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First Look at Haven

It can't be easy for Randy Evans right now. Once the executive chef at Brennan's -- one of Houston's most perenially popular restaurants -- and now the man behind what is easily the most anticipated restaurant opening of the year, Evans is carrying a weighty set of expectations upon his toqued head. And with hopes that high, and from so many of Houston's dining enthusiasts, it's easy to collapse under the pressure of all those expectations.

Working the dining room at Haven last night, though, Evans looked at ease as he moved between tables, greeting old regulars from Brennan's and new fans who've been following his restaurant build-out on Facebook or who've met the chef at any number of local farmers' markets, where he's been on a one-man slow-food mission for years. Then again, it could have been another tow-headed man in a chef's jacket -- our initial impression of Haven was that it was almost too dark to see three feet in front of you (something that shows in our ill-fated photos from the night). Sitting around a six-top, we commisserated with our friends that it might have been nice to see them...if we could actually see them. We could make out finely planed wood paneling and deep, crisp green colors amongst the candlelight, but all this talk of Haven's lovely dining space might be better appreciated during the day.

The dining room is like a cavern, but manages not to be too noisy. In fact, we did appreciate the fact that -- unlike some other restaurants in town -- we could actually carry on a pleasant conversation without having to shout. But despite the large size of the dining room, the tables are all but touching, making things excessively difficult for our waitress and her helpers, who squeezed desperately between chairs all night long, reaching repeatedly over our heads and apologizing profusely for having to hand us things instead of set them in front of us. If it was uncomfortable for us, it was doubly so for our poor waitress, who was otherwise splendid.

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Katharine Shilcutt