Since I started my job as restaurant critic of the Houston Press in May of 2000, I've had a chance to observe the Houston restaurant scene for just about the entire decade. Our fine dining scene has evolved in the last ten years, and so have our ethnic cuisines. Houston became the birthplace of some new fusions, and the unlikely haven for some national trendsetters. Here's my top 11 list of restaurant openings that exemplify those changes. Why 11 and not 10? Because I felt like it. The openings are listed in chronological order.
Da Marco on Westheimer opened its doors in March 2000. Born in Italy, chef Marco Wiles introduced an innovative style of Italian cooking to Houston that was nothing like the city had ever seen before. Inspired by the success of Mario Batali's Babbo restaurant, which opened in New York in 1998, chef Wiles challenged Houston diners with ingredients and dishes they had never heard of before. Every year, Wiles returns to his native Italy to collect white truffles, learn about the exciting new wines of Friuli, and keep current. Da Marco, which now shares the stage with its sister restaurants, Dolce Vita and Poscol, forever raised the bar on Houston Italian food.