatim section at One-Fifth Mediterranean.
The Salatim section at One-Fifth Mediterranean. Photo by Julie Soefer Photography
Chris Shepherd, chef, restaurateur and Renaissance man, will open One-Fifth Mediterranean, September 1, in keeping with the other incarnations of his concept of five different restaurant concepts in five years, in the same building. It started with One-Fifth Steak in January 2017. Though the plan had always been to open a new concept every year with a different menu, style and cuisine, beef-eaters were sad to see the steakhouse close and were especially sad about losing the Fred Flintstone-sized bone-in steaks and the Baller Board. Devoted fans will soon be able to enjoy Shepherd's flair with meat once his steakhouse Georgia James opens, possibly this month.

Next came One-Fifth Romance Languages, which focused on Italian, Spanish and French cuisine, albeit with a Texas twang. That concept closed at the end of July in order to make way for the newest re-imagining, One Fifth Mediterranean. It was originally slated to be One-Fifth Fish, but that concept was shelved in favor of the Mediterranean idea.

click to enlarge Eggplant is a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER PHOTOGRAPHY
Eggplant is a popular ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine.
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography
The new concept will represent Shepherd's travels and experiences with Mediterranean food, whether it be at local Lebanese restaurants, the aisles of the international grocery store, Phoenicia, or from cooking dishes like Persian rice at home. The new menu will showcase the cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean and Northern Africa.

On board will be chef de cuisine, Matt Staph, who has his own long-time interest in Mediterranean cuisine. In a press statement, Staph says, " Years ago, I worked with refugees from Iraq and Syria...They were so appreciative of me teaching them what I knew about food that they would always bring me food from home. I'd never had amba (a spicy mango condiment)  with falafel before and it blew my mind". Staph also says that One-Fifth Mediterranean gives him the chance to learn more about the food and the culture of his friends.

Shepherd, Staph, culinary director Nick Fine and pastry director Victoria Dearmond will honor the diverse cultures of the region with the collaborative menu. The menu will not be set in stone, however. While the opening menu will feature traditional dishes as they focus on techniques, they expect it to evolve as they learn more about the cuisines, ingredients and flavors of the Mediterranean. The restaurant is open for dinner only.

click to enlarge Hearth-roasted tomatoes with whipped feta is a perfect mezze of flavors. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER PHOTOGRAPHY
Hearth-roasted tomatoes with whipped feta is a perfect mezze of flavors.
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography
The new menu will be divided into seven sections. For dining chair travelers in search of adventure, there is the Sightseeing Tour option, which has highlights from each one.

For example, the "I Dip, You Dip, We all Dip" section will offer a selection of dips served with fresh pita. The "Mezze" will offer small plates such as lamb tartare and cauliflower and black shallot tehina. The "Al Ha'esh" (From the Fire) section, will feature meat and vegetable dishes coming from the taboon (wood-burning oven) and the counter top charcoal Konro grills. Shepherd will also be working with whole lamb and bycatch fish from the Gulf.
click to enlarge Babka from the hands of pastry chef Victoria Dearmond. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER PHOTOGRAPHY
Babka from the hands of pastry chef Victoria Dearmond.
Photo by Julie Soefer Photography

Dearmond's dessert menu will use local ingredients in dishes like babka and baklava. Her mezze plate will be a creation of chocolate hummus, semolina cake, and other rotating snacks.

Wine director Matthew Pridgen's wine list will draw heavily from the Old World wines of France, Italy and Spain, but also include lesser known wines from Morocco, Turkey, Israel and Lebanon.

The interior of the historic structure, which used to house the congregation of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church before being desanctified, has been renovated by business partner and director of restaurant operations Kevin Floyd, alongside Collaborative Projects. The walls have been painted white, with textured white tiles and blue trim.

Chris Shepherd's success owes much to his talent, creativity and work ethic, but also due to the strong players that he brings to the stage. His management team is entirely the same as when One-Fifth began. Along with Staph, Dearmond, Floyd and Pridgen, there is also his front of house management; Jeff Buhrer, general manager and Kelly Spradley, assistant general manager. That kind of constancy creates consistent quality.

One-Fifth Mediterranean
1658 Westheimer
Dinner service begins at 5 p.m.
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Lorretta Ruggiero is a Houston Press freelance writer based in Cypress, Texas. She loves entertaining her family and friends with her food and sparkling wit. She is married to Classic Rock Bob and they have two exceptionally smart-aleck children.