Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Money Cat is Open, Gatsby's Grill Sneaks In

The Tomato Garden sits upon squid ink soil.
The Tomato Garden sits upon squid ink soil. Photo by Sabrina Miskelly

Money Cat, 2925 Richmond, opened softly this year and will have its grand opening January 7. The new restaurant from the team at Tobiuo Sushi & Bar will celebrate with Lion Dancers, sake tastings and more.

The much anticipated venture has chef-owner Sherman Yeung and his leadership team creating a playful and innovative take on New Japanese cuisine. Along with its Japanese-influenced bar program, the  concept is primed for adventurous diners with a menu that offers hot and cold preparations that use traditional Japanese and French techniques while also incorporating the influence of American regional cuisine.
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Chef and owner Sherman Yeung has a new concept.
Photo by Kimberly Park
With Executive Chef Yeung and Chef de Cuisine Jio Dingayan in charge of the culinary offerings, guests can expect to find vegetables, tempura, hot and cold tastings, robata and sushi options such as nigiri, sashimi and makimono. Steve Nguyen is head sushi chef.  Some of the items include Hotate Chawanmushi, a steamed egg custard, and Chuturo Toast which is a creation of squid ink milk bread, burnt honey cream cheese, dill and cured chuturo, which is a moderately fatty cut of tuna. There's also Yeung's extensively tested Katsu Sando and Maitake Karaage, which draws on the chefs' love of Buffalo chicken wings.

Desserts are just as important a part of the menu with Dingyan's  Nashi Kakigori, his version of a Japanese shaved ice dessert with layers of pear milk snow with corn ice cream, compressed Asian pear, honeycomb candy and koji cream sea foam among its many ingredients. Dingyan was Tobiuo's first pastry chef and at just 22 years old, the graduate of Culinary Institute Lenotre has created a menu to represent the young team's experiences in and out of the food industry. He said in a press release, " It tells a narrative of nostalgia. It's a collective knowledge from our past mentors, of experimenting and being encouraged to create and highlighting growth as human beings and chefs."
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Japanese influenced cocktails make use of ingredients like matcha, lychee and sparkling sake.
Photo by Kimberly Park
For the beverage program, Yeung has General Manager Le Chau and Assistant General Manager Ashley Castro leading the way with cocktails that are Japanese-influenced including a number of drinks that use Japanese tea and produce. There will also be Japanese craft beers, a curated sake selection, plum wine and Japanese spirits.
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Money Cat's interior is relaxed and minimalistic.
Photo by Kimberly Park
In the 4,200 square-foot space, there is a dining room which offers a view of the semi-open kitchen fronted by a high-top sushi bar. The pastry kitchen is in full view so that guests can watch the desserts as they are assembled. A private chef's table offers prime views of both kitchens.
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Deluxe Deviled Eggs are topped with fried shrimp and bacon jam.
Photo by Raydon Creative
Gatsby's Grill, 2929 Navigation Boulevard, opened quietly December 29 in the space which very recently housed Acadian Coast. It will be the third concept in the Gatsby Hospitality Group portfolio from business partners Dr. Anosh Ahmed and Luis Rangel. Its two predecessors, Gatsby's Prime Steakhouse and Gatsby's Prime Seafood, have brought glitz and glamor to Houston with fine dining prices to match. The newest concept is more casual and the menu prices won't make one's eyes bug out of one's head.
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Queso gets gussied up with lump crab and avocado at Gatsby's Grill.
Photo by Raydon Creative
In fact, the dining options are quite reasonable for such a stylish dining spot. Gatsby Hospitality's executive chef Erick Anaya has produced a creative menu that is approachable with elevated comfort food. The Crab Avocado Queso, Gatsby's Meatballs, Onion Rings and Gatsby's Street Corn are just a sampling of the appetizers available. Green, chopped and wedge salads are also on the menu and guests may add different proteins to them as well. In keeping with its casual approach, there are sandwiches including an Italian-inspired panini, the spicy Angry Chicken Sandwich and several burger options made with prime beef and still reasonably priced. The sandwiches come with a side of fries, soup or salad included, we are happy to note.

A selection of tacos includes shrimp, fish or carnitas and there are several pasta dishes like Bolognese, Chicken Alfredo and Seafood Pasta. Other comfort food fare includes chicken tenders and chicken fried steak.
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The new Gatsby's Grill is more casual but still chic and elegant.
Photo by Raydon Creative
Though the menu offers plenty of reasonably-priced dining options, it still includes some of the steak and seafood that has garnered its sister restaurants a reputation for quality and indulgence. Guests will find Cocktail Shrimp, East Coast Oysters and Deluxe Deviled Eggs to start and entrees such as Delmonico Steak and Ahi Tuna. While most of the sandwiches are $16 or less, a decadent New England Lobster Roll can be had for 32 smackeroos.

With a whopping 7,000 square feet of space in the El Segundo neighborhood, its interior features dark wood accents, deep green walls and wrought iron accents leftover from Acadian Coast that adds a New Orleans feel. The outdoor patio is accessed by a garage-style glass window in the bar area and will offer lounge seating, several televisions and fire pits for the cooler weather.
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Wrought iron and bottles of wine create an attractive tableau.
Photo by Raydon Creative
With both an indoor and outdoor bar space, the beverage program, led by Beverage Director Benjamin Harris, will have a wine list of well-priced and unique varietals. Gatsby's Brand Mixologist, Jessica Wells, has created amenu of cocktails such as spicy pineapple margarita and house-batched sangria. A frozen cocktail, Gatsby's Dreamsicle, is perfect for cooling off in Houston's heat as are the 18 beers on tap.

Rangel says of the new concept, "We wanted to create an unfussy, contemporary restaurant with an upscale spin on traditional menu items that you would typically get at a grill, while also paying homage to the El Segundo neighborhood with some Latino driven offerings."

Little Hen, 4444 Westheimer, opened January 4 in the River Oaks District. The Miami-based breakfast and brunch boutique is an English-inspired floral fantasy for Anglophiles dreaming about afternoon tea or anyone who wants to indulge in Rose Petal Pancakes amid a romantic atmosphere of blousy blooms, marble and gold tabletops and glittering chandeliers.

Designed and created by hospitality veteran Enrique Altamarino, Little Hen has a location in Weston, Florida and another in Miami. With 2,678 square feet of space for inside dining, there's also an expansive outdoor Champagne Garden offering influencers and Instagrammers plenty of photo ops.

A full breakfast and brunch menu offers dishes like Crab Cake Eggs Benedict, Nutella French Toast and Israeli Salad. There are also items like Avocado Salmon Toast, Caviar Omelets and Truffled Heuvos Rotos.

The cocktail program provides brunchtime celebration with mimosas and Bloody Marys. Its signature cocktail, the Champagne Candy Cloud, is a whimsical treat for the eyes and the mouth with Pommery Champagne topped by a billowy cloud of cotton candy and a sprinkle of rose petals.

Its Afternoon Tea program is served from open till close, offering guests an opportunity to enjoy the pageantry of an upscale tea service for $35 per person. Guests will receive a selection of petit fours, French macarons, mini sandwiches and scones on a vintage three-tiered stand. Tea lovers may choose from options such as Little Hen's house tea, chamomile, Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Jasmine Cloud, Meng Ding Green and Santana. The tea service with a glass of prosecco is $45 while the upgrade to a glass of champagne is $55.
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A statue of Zeus, designed by Mexican artist Karla de Lara,watches over paintings from French artist Philippe Shangti.
Photo by Shannon O'Hara
CIEL, 4411 San Felipe, opened December 16 on the ground floor of a new boutique commercial building in the River Oaks/Uptown Districts. It comes from local businessmen and entrepreneurs Ryan Henry, Adel Sadek and Fasl Ty with Director of Operations Michael Vo and hospitality professional Fabrizio Baranzano. The team have brought in Joseph Geiskopf as executive chef for the opulent restaurant inspired by the Cote d'Azur in France.
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Smoked Beef Tartare is an extravagant dish.
Photo by Julie Soefer
Geiskopf has more than 23 years of culinary experience and his menu at CIEL is an inventive partnership of French and Japanese cuisines. The focus is on fresh ingredients such as fish imported daily from New Zealand and Japan and prime steak cuts sourced locally. There are multiple sushi options plus a raw bar.  The caviar at CIEL is premium non-GMO.

Some of the indulgent items guests can expect include Sweet Chili Oysters, Scallops & Lychee and Smoked Beef Tartare made with Wagyu beef. Other dishes like Oak Grilled Octopus, Hamachi Tacos and Jidori Chicken round out the menu along with a selection of maki and nigiri. Chef de Cuisine Frank Hernandez is part of the culinary team bringing his expertise with Japanese techniques and Peruvian flavors.
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This Mademoiselle is dolled up and ready to party.
Photo by Julie Soefer
On the sweet side, Pastry Chef Micaela Victoria is creating desserts such as Mille Fuille, Yuzu Creme Brulee and Whiskey Baba that are inspired by the French Riviera but have a Japanese twist, using ingredients such as Hibiki whisky, yuzu and white soy.

The new restaurant offers a wine list of over 150 selections plus signature cocktails such as La Passion, Lychee Cosmo and the Mademoiselle, made with Grey Goose essences, St. Germaine and sparkling grapefruit.

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There's nothing small about the half-lobster at the upcoming Littles Oyster Bar.
Photo by Arturo Olmos
Littles Oyster Bar, 3001 S. Shepherd, is shooting to open in spring 2023 in the former home of a previous Pappas Restaurants concept, Little Pappas Seafood House. While the reopening has been teased for a while, the new venture from the Pappas Restaurants group will be a chef driven seafood concept with California native Jason Ryczek taking on the role of executive chef.

Ryczek has experience working in acclaimed California seafood kitchens like Waterbar and Farallon.  His work with California Caviar Company over the years will result in caviar being a staple on the new menu at Littles with Ryczek having hand selected sturgeon roe for the restaurant. Ryczek says three different styles of caviar will be available: the house caviar, Kaluga and Osetra. He said, "Since I'm personally involved in making the caviar, we get great value."
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Chef Jason Ryczek is bringing years of experience at some of the best seafood restaurants in the country.
Photo by Arturo Olmos
Freshly sourced Gulf seafood will be a big part of the offerings with Pappas own boats hauling in snapper, grouper and tile. Other fish options include Ora King salmon, Spanish octopus and sustainably farmed fish from around the country. Oysters will also be sustainably sourced including the one Gulf oyster on the menu, Barrier Beauties, farmed in the Bolivar Peninsula near Galveston.

Robert Smith, Pappas Restaurants Fine Spirits and Expanding Concepts Wine Director, is creating a curated wine list showcasing mineral-laden wines that pair well with seafood, including European whites and Champagne plus American whites and light to medium red wines from Spain, Portugal and France.
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This octopus is ready for its close-up.
Photo by Arturo Olmos
While the vintage signage will remain in place, commemorating the 1987 opening of Little Pappas Seafood House, the renovated space will feature new design elements like lighting and artwork. All of the tables, banquettes, millwork, entry canopy and back bar have been fabricated in-house as part of the company's vertical integration philosophy. In addition to seating for 80 indoors, there will also be an outdoor patio accommodating a little more than 50 guests.
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Dish Society is one of the local businesses that will open at Hobby Airport.
Photo by Sabrina Miskelly

LaTrelle’s, a Houston-based firm that specializes in owning and operating award-winning franchised and licensed restaurants in major airports across the country, announced a new $334 million contract with the City of Houston for William P. Hobby Airport, 7800 Airport Boulevard. LaTrelle's renovations for the airport's core dining destinations will begin later this year and the new additions will occupy 17,000 square feet of restaurant space. The construction is expected to take two years to complete and will not disrupt the current food and beverage programs at the airport.

Some of the brands that will be operating through LaTrelle’s with franchise or license agreements include local businesses such as Common Bond, The Rustic, Velvet Taco, Dish Society, Pinks Pizza, and Fat Cat Creamery. National names like Peet’s Coffee, Jersey Mike’s, Wendy’s, and Dunkin’ will also be part of the new concessions.

Passengers awaiting flights won't only have a wide variety of food and beverage options but will also be able to enjoy live music at The Rustic's first-ever airport location. Musical performances will just be one part of the artistic offerings as LaTrelle's will also showcase artwork from local artists in the revitalized spaces, creating a colorful, relaxing and inviting area much needed in the often hectic world of air travel.

LaTrelle's was founded as a bakery by W.A. James in 1979. In 1985, he opened LaTrelle's Bakery at Hobby Airport. Second and third generations of the family now run LaTrelle's as a management firm for over 30 restaurants at airports and neighborhoods in major cities.
The Chicken Sando drips with yumminess.
Photo by Cathy Noble
Urban Bird Hot Chicken, 2162 Spring Stuebner, opened January 3. We reported in November 2022 about the hot chicken concept's rapid expansion here in the Houston Press. The Spring location makes the fifth Greater Houston spot for the local brand which already has two more planned for the future. The upcoming locations include one in Webster at 19325 Gulf Freeway and another at 14303 E. Sam Houston Parkway N.

The menu offers jumbo fried chicken tenders with a variety of spice levels from No Spice to Nashville Hot. For those who can never get enough heat, there's the Fire in the Hole. Customers may order by the piece, basket or sandwich. There's also Chicken & Waffles plus sides like crinkle cut fries, sweet potato fries and seasoned street corn. There is a kids menu and treats such as shakes and frozen custard.

Twenty Five Teishoku House, 21784 Katy Freeway, opened softly this week in Katy. There is a grand opening planned January 15 with free hot sake, one per table. Its menu includes a number of appetizers such as edamame and gyoza plus hand rolls and sashimi. There are specialties like its 25 Burger, made with salmon, avocado, tobiko and honey wasabi mayo or its Unagi, grilled eel filets over rice.

It also offers teishoku sets that come with rice, soup, salad and vegetables. Guests can choose from different proteins for the teishoku including tonkatsu, chicken katsu, salmon teriyaki and shrimp.

There is a full bar with whimsical cocktails like the Nothing Com-pears to Yuzu, Sweet Cheeks, Shanghai Roller and El Chapo's escape.
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The new Water Oak Cafe & Bakery will be a feast for the eyes and the stomach.
Rendering by Kim Lewis
Water Oak Cafe & Bakery, 19435 W. Bay Area Boulevard, is projected to open April 2023. Located at Baybrook Passage Shopping Center in Webster, the new spot will be the first brick and mortar for the online bakery. Owner Dena Baughman signed the lease on the 3,053 square-foot space to bring a boutique bakery and cafe selling scratch-made baked goods, cakes, seasonal pies, cookies and quiches. There will also be a breakfast and lunch menu.

Baughman originally opened her first brick and mortar venture, Dena's Bakery, in Baytown twenty years ago. After a couple of years, she switched to a home catering firm instead called Dinner Any Thyme. After growing the catering business for nine years, she embarked on her concept Water Oak House in 2014.

Along with Austin-based interior designer Kim Lewis, the duo are creating a Southern Chic scheme using white oak wood, botanical wallpaper elements, leather and marble accents among a color palette of peach, soft blue and green. Cafe tables and banquettes will invite guests to linger while tables and lounge seating on the patio will be framed by planters providing greenery and color.
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Chef Michelle Wallace has pop up plans for the future.
Photo by Point and Click Photography
Chef Michelle Wallace is departing the Gatlin's restaurant family to begin her own culinary business. Restaurateur and chef Greg Gatlin made the announcement and said in a press release, "Michelle is just a really humble and genuine human being. Professionally, she's grown so much...I couldn't have asked for a better six years."

Wallace began her collaboration with the Gatlin family at their acclaimed Gatlin's BBQ creating memorable dishes for the menu such as the Smoked Bologna Sandwich. When Greg Gatlin opened Gatlin's Fins & Feathers in July 2022, Wallace took on the role of executive chef creating items like the H-Town Hot Sandwich which was featured in the December 2022 issue of Texas Monthly. A native of St. Louis Missouri, she is a graduate of Texas Southern University and the Culinary Arts Institute of Houston.

Fans of Wallace's food will not be surprised to learn that her solo venture will be a pop up called b'tween Sandwich Co. and will start popping up in the coming months.

As for her tenure with the Gatlin family of restaurants, Wallace says, "Greg didn't have to share his space so willingly with someone like me but he carved out a place in his business for me to create. I am so excited about what's next and I am so grateful for him."

Hull & Oak, 1070 Dallas, has launched its "Brunch with Beats" at the Laura Hotel, Autograph Collection. The Sunday brunch runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will feature live DJs, bottomless mimosas and a house-made Bloody Mary menu. The Southern-inspired brunch menu offers highlights such as BBQ Shrimp & Grits, Brisket Hash, Chicken Fried Steak & Eggs, Fried Green Tomatoes and Honey Garlic Chicken & Waffles. 
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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.