Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Mozambik Replaces Peli Peli, TEN Sushi Next Year

Braii is the South African version of grilling.
Braii is the South African version of grilling. Photo by Raul Casares
Mozambik, 1201 Lake Woodlands, will open in the space that currently houses Peli Peli South African Kitchen September 10. Peli Peli, one of Houston's longtime favorite restaurants brands, will have its last service at The Woodlands and Galleria locations September 5.

The new concept comes from restaurateur Ryan Stewart who has been a co-owner at Mozambik since 2008. The concept originated in Ballito, South Africa and has grown to 24 restaurants throughout SA and Zambia. Stewart came to Houston from his native Johannesburg, South Africa in 2018 as a consultant for Peli Peli Restaurant Group. He will now lead the U.S. expansion for Mozambik as CEO along with Macey Maples as executive chef. Maples is a former chef de cuisine at Peli Peli and a Houston native.
Peli Peli makes way for Mozambik.
Photo by Kimberly Park
Peli Peli was a unique addition to the Houston restaurant scene when it first arrived 12 years ago at Vintage Park bringing South African cuisine to a city that bursts with diverse restaurants. It quickly garnered acclaim for executive chef and co-owner Paul Friedman's dishes and loyal patrons liked its romantic atmosphere. It was followed by locations at the Galleria, Katy and The Woodlands. It also spun off a more casual concept, Peli Peli Kitchen. With co-owner Thomas Nguyen's business and marketing savvy, its expansion was very successful. However, in 2018, a former employee at Peli Peli sued the restaurant alleging that she experienced sexual harassment and assault by Friedman. The charges were later dropped, according to Houstonia Magazine. Friedman soon left his position as executive chef and recently opened his own restaurant, The Chef's Table in the former space of the original Peli Peli at Vintage Park, which had been shuttered since March 2020 due to the pandemic. The Katy location closed that year as well. Nguyen left his role at Peli Peli in February 2021 to join CBRE, a commercial real estate firm.
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Pan-seared Cod fits the coastal theme.
Photo by Raul Casares
Over the course of his tenure at Peli Peli, Stewart has introduced some of Mozambik's signature recipes as the Peli Peli menu shifted to a more affordable price point to keep afloat during the pandemic. Now, with the new concept, The Woodlands location has already been transformed with a bright color scheme. The Galleria spot will also undergo renovations before it opens as Mozambik. Each restaurant is meant to evoke the feel of a Mozambican beach with a relaxed vibe.
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Ryan Stewart is leading the Mozambik expansion in the U.S.
Photo by Raul Casares
Mozambik's fare will be Afro-Porto but loyal customers will still see some of the similar South African fare served at Peli Peli. Peri peri chicken is a given as well as trinchado and espetadas. Guests can also expect South African comfort foods like Sodwana Bay crab cakes, bobotie and Malay curry. The menu will offer new items every six months along with monthly specials. The wine list will offer a wide selection of South African wines including Pinotage, a signature varietal of the country.

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TEN's sashimi options are beautiful creations.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
TEN Sushi + Cocktail Bar, 4200 Westheimer, is expected to open in late spring/summer 2022. The West Coast sushi concept comes from BCK Management, the hospitality group behind Bosscat Kitchen & Libations. It's the second location of the brand for partners John Reed and Leslie Nguyen who purchased the concept in 2014. It first opened in Newport Beach, California in 2008. In early 2022, the original TEN will relocate to Irvine, California prior to the opening of the Houston outpost.
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Co-owners John Reed and Leslie Nguyen find Houston a perfect fit for expansion.
Photo by Jennifer Wales
The new Houston location will be on the ground floor of Stonelake Capital Partners' 200 Park Place across the street from Bosscat and next door to The Ivy and The James, Stonelake Partners’ luxury high-rise towers. Bosscat also operates private bars for the residents of the two towers.

Reed, CEO and co-owner of BCK Management is excited to bring TEN to Houston. "Between our relationship with Stonelake, our success in River Oaks and symmetry with resident bars in the area, it was a perfect storm for us to choose this location."
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An elevated bar program will offer cocktails such as the Lychee Rose.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
TEN Houston will feature a full-service sushi bar in a sophisticated setting with seating for 100 guests. The 3,700 square foot space will also include an 800 square-foot patio. The kitchen will be helmed by sushi chef Toshi Miura and chef Peter Petro of BCK Management. The menu will offer its signature black rice rolls and Pan-Asian influenced dishes. Chef Gary Ly (‘93 Til, Momofuku, Underbelly) has been brought in as a consultant to create a new menu of shareable items to complement TEN’s sushi program in both California and Houston. The front of house team includes general manager Brian Gilic and BCK Management bar director Matt Sharp.
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Uchiko's dishes draw on Japanese traditions and techniques.
Photo by Kari Michelle Young
Uchiko, 1800 Post Oak Boulevard, is shooting to open later this year at The Zadok's Post Oak Place. This will be the second location for the restaurant from Hai Hospitality. It first opened in Austin in 2010 as the sister to restaurant to the highly-acclaimed Japanese concept, Uchi. There are currently five Uchi locations in Texas and Florida, including the Houston restaurant.

Hai Hospitality announced August 24 that Shaun King will take on the role as chef de cuisine at the upcoming Uchiko Houston. King and his family arrived in Houston early this year after the pandemic shutdown caused King's newly-opened restaurant, Bar King, to close just two days after opening in March 2020.
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Uchiko will join a jewelry box of businesses at Post Oak Place.
Rendering by Michael Hsu Office of Architecture
The young chef brings an experienced resume working in sushi and Japanese cuisine beginning with his stint as chef de cuisine at Rick Moonen's RM Seafood in Las Vegas. Moonen's mentorship taught King the value of fish sourcing and sustainability. Over the years he moved around the country taking on different positions including executive chef at The Dawson in Chicago and in 2017, executive chef at David Chang's Momofuku in Las Vegas.

Tyson Cole, executive chef and partner at Hai Hospitality, says of King, "Shaun is an incredibly talented and inventive chef who is passionate about fostering a healthy and positive team culture. Shaun's point of view will be instrumental in driving the evolution of the Uchiko concept in Houston."
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Gatsby's is expanding its posh footprint next door.
Photo by Michael Anthony
Gatsby's Prime Steakhouse, 4319 Montrose, is expanding into its recently opened Daisy Buchanan Lounge next door. Needing more room for the steakhouse itself, the venue is being transformed into the Daisy Buchanan Room as part of the restaurant.

The month-long renovation began after the final service August 21 at the lounge. When the reno is completed, there will be an interior connection between the two spaces and a reconfiguration of the former Daisy Buchanan Lounge with bar relocated to the rear. The new space will also feature red leather banquette seating throughout.
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Big changes are happening at the bar.
Photo by Michael Anthony
Luis Rangel of Gatsby Hospitality Group said in a press release about the transformation, "This not only allows us the opportunity to free up our garden room for private events but also gives diners another choice of backdrop for dinner, along with a second intimate bar space that offers a little more privacy than the main bar at our entrance." 

Fans of the former lounge's cocktails will still be able to indulge in some of their favorites such as the Bull in a China Shop, made with Old Overholt, peach brandy, apricot, Pierre Ferrand, Earl Grey, Topo Chico and lemon. Also staying on the drinks menu is the Tongue in Cheek a cocktail made with The Botanist gin, Cocchi Rosa syrup and Segura Viudas Cava.

Gatsby's Prime Steakhouse will continue to offer its prime steaks, delicious seafood and $13 baked potatoes without interruption during the renovation of Daisy Buchanan's Lounge.
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Al and Victoria Gonzalez are opening a bar with in-house brew.
Photo by Veronica Espinoza
Big Owl Craft Beer House, 1848 Airline, will celebrate its grand opening September 4, as reported by Houston Business Journal. The fun will run from noon to 11 p.m. with 24 craft beers on tap plus retail beer and wine to-go or on site. It's owned by Al and Victoria Gonzales who are collaborating with Louie Espinoza and Oscar Gonzalez of Turkey Forrest Brewing to bring a nanobrewery in house with a 1bbl system (a barrel of beer basically) which will allow Turkey Forrest to supply some of its beers on tap in addition to bringing in some outside craft brews. Turkey Forrest, named for Espinoza's cat Turkey and Gonzalez's dog Forrest, will not have their beers on tap yet for the opening but there will be plenty of other local brews available.

The partnership between Big Owl and Turkey Forrest may be the first 100 percent Mexican American-owned brewery in Texas and even the United States, a point of pride for the owners. That heritage will be reflected in its beer offerings with licuados, aguas frescas and pulque-style beer in the future, according to Houston Beer Guide.
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Oscar Gonzalez and Louie Espinoza have some Latino-inspired flavors planned for their brews.
Photo by Luis Montalvo/The Pint Exchange
Big Owl owner, Al Gonzalez, told the Press that there would not be a kitchen in-house but that there are a number of nearby restaurants and that the bar will be looking to bring in food vendors. The owners are also working with Asian fusion food truck and caterer, Wokker, who will be opening a location next door in the fall. Wokker's food truck will be on site for the grand opening.

Project Pollo, 514 S. Mason, opened July 28 in a former Whataburger building, keeping the same A-frame exterior. The vegan fast food restaurant offers vegan chicken sandwiches, fries, tots, wraps, milkshakes and more. The "chicken" is made with non-GMO soy and the restaurant serves Credo Cashew Queso on several of its items for vegans, vegetarians and those who don't do dairy. There are also burgers made with Impossible Foods patties.

The concept was founded by owner and CEO Lucas Bradbury as a food truck in San Antonio in 2020 and there are now five locations in San Antonio, two in Austin and one slated to open soon in Dallas.
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Healthy foods can be tasty, too.
Photo by Kale Me Crazy
Kale Me Crazy, 718 W. 18th, opened August 5 in the Heights. The superfood cafe offers wraps with fillings such as tuna, turkey or chicken pesto and different toasts like avocado, hummus or salmon. It also offers acai and poke bowls plus smoothies and cold-pressed juices. Guests can dine in the sleek restaurant, take a seat on the patio or enjoy its healthy food and drinks to go.

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, it currently has stores in nine states. The Houston location is the second for Texas with one in Austin and a third planned for Dallas. This is the first Kale Me Crazy franchise for owners Deric and LaTosha Rutherford who have plans to expand the brand throughout Texas.
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More tacos are coming to Houston.
Photo by Bob Ruggiero
Tacos del Julio, 7515 Westheimer, is "coming soon". We reached out for an opening date and are awaiting a response. There are four other Houston area locations currently open. The restaurant sells more than tacos with an extensive menu of Mexican favorites like tortas, quesadillas, flautas, burritos, enchiladas and more. It also offers soups like caldo de res and menudo. Guests can also order barbacoa by the pound. For beverages there are soft drinks and aguas frescas like Jamaica and horchata. The restaurant also serves cocktails.
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Tea Bear fills the boba void in Magnolia.
Photo by Chaoching Chen
Tea Bear Teahouse, 6622 Durango Creek, opened the first week of August in Magnolia. This is the second location for the family-owned teahouse which opened its first shop in Cypress in April 2019. Owner Chaoching Chen says the busy start to the business has been due to the support of the nearby community. In an email to the Houston Press Chen said, "We are very excited to open this location in such a beautiful community. The local residents have been extremely kind and welcoming...It has been exciting to offer so many local students their first job and training them in the art of tea and how to provide great customer service."

While Tea Bear does sell some food items such as handmade dumplings and pork, veggie or red bean buns (bao), it is first and foremost a teahouse. And there are many variations for guests to discover. There are signature teas like Thai Meadow, a green creamy tea with matcha boba or the Lavender Kiss with popping yogurt boba.  The Mangolava is a mango smoothie with chamoy and mango popping boba.  There are fruit, chocolate and strawberry creme smoothies and loose leaf teas like White Grape Oolong and Four Seasons Jade. There are also hot and cold coffee drinks including Vietnamese coffee and lattes. The boba (tapioca) is made fresh multiple times daily.
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Walk-On's has hot appetizers and cold brews for game night.
Photo by Taylor Oliver
Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux, 23213 Grand Circle Boulevard, opened August 9 in Katy. The sports bar and restaurant was founded by two friends, Brandon Landry and Jack Warner, who were walk-ons for Louisiana State University's basketball team in the late '90s. Though they never became starters for the team, their friendship and love of basketball led them to open the first location of the Louisiana-inspired concept in Baton Rouge in 2003. Its success led to expansion all over Louisiana and then the South with multiple locations in Texas. In 2015, Drew Brees, former star quarterback for the New Orleans Saints and Super Bowl Champion, became co-owner and partner of Walk-On's.

The menu is a mix of sports bar fare and Cajun cuisine. Diners can start with Cajun specialties like Boom Boom Shrimp, fried alligator and boudin balls or stick with traditional bar snacks like waffle cheese fries, fried pickles and boneless wings. There's a variety of sandwiches and burgers from which to choose along with Cajun dishes such as Catfish Atchafalaya and Voodoo Shrimp and Grits. There are signature cocktails, reasonably priced wines by the glass and of course, plenty of beer options.
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Guests can watch handrolls being created as they dine.
Photo by Thanin Viriyaki@Severus_Snapshot
Hidden Omakase, 5353 W. Alabama, will host its Norigami Pop-up the second week of each month. For next month, it will be September 12 though September 15. Chef John Pham will offer a more casual set up compared to his tasting menu concept. For the Norigami Pop-Up, there will four 18-person seatings per night by online reservation only. Chef Pham will create hand rolls and hand roll sets made with premium nori (Japanese-style seaweed) and fish imported from Japan plus locally-sourced produce. Reservations can be made online at Resy.
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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.