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Arroz de calamares at MAD.EXPAND
Arroz de calamares at MAD.
Photo by Julie Soefer

Openings and Closings: MAD Debuts Next Week, Be More Pacific Coming

MAD, 4444 Westheimer, is expected to open June 19. The Madrid-inspired restaurant comes from partners Ignacio Torras and Chef Luis Roger who brought BCN, a Barcelona-inspired hot spot to Houston's Montrose area five years ago. Now, with veteran general manager and sommelier Sebastien Laval on board, they are bringing an avant-garde concept that pays tribute to Spain's capital city.

The 6,000 square foot restaurant joins the River Oaks District which will also see the opening of Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar soon. MAD will feature small plates, arroz de lena, or as most of us know it, paella, and whole-fish presentations with a Basque grill lending flavor to the fresh catch.

Ignacio Torras and Chef Luis Roger are opening another Spain-inspired restaurant.EXPAND
Ignacio Torras and Chef Luis Roger are opening another Spain-inspired restaurant.
Photo by Jenn Duncan

The space, designed by Barcelona-based interior designer, Lazaro Rosa-Violan, will capture the liveliness and character of the streets of Madrid with vanguardism design, an experimental philosophical approach to culture and society that is way too intense to detail here. Just expect that it will be cool. Rosa-Violan also designed the mural adorning the outside wall of the building and there are four illuminated 130- year-old olive trees installed with special dispensation from the City of Houston.

Picassos and Brutalist Art infuse the space with Spanish culture. The restaurant will have seating for 122 guests in the dining room with private rooms available and a central bar seating 20 patrons. There's an additional seating for 16 on the patio and two kitchens turning out the colorful dishes.

It's not ice cream, it's foie gras.EXPAND
It's not ice cream, it's foie gras.
Photo by Julie Soefer

And those dishes are the results of two years of  planning by Chef Roger to create an extensive menu which includes small plates designed to encourage experimentation and exploration by the diners themselves. There are creations like the foie gras cornetto, a playful tapa with foie gras terrine and duck consomme glaze designed to look like an ice cream cone, complete with sprinkles. Expect a rotating menu of paellas, cooked over a wood-burning fire. Roger will continue to oversee BCN as well.

The restaurant will also introduce a late night bar and lounge concept Thursday through Saturday, 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., with a variety of Spanish-inspired bar bites and innovative cocktails .

Ouzo Bay and Loch Bar, 4444 Westheimer, was set to open June 17, as reported here in the Houston Press last week. Unfortunately, we have been informed that there will be a delay. We will keep you posted as to when these highly anticipated concepts are expected to debut.

Be More Pacific Filipino Bar and Kitchen, 506 E. Yale, is shooting for an opening November 2019 and is currently recruiting investors on NextSeed. The Austin-based restaurant began in 2011 as a very popular food truck from Houston natives and Filipino-Americans, Mark Pascual and Giovan Cuchapin. The duo took advantage of the burgeoning food-truck scene among the college students, yuppie foodies, Texas legislators and quirky artists and musicians of Austin. That eventually led to a brick and mortar space in North Austin in 2017 with Zagat naming its chicken adobo one of Austin's 7 Must Try Dishes of 2017.

Now, the pair are teaming with local business owner Roveen Abante of Lincoln Bar and the soon-to-open Pour Behavior to expand into the Heights neighborhood of Houston. Pascual believes that Filipino cuisine is underrepresented in America, despite the fact that Filipinos make up the second largest Asian population in the country. And even then, many Filipino restaurants operate as buffets rather than restaurants with full menus, though that is changing in Houston with restaurants like Ayie's in Cypress and Flip 'n Patties.

The team is passionate about fresh ingredients, making much of the food from scratch, including its spam, longanisa and even banana ketchup. Diners can look forward to dishes like Kare Kare beef brisket, crispy pork sisig, sushi grade yellow fin tuna and vegan options with tofu and vegetables. And the kick-ass chicken adobo.

The new restaurant will have a full bar with tropical-inspired cocktails, a patio, plus a a private dining and karaoke room.

Pizza as edible art.EXPAND
Pizza as edible art.
Photo by Cesar Monticelli

The Gypsy Poet, 2404 Austin, began its soft opening June 7. The pizza restaurant/art studio uses a wood and gas fired pizza oven for its artisanal pizzas, handmade, without mechanization, using an overnight proofed dough which requires less yeast while producing more bubbles and flavor. Owner and artist, Vanessa Fernandez  also operates an art studio at the location, with some of her pieces decorating the walls.

The project began its design in Caracas, Venezuela by Sanchez Taffur Architects and its direction in Houston by Caveh Masum to bring together Fernandez's artistic mediums of paints, music, poetry and what she calls her permanent exhibit, pizza. The name comes from her travels and stories to be told, thus, The Gypsy Poet.

Commune with friends or settle in for a pie at The Gypsy Poet.EXPAND
Commune with friends or settle in for a pie at The Gypsy Poet.
Photo by Cesar Monticelli

The interior is a simple, clean space with communal wood tables and the Forza Forni pizza oven commanding attention behind the counter where diners can order the unique pizzas. The restaurant also offers desserts like tiramisu and Nutella Whim, plus beer and wine.

The menu of 13" pizzas is small, but includes the Margarita the Queen ($10.99) and the Cinque Formaggi ($15.99) with house tomato sauce plus fior de latte, mozzarella, Gorganzola, goat cheese and Parmesan.

Plans are in the works for a grand opening, so check out is Facebook page for details or Instagram @thegypsypoetstudio.

Tuscany Italian Bistro has seating for al fresco lunches.EXPAND
Tuscany Italian Bistro has seating for al fresco lunches.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

Tuscany Italian Bistro, 12215 Grant, opened June 8. The cute and cozy restaurant serves reasonably priced pizzas like the Margherita, with sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and mozzarella and the Meatlovers, loaded with pepperoni, Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, hamburger and crumbled bacon. There are calzones and stromboli, too.

Openings and Closings: MAD Debuts Next Week, Be More Pacific ComingEXPAND
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero

On the pasta side, there's eggplant rollatini, spaghetti marinara, and the Pasta di Tuscany Trio, which includes cannelloni, lasagna and manicotti. There are seafood dishes and house specials, plus a Bambini (kids) menu. There's also a cute little bar, but the restaurant is still waiting for its liquor license. Until then, guests are welcome to BYO-Vino.

Indika, 516 Westheimer, will close June 30, as reported here in the Press last week. However, owner Mickey Kapoor has plans to turn the space into a new restaurant inspired by a region of Uzbekistan, according to CultureMap Houston. It will be called Bukhara and dishes such as tandoori chicken and paneer will be on the menu along with a meat-centric emphasis on lamb, chicken and venison. The menu will be a marriage of Uzbek, Afghan and Indian cuisine.

Kapoor has brought in chef Suraj Kant from India and Nepalese chef Dipak Aryal to combine their extensive knowledge of the dishes of Bukhara together in the kitchen.

The decor will be a bit more rustic than the original Indika, with new paint and artwork. The new touches are not expected to take long and Kapoor hopes to be opened for service by mid-July.

Aji Robata and Ramen, 25640 Kuykendahl, began its soft opening June 7. The sophisticated, dimly lit dining room has comfortable booths and communal tables. The robata skewers are inexpensive with choices like chicken, pork belly, ribeye, shrimp and skin-on salmon. There are vegetarian skewers with options such as cherry tomatoes and mushrooms. The ramen offerings include tonkatsu, spicy miso and tan tan for reasonable prices. There are small plates such as asparagus tempura, purple yam keki and gyoza, which paired with sake or beer makes a nice izakaya experience with friends.

This is the second location for the restaurant. The original is in Katy.

Main Squeeze Juice Co., 1900 Lake Woodlands Drive, opened May 24. The New Orleans-based company, co-founded by Matt Duplichan and Miranda Fontenot, first opened in Lake Charles in 2016. It caught the eye of CEO Thomas Nieto and has been franchising since 2017.  There are locations throughout Southern Louisiana and Texas, with nearly a dozen in the Greater Houston area and its outer reaches. The company has partnered with former New Orleans Saints wide receiver and Super Bowl XLIV Champion, Marques Colston to expand nationwide.

The shop offers cold-pressed fresh juices, superfood smoothies, acai bowls, coffee and tea, plus cleanse programs.

Here are a couple of places north of the city we missed previously, but think that readers will definitely want to know about.

Spring gets a brewery and tap room.
Spring gets a brewery and tap room.
Photo by Randy Burton

Fortress Beer Works, 2606 Spring Cypress, opened in late March as the first brewery and tap room in the Spring/Woodlands area. It's set on three acres with plenty of room for kids and dogs. And beer drinkers are welcome, too. There's a 4,000 square foot tap room and a large outdoor area with picnic tables. The brewery has live music on the weekends, plus rotating food trucks each day the tap room is open and for special events. Currently, Fortress is open Thursday through Sunday, but there are plans to add Wednesday as well.

Nitro Stout, Fortress Blonde and Battering Ram SMASH IPA are samples of what the brewery is turning out, plus there's the recent debut of Big Hefe, a Hefeweizen-style brew. The tap room also serves red and white wine, plus Otto's Root Beer.

The list of recent food trucks includes Breaking Bao, Twisted Catfish, Fork and Truck and Dough Re Mi, among others. JB Barnett, Hayden Baker and Christopher Crow Band are some of the musicians that have performed in the past couple of months. There's plenty of bar seating and several television screens for sports fans.

The brewery is focused on its tap room for now, with distribution to bars and restaurants planned in the next few weeks.

Mahoney's Texish Bar and Restaurant, 24 Waterway Avenue, celebrated its grand opening May 17 with a ribbon cutting in The Woodlands. The bar and restaurant claims to be a mix of Texas pride and Irish heritage and comes from Kelly Mahoney, one of the owners of Irish Kevin's in Key West with Shaun McConnell as general manager and Bryan McSwain as executive chef. Along with plenty of beer on tap, whiskies and a full bar, the new spot has an extensive menu of appetizers, including Wild Texas Duck Wings and traditional Irish soda bread to start with entrees like Texas quail, burgers, steaks, fish and more. We're intrigued by the Shepherd's Pie dumplings. There are Mason Jar desserts, plus a bread pudding made with Irish soda bread.

There is live music everyday. Tonight, June 14, GABE takes the stage from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. with Nervous Rex performing at 10:30 p.m.

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