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Openings and Closings: Tres Tacos and Hidden Omakase Opening, Morningstar Shutters

Chef Kin returns with a hidden gem.EXPAND
Chef Kin returns with a hidden gem.
Photo by Allya Du
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Hidden Omakase, 5353 W. Alabama, is shooting to make its debut December 15. The tasting menu-only restaurant comes from Japanese chef Billy Kin, most recently executive chef and partner at Blackbird Izakaya, a Japanese pub and restaurant Kin opened with Ken Bridge of Delicious Concepts. Blackbird closed this past July. Robot Noodle, another concept from Bridge, has taken its place.

Kin is a graduate of the Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at University of Houston. Kin comes from a restaurant family with a grandfather owning restaurants in Japan and his father operating restaurants in Taiwan and San Francisco, where Kin was born. After completing his degree, Kin began cooking professionally in Houston and studied under Takehiko Fuse in Austin. When Blackbird Izakaya closed, the chef took time off to start a family.

Omigosh, it's omakase.EXPAND
Omigosh, it's omakase.
Photo by Allya Du

The omakase concept is not a new one for Kin who used to do the "chef's choice" menu at Blackbird. However, the time and work involved made it difficult to implement in a busy restaurant, according to Kin. Blackbird's popularity was due in part to the chef's deft touch with ingredients, leading writer Mai Pham to name his Uni Pasta as one of The 13 Best Houston Dishes of 2018, as reported here in the Houston Press.

We're loony for uni.EXPAND
We're loony for uni.
Photo by Allya Du

The location of the restaurant, on a side street of W. Alabama, is the "hidden" part while the single, but evolving tasting menu is the omakase. The restaurant's windowless dining room adds to the feeling of secrecy with two large canvases overlooking the classic U-shaped bar. One canvas will be a "manga" portrait of Kin himself done by a local artist. The other will feature the portraits of revolving guest chefs. Kin's free-style approach to Japanese cuisine will be guided by fresh and seasonal ingredients. The seating capacity is limited to fourteen persons and there are only two seatings per night. Even the staff is limited with just Chef Kin, his second-in-command, Taylor McDaniel, and one server.

For the opening, the restaurant will be BYOB though there will be beer and wine once the license comes through.

The Machete is a delicious weapon against hunger.EXPAND
The Machete is a delicious weapon against hunger.
Photo by AJM Restaurant Group

Tres Tacos Tequilas Y Todo, 212 Westheimer, began its soft opening the first week of December. It will have a grand opening weekend beginning December 17, launching its full food menu while adding more cocktails and tequila infusions.

The restaurant is the sister to La Fisheria, another concept from AJM Restaurant Group, LLC. Owner Anas Mousa said in a press release, " It has been in our minds for such a long time, we hope everyone enjoys it as much as we have enjoyed the journey of making it happen."

While La Fisheria focuses on Mexican seafood dishes, Tres Tacos will blend Mexican classics with flavors from the Middle East. For starters, there's guacamole but with an Arabian twist. Instead of lime juice, Tres tacos uses preserved lemon in its version. Its chips and salsa are a mix of plantain, corn and lavash bread chips with a selection of salsas. It offers a traditional hummus but also the Hummus a la Mexicana with chipotle and pico de gallo. The Street Elote is classic with chipotle mayo, queso fresco and chili powder on a cob of corn but Tres Tacos adds a little sumac, too.

Street Elote at Tres Tacos.EXPAND
Street Elote at Tres Tacos.
Photo by AJM Restaurant Group

Like its sister restaurant, Tres Tacos offers fresh seafood choices such as Baja Tacos, and Tostada Ceviche. However, Tres Tacos offers lamb kebab tacos along with its Mexican options. There's also The Machete, a long quesadilla-like dish made with a choice of shrimp or beef birria.

The restaurant's cocktails make use of its infused tequilas with drinks like 2020 is Guava, made with guava-infused tequila, guava, coconut puree, lime juice and dark rum. Its El Padrote de Montrose has mint, cucumber-infused tequila, Pimm's, pineapple juice, lemon juice and simple syrup. There's also a selection of domestic and imported beers.

Chef Keisha Griggs creates Trinidad-inspired cuisine.EXPAND
Chef Keisha Griggs creates Trinidad-inspired cuisine.
Photo by Danny Culvert

Ate Kitchen and Kin, 2445 Times Boulevard, will open in the former Politan Row space in early December. The food hall closed in November due to the pandemic. The two concepts were former Politan Row vendors led by Houston chefs  and Food Network's Chopped alumnae Keisha Griggs and Evelyn Garcia. Ate Kitchen is Grigg's Caribbean-inspired concept while Garcia's Kin was a South Asian restaurant.

Ate Kitchen reopened for curbside pick-up and delivery only on Wednesday, Dec. 9. It offers delivery within five miles. Helmed by Chef Keisha Griggs, Ate Kitchen represents her Trinidadian roots and culinary expertise offering contemporary Caribbean-inspired cuisine. Griggs’ Trinidadian heritage is fused with French, African, Indian and Latin influences with dishes like jerk chicken and Pulled Smoked Geera Beef. Chef Griggs earned her culinary degree from the Houston Institute of Art in 2011. She launched Bocage Catering in 2012 and Ate Boutique Kitchen in 2017.

Griggs said in a press release, “The restaurant community looks decidedly different and how we deliver our cuisine has definitely shifted, but we are looking forward to opening back up, just in time for the holidays. We can’t wait to see old and new friends alike.”

Chef Evelyn Garcia is focusing on her line of condiments and spice rubs.EXPAND
Chef Evelyn Garcia is focusing on her line of condiments and spice rubs.
Photo by Trish Badger

Chef Evelyn Garcia is applying her extensive experience with Southeast Asian cuisine to offer a wholesale jarred condiment line and spice rubs which are available for purchase at Local Foods, Central City Co-Op, Henderson and Kane and Urban Harvest Farmers Market. Born and raised in Houston and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Evelyn has traveled and worked in kitchens across Thailand, India, and throughout Asia.

“I’m excited to have had the opportunity to explore our growing condiment and spice line, in addition to continuing to offer catering, through the Rice Village kitchen,” said Garcia. “The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on restaurants everywhere. We have taken this opportunity to reinvent the business and are grateful to be coming back.”

Houston foodies get another glitzy food hall.EXPAND
Houston foodies get another glitzy food hall.
Rendering by OMA/Luxigon

POST Market, 401 Franklin, has announced its first line-up of vendors. What promises to be Houston's largest indoor market food hall is located in POST Houston, an adaptive reuse project that will be a 55,000 square foot mixed-use development of restaurants, bars, retail shops, a rooftop park and an entertainment venue in the space which was once the Barbara Jordan United States Post Office.

The market itself will offer thirty local, national and international chefs with a blend of full service restaurants, counter-service cafes and kiosks. It will feature a glowing metallic staircase in the modern space, designed by OMA, an architecture firm, and LUCID United Collective of Independent Designers. The development comes from Lovett Commercial.

Soon, this staircase will glow.EXPAND
Soon, this staircase will glow.
Photo by Katharine Ambrose

The announced line-up includes Salt & Time Butcher Shop out of Austin. Founded by Ben Runkle and Bryan Butler, the Texas butcher shop sells premium meats, housemade sausages and charcuterie. It also offers a boutique grocery. It was named one of Food and Wine magazine's "Best Butcher Shops in America" in November 2020 and Butler was named Best Butcher in Texas by the Texas Beef Council in 2017. The duo will also open its newest concept, The Butcher's Burger, at the hall featuring delicious burgers made with its premium meats.

Also joining the list is Lea Jane's Hot Chicken from Chef Nick Graves which opened its first outpost in Denver this past summer. Taco Fuego, a South Houston food truck, will bring its Halal Quesabirrias to the food hall and SOUPreme, a Vietnamese concept from Tuan and Thy Tran, will  offer pho and bun bo hue. GELU Italian Ice, founded in Grand Junction, Colorado in 2013, has already made its way to Houston with its mobile concepts. Now, it will take up residence at the POST Market serving over thirty flavors of Italian ice which is dairy-free, gluten-free and fat-free.

Hearsay brings its Chic Antique brand to The Woodlands.EXPAND
Hearsay brings its Chic Antique brand to The Woodlands.
Photo by Amil Velasquez

Hearsay on the Waterway, 20 Waterway, opened November 17 in The Woodlands. This is the fourth location for the upscale gastro-lounge which operates two locations in Houston, one in Galveston and now, the new restaurant up north of the city. With its Chic Antique brand, which started in 2008 with the Market Square location and its historic building, the New American restaurant brings elements of fine dining in a lively, casual atmosphere. The Woodlands restaurant also offers views of the waterway and rolling green space along with the vibrant town center.

The bar program is a main draw at Hearsay with craft cocktails created in-house and engaging, experienced mixologists adding to the speakeasy feel. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. There's a Wednesday Ladies Night, a Thursday Gentleman's Night and other weekly specials. Hearsay also sources some hard to find whiskeys such as Macallan Rare Cask, 1792 and the cult favorite bourbon, Pappy Van Winkle.

The bar at Hearsay offers elegance and entertainment.EXPAND
The bar at Hearsay offers elegance and entertainment.
Photo by Amil Velasquez

The food menu includes starters such as the Texas Charcuterie Board, Ahi Tuna Flatbread and Deviled Eggs plus soups and salads. There are steaks, a Grilled Pork Chop, Wagyu Chicken Fried Steak and a Wagyu Cheeseburger. There are also seafood dishes such as Pan Seared Snapper and Seafood Linguine. For dessert, there are choices like the Hearsay Bread Pudding, Creme Brulee or the Bananas Foster Upside Down Cake.

Fritters were a popular item at Morningstar.
Fritters were a popular item at Morningstar.
Photo by Troy Fields

Morningstar, 4721 N. Main, will be closing its doors permanently December 28, according to its December 3 Facebook post. The coffee, doughnut, breakfast and lunch cafe was opened in May 2016 by David Buehrer, founder of Greenway Coffee, Ecky Prabanto (Greenway Coffee, Prelude Coffee and Tea) and Sam Phan, a Cambodian refugee and doughnut empresario who became Buehrer's mentor while working for Phan at his shop, Donald's Donuts.

Morningstar quickly became a go-to spot for unique doughnuts, pastries, biscuit sandwiches, espresso and its matcha tea program. It was also a popular brunch spot.

The pandemic has hit many businesses hard and the lack of office workers is part of the problem. While the original Greenway Coffee at 3 Greenway Plaza continues to operate, other vendors in that location have closed temporarily or, in the case of burger-chan, permanently. Burger-chan moved its operations to Click Virtual Food Hall while its owners continue with plans to open a brick and mortar at 53 West, a mixed use development on West Alabama. The closures are due to the lack of employee foot traffic at the office complex since many people continue to work from home.

This is the last month for Morningstar doughnuts.
This is the last month for Morningstar doughnuts.
Photo by Erika Kwee

Buehrer is now concentrating his efforts on Blacksmith, according to Houston Food Finder. Blacksmith, a gourmet coffeehouse and cafe, is a collaboration with Chris Shepherd's Underbelly Hospitality. Prelude Coffee and Tea, another Greenway concept, is temporarily shuttered at Hines Tower, 609 Main, another casualty of the pandemic. Tropicales, Buehrer's Latin-inspired cafe with Steve and Hilary Ybarra, will not reopen after closing this past March.

Mourning fans can get their doughnut fix through December 28 and maybe pick up a couple of Morningstar logo mugs ($9 each) for a Christmas gift and souvenir.

Komeya, 25114 Grogan's Mill, softly opened December 2 in The Woodlands. The Japanese restaurant offers an extensive menu beginning with hot and cold starters and continuing with ramen, sushi and sashimi, hibachi items, bento boxes, Japanese fried rice, teriyaki and fusion rolls. It also offers a variety of sake and Japanese beers such as Lucky Dog and Lucky Chicken.

Kegs Ice House, 12551 Jones , softly opened December 4. The neighborhood icehouse offers beer wine and set-ups plus a menu of delicious food.

Micky Kim brings Korean culture and barbecue to Houston.
Micky Kim brings Korean culture and barbecue to Houston.
Photo by Honey Pig Inc.

Honey Pig BBQ, 9140 Bellaire Boulevard, softly opened December 5 and will celebrate its grand opening December 11. The Korean BBQ chain, founded in 2007 by Micky Kim, has six previous locations in Virginia, Maryland and Taipei City, Taiwan. The Houston spot makes number seven.

The restaurant offers special combinations meats to barbecue at the high top tables. The beef offerings include brisket, prime rib, bulgogi and intestines while the pork choices range from pork belly to pork loin and side ribs. There is bibimbap, pan-fried dumplings and Korean seafood or kimchi pancakes as well.

The decor is a casual mix of industrial chic and colorful drawings, many of pink little piggies.  The restaurant is following strict protocols due to the pandemic. Lunch seating is limited to one hour while dinner is capped at 90 minutes. Masks must be worn when not eating and parties are capped at six per table. Full capacity will be at 50 percent and the restaurant offers fever checks for guests.

Get a taste of NOLA at Pier 6.EXPAND
Get a taste of NOLA at Pier 6.
Photo by Kimberly Park

Pier 6 Seafood and Oyster House, 113 6th, has launched lunch service. It recently opened November 5 in San Leon, Texas. Oysters are big on the menu as the restaurant was founded by Raz Halili, president of Prestige Oysters. Diners can also expect some Gulf Coast favorites from the kitchen, helmed by Executive Chef Joe Cervantez, most recently of Brennan's of Houston.

The new lunch menu offers chilled Prestige oysters on the half shell for a reasonable price of $6.99 for six or $12.99 for a full dozen. Diners can also opt for grilled oysters such as The Prestige, a dish of six oysters with Parmesan-Reggiano and herb shallot butter or The Streets of New Orleans which offers guests three Oysters Rockefeller and three oysters Bienville. There's also the Hot Blooded and Blue Crab option.

For those who like their oysters fried, there's the Oysterman sandwich offering cornmeal fried oysters on Texas Toast with tomato, Bibb lettuce and garlic mayo. There's also a Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich and a butter-poached lobster roll.

Malai Three Ways is a creamy vegetarian dish.EXPAND
Malai Three Ways is a creamy vegetarian dish.
Photo by Raydon Creative

Musaafer, 5115 Westheimer, has rolled out a new winter menu. The luxurious, modern Indian restaurant features dishes reflecting all 29 Indian states and its new winter menu focuses on seasonal, regional dishes. Owners Mithu and Sammi Malik opened Musaafer in May 2020 amid pandemic dining restrictions. Now, the Galleria-area restaurant is soldiering forward with chef Mayank Itswal creating twenty-one new dishes for the colder temperatures.

Itswal has drawn on his childhood with heart and tummy-warming dishes like Thukpa, a Himalayan noodle soup made with sesame broth, tomato, peanut, ginger, spring onions and timut pepper. The playful Winter Pomelo Salad is an ode to Itswal's grandmother.

Musaafer's Winter Nihari spices up the season.EXPAND
Musaafer's Winter Nihari spices up the season.
Photo by Raydon Creative

There's also Malai Three Ways made with chargrilled broccoli marinated in spice cream served over malai crisps, burnt malai and malai sabzi. The Baked Oysters are served with moilee, a South Indian curry, and coconut, shallots, curry leaf, garlic and cilantro. For something hearty and spicy, there's the Winter Nihari, a dish of lamb shank with long pepper, star anise, chili oil, serrano, and cilantro stalks.

Co-owner Mithu Malik said, " This new menu showcases how eating seasonally is part of our culture. The produce, spice blends and culinary techniques change in accordance with the requirements of the body seasonally and our eating habits are a reflection of that."

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