Restaurant News

Austin Simmons and Manabu Horiuchi: An Incredible "Collaboreight" Pop-Up Dinner at Cureight in The Woodlands

Chef Manabu Horiuchi (left) and Austin Simmons (right) kick off the Collaboreight dinner at Tris in the The Woodlands.
Chef Manabu Horiuchi (left) and Austin Simmons (right) kick off the Collaboreight dinner at Tris in the The Woodlands. Photo by Mai Pham
Amazing collaboration dinners happen all the time in Houston. But sometimes, the stars align and the synergy works out to where the sum of the parts end up being greater than the whole, and that’s what happened last night in The Woodlands. For the first time ever, executive chef Austin Simmons of Tris and Cureight in The Woodlands teamed up with executive chef Manabu Horiuchi of Kata Robata, and magic happened.
click to enlarge Beef Wellington with black truffle by Austin Simmons. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Beef Wellington with black truffle by Austin Simmons.
Photo by Mai Pham
To understand why this was such a special night requires an understanding of what brought these two chefs together. Simmons, who lives in The Woodlands, and is a new father, and oversees three restaurants, rarely has time to make Houston appearances. The first time he did, in 2016 for the annual Truffle Masters Competition hosted by DR Delicacy, he took home a People’s Choice Prize. That same year, Horiuchi (“Hori-san” for those who know him) triumphantly took won the judges prize — voted on a blind basis by a panel of 12 judges no less—for the second time in a row. So that’s two wins at this very prestigious food competition for Hori-san. But wait, it gets better. The following year, Hori-san did not compete, and a new winner was crowned. The winner? Austin Simmons. Score two for Simmons.
click to enlarge Hori-san plates the sushi course, topping each piece of sushi with shaved white Alba truffle. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Hori-san plates the sushi course, topping each piece of sushi with shaved white Alba truffle.
Photo by Mai Pham
And so, even though last night was an an entirely friendly collaboration, the subtext of two brilliant, competitive, creative chefs — each winners in their own right — took the collaboration to the next level.

The dinner itself was the second in a series of collaboration dinners called “Collaboreight,” that Simmons is hosting at Cureight, his tasting menu-only restaurant in The Woodlands. The Cureight experience is basically a chef’s table experience. Offered on Thursday, Friday and Saturday only, it’s an eight-course prix-fixe menu in a dining room with an exhibition-style sliding glass door with a direct view into the kitchen. Collaboreight brings in a guest chef for a night, and Simmons and the guest chef work together to come up with eight courses.
click to enlarge Austin Simmons' perfect Beef Wellington rest before they are sliced. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Austin Simmons' perfect Beef Wellington rest before they are sliced.
Photo by Mai Pham

As the theme last night was black and white truffles — supplied, of course, by Truffle Masters Competition host DR Delicacy — the chefs each took one type of truffle, marrying it to their style of cuisine. Simmons went classic French and took black Perigord truffles from Burgundy. Hori-san took white Alba truffles, and went classic Japanese.
click to enlarge Black truffle tart by Austin Simmons of Tris and Cureight in The Woodlands. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Black truffle tart by Austin Simmons of Tris and Cureight in The Woodlands.
Photo by Mai Pham
It worked out beautifully. Simmons’ richer, heartier French dishes — a black truffle tart, chicken liver tortellini with black truffles, and beef wellington with black truffle — were offset by the lighter, more delicate Japanese preparations — pan-seared Hokkaido scallop with caviar and white truffles, Japanese mackerel and bluefin tuna belly with white truffles, and chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard) with white truffle — by Hori-san, with the dishes alternating so that you would get a rich dish, then a lighter dish, back and forth, back and forth, in total harmony.  
click to enlarge Chawanmushi with white Alba truffle by Manabu "Hori-san" Horiuchi of Kata Robata. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Chawanmushi with white Alba truffle by Manabu "Hori-san" Horiuchi of Kata Robata.
Photo by Mai Pham

Highlights of the night included Simmons’ Black truffle tart with Perigord black truffle, spinach and housemade ricotta filling, topped with a gratin of gruyere and parmesan, whole mustard seed and black truffle, and Hori-san’s award winning chawanmushi savory custard, with white Alba truffle inside the custard and shaved on top.

For more information on the Collaboreight dinner series hosted by Tris in The Woodlands, visit triswoodlands.com
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Mai Pham is a contributing freelance food writer and food critic for the Houston Press whose adventurous palate has taken her from Argentina to Thailand and everywhere in between -- Peru, Spain, Hong Kong and more -- in pursuit of the most memorable bite. Her work appears in numerous outlets at the local, state and national level, where she is also a luxury travel correspondent for Forbes Travel Guide.
Contact: Mai Pham