A press release from Lillo & Ella’s public relations company says that, effective today, the restaurant is closed. Owner Kevin Naderi had purchased the property that used to house El Gran Malo. After that restaurant moved out, Naderi started Lillo & Ella in the same building in May 2014.
The restaurant drew acclaim from restaurant critics Alison Cook at the Houston Chronicle and Robb Walsh during his tenure at Houstonia. Walsh wrote, “I hope Kevin Naderi doesn’t mind if I call Lillo & Ella’s the coolest Asian-fusion restaurant in Houston.”
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Cook applauded not only the food but the sophisticated cocktail menu as well, saying, “Houston may love its Asian food, but a drinking culture has not yet coalesced around Asian food here in the way that it has around Mexican food. In that respect I wonder if Lillo & Ella may be a little ahead of its time, at least on this particular corner.”
Indeed, perhaps Lillo & Ella was ahead of its time in more ways than one. Naderi, in an interview with the Houston Press, was very open about the restaurant struggling to find its audience, saying, “We're in an area that is still changing, but at the same time, it really bothers me that people are scared to try new things. Every single day, between two and three different tables walk in, look at the menu and walk out. They say they don't get it or they feel like it's two or three dollars above what they usually pay. It leaves me speechless.”
Naderi is quoted in the press release as saying, “I received an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’ve loved Lillo and Ella, the concept of Asian street food, our Heights neighbors and what we’re doing at the restaurant. But I’ve felt more and more that I want to devote more attention to Roost.” Roost is Naderi’s original restaurant in the Montrose area. He also says he has other concepts “currently in development.”
Naderi is the retired champion of the Houston Press Menu Of Menu’s Iron Fork Competition, winning four times in a row over notable chefs Randy Rucker, Kevin Bryant, Ryan Hildebrand and Amanda McGraw.