Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Hando Heights Opens, Le Mistral and Beaver's West Closed

Chips and dip at Hando are a playful beginning.
Chips and dip at Hando are a playful beginning. Photo by Al Torres Photography

click to enlarge Chips and dip at Hando are a playful beginning. - PHOTO BY AL TORRES PHOTOGRAPHY
Chips and dip at Hando are a playful beginning.
Photo by Al Torres Photography

Hando, 518 W. 11th, opened December 18. The temaki restaurant comes from Jason Andaya of Family Meal Group and childhood friends Ray Chan and Rishi Patel. With executive chef Man Nguyen and sous chef Michael Fee, the team serves hand rolls that are made as guests watch them in action, serving the rolls right away in order to ensure that they are eaten at their freshest. Both Nguyen and Fee bring experience from working at restaurants like Nobu Houston, most recently.

click to enlarge Hando does take away rolls, too. - PHOTO BY AL TORRES PHOTOGRAPHY
Hando does take away rolls, too.
Photo by Al Torres Photography
The menu consists of a dozen hand rolls that can be ordered singly or as a preset selection of three, four or five. The restaurant likes to call these hand roll sets Handokase, a play on the omakase that is served at fine Japanese restaurants. It basically means to "leave it up to the chef". Some of the rolls on offer include salmon, scallop, tofu, tuna and toro. The seafood is wrapped in toasted seaweed with warm rice and the temaki resemble uncut sushi rolls.

click to enlarge This puffer fish looks safe enough. - PHOTO BY AL TORRES PHOTOGRAPHY
This puffer fish looks safe enough.
Photo by Al Torres Photography

There are appetizers such as miso soup and shishito peppers with yuzu aioli to start. Creative cocktails like The Little Death pair well with the Japanese fare. It's made with Japanese gin, cognac, aguafaba, lemon and lavender. There are also Japanese whiskeys and sake, plus a full bar.

The small 22 seat restaurant does not accept reservations and it is also cashless, so be prepared with a bank card.

Hando opened just a couple of weeks after Handies Douzo debuted in the Heights. It is another hand roll concept from Kokoro chefs Patrick Pham and Daniel Lee who are both Uchi alumnus.

Le Mistral ends nearly two decades of serving French cuisine to Houston. - PHOTO BY J. C. REID
Le Mistral ends nearly two decades of serving French cuisine to Houston.
Photo by J. C. Reid
Le Mistral, 1400 Eldridge Parkway, closed its doors December 21, as reported by Houston Food Finder. The French restaurant was owned and operated by brothers David and Sylvain Denis. David was the Executive Chef and Sylvain served as General Manager/Sommelier. The brothers are also co-owners of Artisans, another upscale French restaurant in downtown Houston.

Chef David Denis has closed Le Mistral. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Chef David Denis has closed Le Mistral.
Photo by Mai Pham
The restaurant first opened in 2001 and later relocated to a more expansive space in the Energy Corridor. In 2008, the owners opened a gourmet shop and boulangerie next door to the restaurant, Foody's Gourmet, and sold some of the pastries, breads and artisanal products for which the restaurant was known. Its traditional French cuisine included items like foie gras, escargot and steak and pomme frites. In August 2017, the restaurant experienced some flooding and damage from Hurricane Harvey causing it to shut down for a few weeks while repairs and renovations were made. The next year, Foody's Gourmet shuttered.

click to enlarge Prime, Dry-Aged Ribeye Steak Frites at Le Mistral. - PHOTO BY MAI PHAM
Prime, Dry-Aged Ribeye Steak Frites at Le Mistral.
Photo by Mai Pham
Its way west Houston location may have had an effect on its business, much of which came from its lunches. The business lunches varied from day to day and were on offer until they sold out.

click to enlarge Mico's has a new food truck. - PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER FRYDENLUND
Mico's has a new food truck.
Photo by Christopher Frydenlund

Mico's Hot Chicken, 2829 Chimney Rock, has a new food truck. Owners Kimico and Christopher Frydenlund are leasing the former Breaking Bao food truck from Phil Kim, who is now operating the Breaking Bao concept at Politan Row. The Frydenlunds told the Houston Press: " We're hoping that operating a food truck versus a trailer will allow us to consider keeping the Chimney Rock location." The Frydenlunds believe it will be easier to have a team member driving the vehicle rather than having to get someone to haul the trailer to the commissary every day.

The couple are opening up a brick and mortar version of Mico's at 1603 N. Durham early next year, as we reported here in the Press.

click to enlarge Spring, Texas has a new Indo-Pak restaurant. - PHOTO BY MUHAMMAD RUIZ
Spring, Texas has a new Indo-Pak restaurant.
Photo by Muhammad Ruiz
Curry Masala, 7316 Louetta, had its grand opening December 10. Its Facebook page is littered with grumblings from the past few months as Spring residents awaited, not always patiently, its opening. The Indo-Pak restaurant has finally debuted and most folks seem very pleased with the results.

The restaurant offers a behemoth of a menu including appetizers like the Awesomosas ($4.50), made with fluffy pastry, savory potatoes, green peas and served with mint chutney. The Every Hour Snacks include Pani Puri ($7.95) and Dahi Bara ($6.95), a lentil dumpling. There are Masala Wings, Paneer Hara Masala, vegetarian curries, and biryanis. There are also wraps made with naan and bunwiches.

The beverage menu is just as extensive with a wide variety of smoothies, milkshakes and non-alcoholic cocktails. Flavors include an almond and pistachio milk shake, an orange-strawberry margarita mocktail and pomegranate juice. There's a vitamin bar with a multitude of options, plus hot beverages such as Doodh Patti Chai and Hot Red Apple Tea.

Beside the menu, the restaurants has a lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are plans for a second location on Rayford Road, soon.

The backyard at Beaver's Westheimer. - PHOTO BY CUC LAM
The backyard at Beaver's Westheimer.
Photo by Cuc Lam
Beaver's West, 6025 Westheimer, has closed. It opened on 2017 as an offshoot of the Original Beaver's which opened in 2007 with Chef Monica Pope leading the way with her locavore philosophy. Partners Jon Deal, Todd Johnson, Pope and Adam Brackman opened the second location with an eye to more barbecue and comfort food and the team brought in Arash Kharat to lead the kitchen. Kharat left Beaver's West this past summer and is now the executive chef at the new Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. at Sawyer Yards.

click to enlarge Bye-bye Beaver's barbecue. - PHOTO BY CUC LAM
Bye-bye Beaver's barbecue.
Photo by Cuc Lam
With different partners splitting their responsibilities between the two restaurants, there was some confusion among diners as to what to expect from each. Deal and Johnson were in charge of the operations at Beaver's West while Jeff Kaplan, Pope and Brackman were taking the original Beaver's in a different direction, according to the Houston Chronicle. In 2018 the Original Beaver's closed. There was a press release saying that it would become Vinegar Hill, which never happened. Instead, it reopened as Decatur Pop-Up Factory, a platform for chefs-in-residence.  It closed this past October.

A recent post on the Beaver's West Facebook page says, " It was a Dam Good Time...Thank You Houston (sic) for 12 great years. Beaver's is now closed. It was our pleasure to serve up some of the best food and drink in Houston. No one will ever have bigger (Beaver) balls than us." The post goes on to encourage patrons to support local restaurants including El Patio which is owned by Deal.

Voodoo Doughnut, 3715 Washington Avenue, is expected to open in January. The specialty doughnut shop sells kooky and quirky doughnuts like the Old Dirty Bastard topped with chocolate frosting, crushed Oreo cookies and peanut butter. The Voodoo Bubble is dusted with bubblegum dust and served with a piece of wrapped bubblegum placed in its hole. There's even a cake doughnut dusted with Tang. The Bacon Maple Bar with maple icing and crumbled bacon is a popular choice as is the Portland Cream. There's a specialty doughnut called the Cock-N-Balls. We will let you imagine that one.

The Houston location will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will offer the brand's first drive-thru. It will be the ninth location overall with another Houston one planned at 1719 Westheimer, according to Eater Houston. The small doughnut chain was founded by friends Kenneth Pogson (Cat Daddy) and Tres Shannon in 2003 in Portland, Oregon.

Bamboo House, 5901 Westheimer, softly opened December 7. This is the second location for the Sichuan Restaurant. The original opened last year near Bush Intercontinental Airport in Humble. Owner and chef Lianzhao Chu, or William as the website names him, has more than 30 years of experience cooking. The restaurant's Peking Duck was given rave reviews in the Houston Chronicle from local food writer, Mai Pham (also a contributing food writer to the Houston Press).

For those wanting the Peking Duck experience, a whole duck with duck soup and accoutrements, including the thin pancakes for wrapping the meat, is $45.95 and there's plenty to share among friends, especially if the table orders a few tasty appetizers. For a smaller portion, there's the half-duck ($25.95)

There are plenty of Sichuan specialties like the Sizzling Szechuan Chicken with Mulan Sauce. Chef Chu's most used ingredient is jiaoyanweixing, a combination of roasted ground Sichuan pepper and salt. The restaurant does not use MSG or artificial preservatives. The extensive menu also offers commonly found dishes such as Kung Pao Chicken, Basil Eggplant and Broccoli Beef. Fried rice and lo mein are on the menu as well.

The Westheimer location does not have its liquor license as of yet.

click to enlarge Burgerim has spread across the United States with mixed results. - PHOTO BY JOHN NECHMAN
Burgerim has spread across the United States with mixed results.
Photo by John Nechman

Burgerim, the fast-casual burger chain with 14 locations in the Greater Houston area, is considering bankruptcy filing, according to Restaurant Business. The restaurant first opened in Tel Aviv, Israel in 2011. Investor Oren Loni bought the chain from founder Donna Tuchner and brought it to the United States in 2016 with its first stateside location in Hollywood, California.

The chain serves mini-burgers that are bigger than sliders but smaller than typical hamburgers. Some of its franchises are halal and it serves Angus beef, chicken, lamb and falafel sandwiches along with a Hawaiian Salmon. Its expansion was one of the fastest growing in the country with hundreds of franchisees.

Restaurant Business reports that not all franchisees were experienced in the restaurant business which, coupled with the meteoric expansion to far flung areas of the United States, may be part of the problem. However, the corporation has not filed for bankruptcy but has brought in California bankruptcy lawyer, Michael Berger, to reorganize the company. Berger told Restaurant Business, " They were very good at selling franchises and less good about enforcing the franchise agreements."

Besides the 14 locations from Humble to Conroe to Montrose, there are eight more planned for the future including Willowbrook, Kingwood and Missouri City. The location at 5887 Westheimer closed last month and the phone has been disconnected.

Jellyfish Sushi
, 3434 Ella, opened mid-December. It serves a variety of sushi and sashimi with classic rolls and specialty rolls. There are a couple of pokes available as well as Kani salad. There are hot appetizers like chicken gyoza, edamame and chicken yakitori plus cold plates like Japan Nachos and Salmon Carpaccio. The menu includes Hibachi entrees such as Spicy Hibachi Chicken and Salmon Teriyaki.  There are lunch specials Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 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.