Comings and Goings

Only a few short months after a four-star review that literally left tears in the eyes of the Houston Chronicle's Alison Cook -- and before our own Robb Walsh even had a chance to try it out for himself -- Randy Rucker has left Rainbow Lodge.

Rucker became the head chef at the popular restaurant in November 2008, less than a year ago, during which time he transformed the somewhat stodgy old menu into one that as recently as last week included local squid with tomato oil and feta pebbles, Queen snapper with lime and radish, and sea trout belly with soy and creamy miso. To say that the changes Rucker made to the old lodge's menu were revolutionary is putting it midly; he is the closest thing that Houston had to a molecular gastronomist (although Rucker is widely known to dislike that term) and a brilliant mad food scientist.

Word on the street is that Rucker and the lodge's owner, Donnette Hansen, were no longer working together as amicably as they once were. It's sad news to hear, considering that at one point Hansen and Rucker were even collaborating on creating gardens for the restaurant -- one of Rucker's signatures -- from which to pull their produce and herbs. This move marks yet another departure for the uber-creative Rucker, who doesn't seem able to stay in one place for long. The question at this point is whether Rucker is simply working above most peoples' heads (and palates) -- as he did at his own restaurant, laidback manor, before he closed it in 2006 -- or whether the Houston dining scene simply isn't ready or willing to sustain this degree of high culinary art.

In the meantime, Rucker will be taking a field trip to Lima, Peru, a place he became familiar with while working with the Cordua Group. Once back in town, he'll once again be hosting his locally famous tenacity supper club dinners, the first of which is scheduled for September 28 at Culinaire.

Meanwhile, another rogue chef, David Grossman, is set to open a new restaurant just off the Washington Avenue corridor in the former location of pool hall Cue & Cushion. Down the street from the brand-new Block 7 Wine Company, the restaurant is alleged to be a modernized and Americanized gastropub (we're surprised that ionized and hybridized didn't make it in there somehow).

Grossman was formerly the sous chef at Gravitas and has plans to offer dishes at the restaurant -- called 510 Shepherd for its address -- that feature organic and locally grown and sourced meat, produce and seafood. A wine bar and extensive charcuterie menu are also planned, which should compete nicely with its neighbors at Block 7.

No word on exactly when 510 Shepherd will be opening its doors other than a vague "Fall 2009," but we'll keep our ears to the ground for more information as it comes along.

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