Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: The Blind Goat Softly Opens, Philippe Schmit's PS21 Soon

The Whole Roasted Turmeric Fish is a stunning and meaningful dish.
The Whole Roasted Turmeric Fish is a stunning and meaningful dish. Photo by John Suh
The Blind Goat, 8145 Long Point, opened softly February 23. The modern Vietnamese restaurant comes from Chef Christine Ha and husband/business partner John Suh. The new Spring Branch location is an expansion of her first restaurant, The Blind Goat, which she opened at Bravery Chef Hall in 2019. It has since shuttered to make way for the new location. With the Spring Branch spot, Ha will have a much larger venue (and kitchen) to create the neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant and pub that she envisioned along with an expanded menu and bar program. She has Patrick Dao assisting as sous chef.

Ha, who many know as The Blind Chef, won Fox's Master Chef Season 3 in 2012. That experience led to television appearances, her own cookbook, the opening of the original The Blind Goat, which earned her a James Beard Award semi-finalist nomination in 2020 for Best New Restaurant. That success paved the way for her restaurant Xin Chao in  partnership with Chef Tony Nguyen. Both Ha and Nguyen were finalists for the 2022 James Beard Awards Best Chef: Texas for Xin Chao and are currently semi-finalists for this year's JBA for Outstanding Chef.

Ha and Suh have been put through the wringer with opening the new location due to construction delays, utility issues and of course, the inevitable wait for permits. It's a wonder anyone manages to open a restaurant in this city but they do and we are the lucky diners.
Christine Ha is one busy chef and restaurateur.
Photo by John Suh
For the modern Vietnamese menu, Ha has brought her Mom's Eggrolls from the Bravery Chef Hall location along with her Rubbish Apple Pie which impressed the Master Chef judges. On the small plates side there is the Pho Bone Marrow which Ha describes as a riff on pho flavors, blending a European dish with Vietnamese flavors. Guests may also order a shot of Taiwanese whisky to pour down the bone after the marrow is finished, with the whisky picking up the flavors of the pho-spiced marrow.  There are other small plates like Quexo & Wonton Chips and a Banh Mi Board which plays as a deconstructed banh mi sandwich.

Medium plates include a fruit-filled Grilled Steak Salad, gluten-free Sticky Wings, and a Vietnamese Tostada with baby clams. The Texas BBQ Brisket Fried Rice uses smoked brisket from its Spring Branch Village neighbors at Feges BBQ.

The Whole Roasted Turmeric Fish is an homage to Ha's father who loved the Hanoi dish. Called cha ca in Vietnamese, it is marinated in shrimp paste, yogurt, turmeric and galangal. It's served with head and tail on but it's butterflied and deboned to make it easier to eat. There's also Crawfish & Garlic Noodles (the menu description says lots of butter, yay!). Puffed Rice Noodles with Tofu is a vegan option.
Carefully thought-out cocktails add to the flavors at The Blind Goat.
Photo by John Suh
With its goal to be a neighborhood hangout as well as a dining destination, the bar program, with Alex Coon as bar manager, includes creative cocktails such as the Golden Turtle Power!, its version of an Old Fashioned made with Japanese bourbon. There are also whimsical drinks such as the Fungi & Gal, One in a Melon and the Halong Bae, made with Old Tom gin, Kimoto sake, Bermutto, lemongrass and vanilla.

The restaurant is in soft opening mode so reservations are strongly recommended. Ha told the Houston Press that walk-ins will be seated if possible. Currently, it is open for dinner only but plans for lunch service are being made as the menu is expanded.

It is also hiring for several positions.
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The interior at PS21 is French elegance with a touch of casual Texas charm.
Photo by Raydon Creative

PS21, 2712 Richmond, will open in the Upper Kirby area March 9. The modern French restaurant from Chef Philippe Schmit has taken over the space which formerly housed the Queen Vic, and more recently, Olive & Twist. It's a long awaited return for the French chef who Houstonians will remember from his days at Bistro Moderne and his restaurant Philippe. He left his eponymous restaurant in September 2013. Schmit popped up briefly as executive chef at Toulouse Cafe & Bar, departing that venture two months after opening.

Since then, Schmit has operated his catering and private chef business as The French Cowboy. Many fans wondered if he would return to a restaurant kitchen again. They may wonder no more as he is partnering with hospitality veteran Sebastien Laval to open a sumptuous new concept. Laval has helped to open some of Houston's most acclaimed dining establishments including MAD, Musaafer, Le Colonial and La Table. He has also consulted on recent launches such as Ciel, Pacha Nikkei and Alba at Granduca.
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Steak Frites is oh-so-French and oh-so-good.
Photo by Harold Cua
Chef Schmit says he is excited to get back in the saddle. "PS21 will be a much more laid-back experience than my previous restaurants, as it will be more of a return to my roots and to the authentic style of cooking that I enjoy."

The menu at PS21 showcases Schmit's French upbringing and instruction with shareable dishes such as Brandade of Codfish, Sardine Rillettes and a savory Tarte Flambee with creme fraiche, caramelized onions and lardons. There are starters like Steak Tartare Rossini; hand cut beef with a luxurious addition of seared foie gras and truffle vinaigrette. The Lobster Bisque is served two ways. The first is with flaky puff pastry and the second is with fish quenelle, a take on the popular Lyonnaise dish of quenelles de brochet.

Entree options include Duck Breast Wellington, the bistro staple Steak Frites, Whole Chicken for Two and Seafood Bouillabaisse. Guests can also indulge in the tableside Raclette experience with warm raclette cheese, fingerling potatoes, salad crudite and charcuterie.
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The Coffee Martini Gourmand pleases all the senses.
Photo by Henry Cua
Laval's sommelier experience comes through on the French-only wine list with 50 labels that have been curated to showcase France's variety of terroirs, ranging in price from $49 to $250. The bar program has been created by Laval and Bar Specialist Souvik Dasgupta to showcase not only France but nations from its colonial past. A 12-seat bar welcomes guests along with a semi-private dining space that can accommodate 28 people.
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Guests are greeted by a sleek bar area.
Photo by Raydon Creative
The space has been transformed by architect George Atala and Laval, blending the indoor and outdoor areas with rich wood tones, leather and soothing colors with vegetation such as a boxwood wall adding to the lushness. The main dining room has white-clothed tables decorated with mini French vases and it  seats up to 60 guests. The garden patio is accessed through Parisian-style double doors.

The opening will offer dinner service.  Brunch and lunch will be added in the near future. PS21 will also debut its Apero Hour soon.
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Texas cuisine puts on its fancy duds at Haywire.
Rendering by Esther Walker/Empire X
Haywire, 947 Gessner, will open at Gateway Memorial City in summer 2024. The announcement was made this week by MetroNational, a Houston-based real estate investment, development and management company. Haywire was first founded in Plano, Texas in 2017 as a Texas-inspired restaurant serving elevated Southern cuisine. It opened a second location in Dallas in June 2021.
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Any Southern restaurant worth its salt has a version of chicken and waffles nowadays.
Photo by The Nix Company
Its farm-to-fork menu is steered by heritage recipes for Chicken Fried Steak and TX Whiskey BBQ Ribs. There are unique dishes such as Mini Elk Tacos and Oxtail Stroganoff plus hearty cuts of meat like the 33-ounce Wagyu Tomahawk Ribeye. Desserts include Chipotle Chocolate Layer Cake and Route 66 Pecan Pie.
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Local meats and cheeses show up on a splendid charcuterie board.
Photo by The Nix Company
It serves hand-crafted cocktails and offers an award-winning wine list. Guests can also expect a wide variety of whiskeys including rare finds.

Each location varies in style but the atmosphere at each restaurant is influenced by Texas towns such as Marfa and Luckenbach.  The company behind the brand, FB Society, also operates the Whiskey Cake and Sixty Vines concepts.
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Muse is coming this spring and it is already blooming.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
Muse, 3210 Dallas, will soon take over the space vacated by Emmaline, which closed during the pandemic. The new culinary destination is being opened by Sundown Entertainment, a Houston-based hospitality group known for its creative dining and nightlife concepts. It is slated to open this spring.

Located on the border of River Oaks and Montrose, the new restaurant will be modern and sleek with a soft color palette, walnut wood accents and abundant light from its floor-to ceiling windows. There will also be a private dining space and an outdoor, rooftop patio.
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Dung Nguyen, E.J. Miller and Patty Burbach are hospitality veterans.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
Helming the kitchen will be executive chef E.J. Miller (SaltAir Seafood, Riel, International Smoke) with sous chef Dung Nguyen, formerly of The Dunlavy. Their menu will use traditional techniques to showcase locally-sourced ingredients for the seasonal menu. Guests may find dishes such as maki rolls, wood-fired grilled steaks and fresh seafood.

Patty Burbach will take on the role of general manager. With 20 years of experience at places such as Mastro's, Catch Steak and MAD, her leadership means guests can expect an exceptional dining experience.

In addition to specialty cocktails and an accessible wine list, there will be a rotating sake program.

Smashburger, 5102 Richmond, opened March 1 in the Galleria area. Through March 4 it will host a grand opening with specials unique to each day. For March 3, its will offer a S'Mac and Cheese Burger Combo w/ fountain drink for $8. Those who show up March 4 will be able to order Wings and a 16-ounce draft beer for $10.

Throughout the grand opening weekend, the restaurant will donate $1 from every Double Smash Burger sold at the new location to the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston.

In addition to indoor dining and an outdoor patio, the new Smashburger will feature a virtual drive-thru for pick-up orders made on its website or through its app.

This is the fourth Houston location for the fast-casual brand and the 16th in Texas. It's famous for its fresh, never frozen Certified Angus Beef burgers which are smashed on a seasoned grill, a technique that has become quite the trend in the burger world and Houstonians can't seem to get enough.

It also serves crispy or grilled chicken sandwiches, turkey and black bean burgers, fresh salads and sides like its SmashFries and Brussels Sprouts.
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A new social club is popping up in the Heights.
Photo by Morgan Hansen
Best Regards, 222 W. 11th, is coming to the Heights this spring at the intersection of Yale and West 11th, taking over the spot which, until very recently, housed the Mexican American restaurant Chivos. The new social club and lounge comes from native Houstonian Morgan Hansen whose plans are to bring premium cocktails, creative mocktails and a stellar wine and champagne list to the neighborhood.

With over 5,000 square feet of space, the club is anchored by a central indoor bar that offers intimate seating vignettes to encourage conversation and fun. The large wrap-around outdoor spaces create a seamless indoor-outdoor connection so guests can mingle or make the evening their own with different atmospheres.
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Morgan Hansen wants to get social.
Photo by Alec Garza
Hansen said in a press release, "I’m very excited to bring a new, elevated bar experience to the Heights and deliver premium cocktails in a beautifully designed space. Mixed with a rotating roster of international DJs, live music and an international tapas menu that transitions from brunch to late night, our social lounge will be a must-visit Houston destination."

Best Regards will host DJs and a variety of live music performers each week to provide guests with lounge music complemented by a mix of international live music performers.

There will also be an all-day food menu with shareable plates inspired by global flavors. Brunch will be added on the weekends.

As for Chivos, we do not currently have details on the reason for its closure. Chef Thomas Bille left the acclaimed restaurant in September 2022. It was named Houston Press Best of Houston 2022: Best Mexican in October 2022. Chivos was first opened by Night Moves Hospitality in October 2021.
It's not too late to get back on the juice train.
Photo by Jake Villareal/JuiceLand
EDENS, a national real estate owner, operator and developer announced four new retail partners at Uptown Park including two healthy food and beverage concepts. JuiceLand and sweetgreen will join Lombardi Cucina Italiana, which is scheduled to open later this year.

JuiceLand is an Austin-based brand known for its cold-pressed juices and superfood smoothies. The new Uptown Park location will be a 700 square foot fresh ingredient sanctuary, according to a press release. Its mission is to "embrace health, wellness and a vibrant plant-based diet to make a positive impact on humankind and our planet."

Sweetgreen is also a healthy food concept with salads and bowls plus seasonal menu items. It will have both indoor and outdoor seating plus counter service in its 2,908 square-foot space.

Houston TX Hot Chicken, 10111 Louetta, will have a grand opening event from noon to 3 p.m. March 18. With the lure of complimentary hot chicken sandwiches throughout the day and a car show to boot, who could resist? It will open with its full menu March 19.

Its chicken is halal, organic, all natural and cage-free. It's also never frozen. The menu offers sandwiches, tenders, waffles, salads, Fusion Fries (loaded to the hilt) and more.

It's the 7th location for the brand, but oddly, the first for Houston.

Dodie's Beer and Wine Shoppe
, 1701 W. 15th, is launching a new quarterly series, Dodie's Wine Drop Wednesdays. The first happens March 8 and is a tribute to International Women's Day. The series will kick off with four women-made wines. The wines will be available on a first come-first served basis via Instagram. The selection is limited.

Those interested should follow the store's Instagram account for more information.

Restaurants Reported Open February 2023:

Bluestone Lane, 2414 University Boulevard, opened
Bosscat Kitchen & Libations, 9595 Six Pines, opened February 9
Cosa Nostra Cucina Italiana, 17485 Tomball Parkway, opened mid-January
The Crack Shack, 23501 Cinco Ranch Boulevard, opened February 10
Eight Row Flint, 3501 Harrisburg, opened February 20
Hopdoddy Burger Bar, 9945 Barker Cypress, opened February 20
Jun, 420 E. 20th, opened February 7
Kami Ramen & Sushi, 19731 Highway 59 N., opened January 15
Layne's Chicken Fingers, 3008 Ella Boulevard, opened February 25
Piada, 119320 W. Bellfort Boulevard, opened February 28
Primo Hoagies, 4015 Washington, opened February 23
RAKKAN Ramen, 12645 Tomball Parkway, opened February 24
Twin Liquors, 13740 Jordan Lewis Way, opened February 16
Wine Vibes, 9018 Sienna Crossing, opened February 7
Xalisko Cocina Mexicana, 1335 Lake Woodlands, opened February 11

Restaurants Reported Closed February 2023:

Chicken Kitchen, 10505 Grand Parkway, closed
Chicken Kitchen, 3011 W. Grand Parkway, closed
Hattie B's Hot Chicken, 1808 N. Shepherd, cancelled
Hubcap Grill, 1133 W. 19th, closed
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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.