Riel, the acclaimed Montrose eatery known for chef Ryan Lachaine's Houston cuisine with a Ukrainian and French Canadian twist, caught on fire this morning. The Houston Press's own food reviewer and contributor Nicholas Hall was driving his kids to school when they passed the restaurant and saw it from the vehicle and stopped. His daughter called 911.
Hall says another bystander had already stopped and was alerting a few people inside the building to the fire outside. Hall used a small fire extinguisher he keeps in his trunk to help control the fire, along with a neighbor who brought over stainless steel bowls of water, and a man who he believes is associated with the restaurant ("He drives a Tesla, so not a cook, but likely an investor.") who brought out a larger extinguisher from inside.
The fire started outside the building on the western side, and Hall thinks it was set intentionally. "Looks like it was a stack of boxes or papers. A pile two feet high of stuff. It didn't look like a trash can, but the flames got all the way up the side of the building. " Update 9:30 a.m. The fire appears to have started in a recycling bin, which belongs to the restaurant's neighbor, but Hall could not tell because of the amount of flames.
The Houston Fire Department arrived about two minutes after the call to 911, and the group had already contained the flames down to a smolder. Hall said there appears to be minimal damage to the restaurant, likely all superficial, and that nobody was hurt.
The smoke alarms also went off inside of Riel, Hall said, but did not trigger any sort of sprinkler system. This all occurred around 7:10 or 7:15 a.m.
"Just based on the visual appearance and time of day," Hall reiterated, "my first thought was somebody set it on purpose."
Or it could have been something as simple as a match placed in the recycling bin by a random person on the street.
Jason Poon, one of Riel's partners, who helped control the fire this morning, has released the following statement:
Thank you for your support. Everything is fine inside besides the cosmetic issues on the exterior wall. We are fine and the restaurant will be open for dinner this evening for our regularly scheduled hours.