Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Shun Japanese Will Stun, Georgia James Opens

The Samurai Warrior is DIY sushi.
The Samurai Warrior is DIY sushi. Photo by Kirsten Gilliam

Shun Japanese Kitchen
, 2802 S. Shepherd, is expected to open October 16. The new restaurant will offer second-generation Japanese cuisine from chef/owner Naoki Yoshida, who began his culinary career cooking at his family's Nippon Restaurant in Montrose at the age of 15. Now 33, the same age as Nippon, Yoshida is leaving his family's traditional Japanese restaurant to expand his culinary repertoire, using his experience at Nippon as well as his stints at restaurants in Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Co-owner and wife, Renee Yoshida, will serve as General Manager. Also on the team will be Executive Chef Nick Hill, formerly of Triniti and the Original Beaver's, and Beverage Consultant, Aki Hagio, whose experience includes Sanctuari Bar at Triniti  and Bad News Bar.

The word shun translates to "peak of season" in Japanese. The restaurant's dishes will feature locally-sourced ingredients and sustainable produce. Some of the dishes will be inspired by traditional Japanese fare, like umi salad and and sunagimo, a a popular Japanese street food made from chicken gizzards. Others, however, will lean toward the fusion side with items such as carnitas gyoza and Nihon curry hushpuppies.

click to enlarge Iwai Whiskey Brulee. - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Iwai Whiskey Brulee.
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
For sushi lovers, the choices include nigiri, smoked uni, and toro brulee, which is a dish of sugar-crusted fatty tuna. Diners can order rolls such as the 7 Samurai or the Sun Blast, with spicy salmon, apple and salmon skin.

If you fancy yourself handy with DIY projects, you and a few friends can order the Samurai Warrior ($150), which will include all the ingredients for creating your own handrolls with fresh raw ingredients like Akami, salmon, Hamachi and vegetables.

click to enlarge Could there be a better setting for sushi? - PHOTO BY KIRSTEN GILLIAM
Could there be a better setting for sushi?
Photo by Kirsten Gilliam
Shun will be open for dinner service, Tuesday through Sunday, with a weekend bento box brunch and lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For the next few weeks, the restaurant will be BYOB, but will soon offer a bar program with the largest sake selection in Houston, along with Japanese whiskey (which is very on trend right now), Shochu and beer. Weekend brunch cocktails such as sake sangria and sparkling sake mimosas will add to the fun. Happy hour will run Tuesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

click to enlarge You can ham it up at Georgia James. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
You can ham it up at Georgia James.
Photo by Julie Soefer
As we reported, Georgia James, 1100 Westheimer, opened October 11. The new steakhouse form James Beard-award winning Houston chef and restaurateur, Chris Shepherd, takes over the spot which was the birthplace of his flagship restaurant, Underbelly.

Shepherd brings a number of his talented team from Underbelly Hospitality on board for the newest adventure, including Victoria Dearmond, Nick Fine, Matt Coburn, Greg Peters, Jeff Taylor and Westin Galleymore. The steakhouse is named for his parents, Georgia and James Shepherd, who he credits for supporting his culinary career.
click to enlarge Shaved Wagyu Short Rib gives an idea of what to expect at Georgia James. - PHOTO BY JULIE SOEFER
Shaved Wagyu Short Rib gives an idea of what to expect at Georgia James.
Photo by Julie Soefer

The restaurant will feature a dedicated dry aging room for the steaks and a curing room, which will be a focal point. There will be reworked versions of classic steakhouse cocktails, steaks seared in cast iron or on a wood fire grill, and a raw bar.

Photo by Jason Giagrande
The Roastery, 5106 Bissonet, opens October 17. The new coffee and quick service concept will be the first of many planned locations for the collaboration between FOUR J and H-E-B grocery. The cafes will be attached to the H-E-B stores but will have their own entrances. FOUR J is a company owned by Jason Giagrande and consists of three other acclaimed chefs and New York City powerhouses, Jonathan Waxman, Jimmy Bradley and Joey Campanaro. For the past seven years, the team has has worked with H-E-B to grow their line of food products, specialty coffees and teas.

click to enlarge Line up the espressos for a caffeine high. - PHOTO BY JASON GIAGRANDE
Line up the espressos for a caffeine high.
Photo by Jason Giagrande
The coffee will be roasted by master roaster, Jennifer Stone with all of the roasts passing a 10-Point Quality Cupping criteria. A custom copper Mavam espresso machine and custom pour-over brews will thrill die-hard coffee fanatics. 
Matt Johnson, a native Houstonian and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Portland will serve as culinary director. Johnson formerly worked as executive chef for Houston's much loved Phoenicia Specialty Foods.

Besides the vigorous coffee and tea program, the cafe will also have menu items such as in-house brined and roasted turkey, espresso rubbed roast beef, an autumn quinoa salad and a variety of daily-baked pastries. If coffee isn't your cup of tea and neither is tea, there will be wine and Texas craft beer available.

The first location opening will be attached to the H-E-B Bellaire Market. The second spot opening later at the San Felipe H-E-B will be a flagship store with much more space and a full bar.

click to enlarge Chef Srivastava hard at work. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VERANDAH
Chef Srivastava hard at work.
Photo courtesy of Verandah

Verandah Progressive Indian Restaurant, 3200 Kirby, is expected to open in November, before Thanksgiving. The new restaurant comes from Sunil Srivastava and wife Anupama, who also own and operate Great W'Kana or W'Kana Express (it seems to go by both monikers) on Briar Forest which has been listed as one of Alison Cook's Top 100 Restaurants for the Houston Chronicle since 2011. It's on the list again for 2018. Cook recommends the Nargisi kofta curry (lotus-root dumplings) here in the Chronicle.

The word veranda has its origins in India and is a place for family and friends to gather in an outdoor covered area.

The spacious restaurant will have a contemporary, full service bar with an accompanying bar menu. There will be a semi-private space for a Chef's Table, as well as a glassed-in semi-private room for special events. The kitchen will be separated by glass from the dining room, allowing a peek at the action while eliminating the noise and heat.

click to enlarge Chef Srivastava is coming to the Kirby Collection. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VERANDAH
Chef Srivastava is coming to the Kirby Collection.
Photo courtesy of Verandah

Diners can expect an array of kebabs that Srivastava is known for such as the plantain kebab that delivers a rich, buttery flavor from the banana-like fruit. There is also Galouti, which is a spicy minced-meat kebab. For vegetarians, there is the Arti kebab, or the Annaj Ki Galouti, made of barley and wheat germ. Srivasatava also plans seasonal specialties and a Chef's Tasting Menu.

In addition to a daily lunch and dinner service, Verandah will also welcome weekend late risers for Saturday and Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Raffa's, 1660 West Lake Houston Parkway, is currently hiring staff for its comeback. The popular Kingwood restaurant experienced devastating flooding from Hurricane Harvey last year, along with numerous other restaurants and businesses in the King's Harbor development. It's been a slow road back for many of the small businesses due to the extraordinary damage that was done to the structures. We have reached out for a projected opening date and will keep our readers up to date on the returning restaurants.

Chimichurri's South American Grill reopened August 29 and is the first of the King's Harbor restaurants to open its doors again.

The beer cheese soup is still available at The Cheese Bar in Katy. - PHOTO BY KATE MCLEAN
The beer cheese soup is still available at The Cheese Bar in Katy.
Photo by Kate McLean
The Cheese Bar, 9945 Barker Cypress, closed October 9. The European-style cheese shop and bistro struggled, as many small mom and pop operations do, with high rents in an affluent retail market. Though the bistro sat on a pretty spot overlooking the lake and served amazing charcuterie and cheese boards to its loyal patrons, it could not overcome the day to day costs. In a statement to the Houston Press, the owners, Troy and Melissa Boyce said, "It is with very sad hearts that we have chosen to close The Cheese Bar in Cypress. We had an incredible group of staff and patrons but ultimately the the sales could not offset the costs at this location."

The Boyce family, however, are still ready to welcome former patrons and new customers who have yet to try their award-winning mac n' cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches to The Cheese Bar in Katy at 23501 Cinco Ranch. So, make a date to support a young family's business. On October 13, you can enjoy wine, cheese and the smooth sounds of Duane Vincent at 7 p.m. Trust us. That's a recipe for love.

El Tiempo 1308 Cantina, 1308 Montrose, is closing, but we are not sure when. Could be in a couple of weeks, could be another month, according to a press release. We reported originally about the 1308 Montrose location closing due to the landlord's plans for a new project here in the Houston Press. A week later, those plans were changed and El Tiempo Cantina was given a short reprieve. That reprieve is almost ended. Notice has been given for vacating the premises in the next couple of weeks, but the press statement says that the restaurant may keep its doors open for another month. Are they crying lobo? Probably not, so if this is your favorite El Tiempo location, you'd best get your rita sipping self down there for a last hurrah. We strongly recommend that you call first to make sure the bar is still open.

click to enlarge A juicy steakburger cuddles with crispy shoestring fries. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FREDDY'S
A juicy steakburger cuddles with crispy shoestring fries.
Photo courtesy of Freddy's

Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, 26806 FM 1093, opened October 9. The burger, hot dog and custard chain was first founded in Wichita, Kansas in 2002. There are now several hundred locations and more-a-comin'. Guess which state has the most? The Lone Star State, of course.

Franchise owner Padden Nelson says, "Our presence in the Houston market is steadily increasing and we look forward to continuing our growth over the next few years".

click to enlarge Bao, chicka, bao,bao. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BAO MASTER
Bao, chicka, bao,bao.
Photo courtesy of Bao Master
Bao Master, 23144 Cinco Ranch Boulevard, softly opened September 22. The restaurant serves up an array of bao sandwiches including Korean, Thai, Japanese, curry, fish and tonkatsu. If you like yummy meats and veggies nestled in soft white buns, Bao Master will satisfy your needs. There's even the Bao Texas, which is smoked sausage, pickles, onions and barbecue sauce.

click to enlarge Poutine gets the bao treatment. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BAO MASTER
Poutine gets the bao treatment.
Photo courtesy of Bao Master
There's also Taiwanese beef noodle soup and  seafood noodle soup, perfect for these slightly cooler temps we're having. For snack enthusiasts, there are sesame balls with red bean paste, popcorn chicken and Bao Master fries.

Buffalo Run, 440 Rayford Road, opened September 18. The bar and grill offers a comfortable atmosphere for watching the big game and offers a number of craft beers on tap, including some local Texas favorites and plenty of bottled beers as well. Beer needs munchies, so there are appetizers such as the colossal pretzel, poutine, jalapeno poppers, wings and more. For more substantial fare, there are sandwiches like the Beef on Weck, the Cuban or a decadent sammie called Buffalo Stinger- a cheese steak topped with buffalo chicken tenders. At $8.99, that's a good deal. Financially, not calorie-wise.

The restaurant is kid-friendly until 9 p.m. and there is a small kids menu. Just take the rugrats home before the party gets going.

click to enlarge It's a family affair at Oh My Gogi. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JASON CHANG
It's a family affair at Oh My Gogi.
Photo courtesy of Jason Chang

Oh My Gogi, 23119 Colonial Parkway, opened September 21 In the H Mart food court at Katy Asian Town.. What started out as a family food truck in 2011 serving Korean-Mexican fusion food like fried dumplings, tacos and Ramen burgers (with buns made of ramen noodles) has now blossomed as a family business with a location in Rice Village at 5555 Morningside, and Winbern Mess Hall at 3701 Travis, in addition to the newest Katy store. It also serves up its tasty food at Kanaloa, a new tiki bar downtown. It has a loyal following, especially among younger folks who appreciate the inexpensive and addictive tacos, burgers and fries.

Once you choose the vehicle (burger, taco, quesadilla), you can choose the protein to fill it up. There's Korean beef, Asian-spiced chicken and vegetarian kimchi stir-fry. The biggest seller and most addictive dish may be the Oh My Gogi fries. Pick your protein (most people go with the beef) and then they will top it with spicy mayo, colby-jack cheese, onions and cilantro. Most regulars add a fried egg on top. And so should you.

Pann Tea, 23119 Colonial Parkway, began its soft opening this month, at Katy Asian Town, the ever-growing development that is a wonderland of Asian deliciousness. It serves milk teas, black teas, boba teas, fruit teas and its best seller, creme brulee teas. Lots of teas.

There are also snacks available like popcorn chicken and onigiri (rice balls).

click to enlarge It's too pretty to eat, but we will anyway. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAFE POETES
It's too pretty to eat, but we will anyway.
Photo courtesy of Cafe Poetes
Cafe Poetes, 122 West Gray, is launching its version of afternoon tea this October.  The ambiance and pretty decor of this cafe oozes with feminine charm and European sophistication.

Owner Karine Favre will offer "Le Gouter", which is similar to British high tea. Inspired by her Paris upbringing, Favre's version will tempt all ages with savory and sweet fall treats. In fact, there is a special tea just for the petit enfants.

The loose leaf teas will be served in pastel or white tea pots from Bredemeijer, a 100-year-old manufacturer in The Netherlands.. The silver three-tiered servers will feature mini choux pastries, mini savory eclairs and mini quiches. The beverage service offers Cafe Poetes' signature butterfly lemonade. For those who want to add a little sparkle to the experience, there is sparkling rose at $9 a glass or treat yourself and your best friend to a bottle of champagne.

click to enlarge Indulge your inner femme francaise at Cafe Poetes. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAFE POETES
Indulge your inner femme francaise at Cafe Poetes.
Photo courtesy of Cafe Poetes
If you've dreamed of turning your little Cody into Pierre or Ashlee into Madeleine, give your kids a few etiquette lessons at home, then doll them up and bring them for the children's tea. For enfants ages 4 to 12, their treats include mini croissants and cookies, including the popular spicy cookie popular in Europe, Speculoos.

If your bebes aren't down with the whole tea thing, they can opt for Orangina, fresh-pressed juice, or hot chocolate with a marshmallow flower that blooms when added to the chocolate. We think we know which most kids would prefer.

There are two seatings: 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday and Sunday. The adult price is $36 plus 20 percent gratuity. Le Gouter for kids is $19 plus 20 percent gratuity. Reservations must be made 48 hours in advance with a credit card.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.