Restaurant News

Openings and Closings: Uchiko Hits Houston, Aiko is Open

Uchiko puts its twist on Uchi dishes.
Uchiko puts its twist on Uchi dishes. Photo by Hai Hospitality

Uchiko, 1801 Post Oak Boulevard, will open May 23 at Zadok's Post Oak Place. It's the second location for Uchiko, the sister concept to Hai Hospitality's upscale Japanese concept, Uchi. The first Uchiko opened in Austin in 2010 as a more casual companion to Tyson Cole's Uchi which became a dining destination among sushi lovers and foodies when it first opened in Austin in 2003. The word "uchi" means home in Japanese and was chosen to represent the little red building in which the restaurant opened.

With its elevated Japanese cuisine, Uchi eventually opened locations in Houston, Dallas, Denver and Miami. The first location of Uchiko debuted in Austin in 2010. Hai Hospitality also owns and operates three Loro Asian Smokehouse restaurants, including one in Houston. Another Loro is planned for Houston's Rice Village in 2023.
click to enlarge Chef Shaun King prepares the dry-aged duck. - PHOTO BY HAI HOSPITALITY
Chef Shaun King prepares the dry-aged duck.
Photo by Hai Hospitality
Uchiko Post Oak will have smoke and fire elements centerstage with Shaun King steering the ship as chef de cuisine. Recently arrived from Portland, Oregon, King's resume includes hotspots like Momofoku Las Vegas, Mina Group's Ramen Bar and The Dawson in Chicago. The yakitori grill will be a major part of the menu at Uchiko with post oak and binchotan wood being used for multiple smoking and curing techniques for both hot and cold preparations.

The menu will have the same designations as Uchi's such as Greens, Cool Tastings, Makimono, Hot Tastings, Agemono, Nigiri, Sashimi, selects from the Toyosu market, Caviar and Dessert. There will also be two omakase offerings at market price. Uchiko will differentiate itself, however, with its robust flavors and live fire techniques
click to enlarge Smores get the Uchiko treatment. - PHOTO BY HAI HOSPITALITY
Smores get the Uchiko treatment.
Photo by Hai Hospitality
The cocktails at Uchiko will be no less impressive as Hai's beverage director Jason Kosmas, bar manager Dale Doershuk and Uchiba bartenders Rick Billings and Hunter Montgomery have created a beverage program that can be paired with the robust flavors of Uchiko's menu. Besides earthy Japanese-distilled shochu and a curated list of Japanese whisky,  there are creative cocktails such as the Fujin made with Japanese whisky, homemade smoked fig and allspice liqueur. In keeping with its smoke and flame theme, the Tea Smoked Martini features smoked gin concentrate, jasmine tea with an additional unsmoked gin to soften the smokiness.

There will also be spectacular pastries from head pastry chef Ariana Quant like the dramatic coal-seared Smores and the Baba au Toki Whiskey with charred pineapple. Before joining Uchiko in 2016, Quant worked for world-renowned chefs like Hubert Keller and Joel Robuchon. She became Hai Hospitality's executive pastry chef in 2020.

Uchiko's happy hour will debut with its opening, running from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. daily and includes 50 percent of all bubbles.
click to enlarge Mega-slices are headed to Richmond. - PHOTO BY FAT BOY'S PIZZA
Mega-slices are headed to Richmond.
Photo by Fat Boy's Pizza
Fat Boy's Pizza, 10445 W. Grand Parkway, has signed a lease to bring the Louisiana-based company to Houston. Well, actually Richmond, Texas but close enough. Known for its "World's Biggest Slice", the pizza restaurant offers 30-inch pies for extra-hungry diners.

The first location opened in 2019 in Metarie, Louisiana and expanded to include the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, Covington, a spot in the French Quarter of New Orleans and most recently, a location in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  There is an upcoming location planned for Mandeville in June and another planned for New Orleans in 2023. Fat Boy's founder Gabe Corchiani is expanding to Houston via a partnership with businessman Shane Guidry, who will be co-owner for the Houston store.
click to enlarge Big slices make pizza lovers happy. - PHOTO BY FAT BOY'S PIZZA
Big slices make pizza lovers happy.
Photo by Fat Boy's Pizza
The Richmond restaurant will occupy 4,800 square feet of space and include a 1,500 square-foot patio that opens up to a green space. It will be family-friendly with a kids area but also offer an adult-friendly full bar. Besides its super-sized pizzas, Fat Boy's also offers premium daiquiris by the gallon so customers can take a 30-inch pizza and a gallon of daiquiris home for a super-sized evening.

For smaller appetites, there are 16-inch pizzas or pie by the slice. In addition to pizza, there are wings, garlic knots, baked meatballs, Mozzarella Logs, waffle fries and several salads. If you stick to a smaller pie, you might have room left over for the Fat Yay's, its version of beignets topped with powdered sugar and, be still our hearts, house-made ricotta icing.
click to enlarge We just can't get enough sushi in H-Town. - PHOTO BY AIKO
We just can't get enough sushi in H-Town.
Photo by Aiko
Aiko, 1902 Washington, opened May 2 to the public. The much-awaited third concept from sushi pros Patrick Phan and Daniel Lee is a bit more upscale than their other two restaurants Handies Douzo and Kokoro, but the menu still offers many of the same sushi and hand rolls that loyal patrons love.
click to enlarge The dynamic duo open concept No. 3. - PHOTO BY AIKO
The dynamic duo open concept No. 3.
Photo by Aiko
The restaurant is offering three different omakase which will rotate daily. There is a larger offering of specialty fish and guests can take advantage of daily specials on raw bar items. Currently, Aiko is allowing a $20 BYOB for wine or sake as long as the bottle is not sold at the restaurant itself. There are plans to add sake cocktails within the next few weeks.
Must we say goodbye? - PHOTO BY DEBORAH SMAIL
Must we say goodbye?
Photo by Deborah Smail
Leibman's Eatery, Market, Gifts, 10100 Katy Freeway, closed May 16.  Originally opened as Leibman's Wine and Fine Foods in 1979 by South African immigrants Ralph and Ettienne Leibman, it moved to the Memorial area and reopened as Leibman's Eatery in April 2018. Offering Houstonians hard to find South African foods and deli items, it became popular for its appetizer dips like the Gone in a Minute Dip and homemade corned beef sandwich.

On social media, the folks at Leibman's said that the restaurant had lost its lease on the Katy Freeway space, as reported by CultureMap Houston.
click to enlarge We wish this was our living room. - PHOTO BY WILL PRYCE
We wish this was our living room.
Photo by Will Pryce
Parlour Hideaway, 400 Dallas, debuted at the C. Baldwin Hotel last week. The exclusive event space is tucked away on the first floor of the hotel, accessible only by a hidden door near the Lobby Bar. Unfortunately, true to its speakeasy vision, it is not open to the public. Instead, it is available for event bookings and intimate gatherings. It can accommodate up to 65 guests.

The elevated catering and drink menu was created by Chris Cosentino of Rosalie Italian Soul, the main restaurant located at the hotel. Those looking to impress their family, friends or business acquaintances will find a high-end caviar service, a premium cocktail and champagne menu plus some of Cosentino's signature dishes such as Truffle-Taleleggio Grilled Cheese, Baccalao Fritters with Mentaiko Aioli and Jalapeno Arancini Poppers.
click to enlarge A cozy nook invites guests for intimate conversations and speakeasy cocktails. - PHOTO BY WILL PRYCE
A cozy nook invites guests for intimate conversations and speakeasy cocktails.
Photo by Will Pryce
With a blend of Victorian ambiance and modern chic, the space was designed by Kate Rohrer of ROHE Creative. Botanical artwork and a marble fireplace transport guests to a more elegant time with wingback chairs and leather settees providing comfortable seating in a clubby atmosphere. Custom velvet pillows and petite velvet slipper chairs add a feminine touch, in keeping with the hotel's namesake, Charlotte Baldwin Allen. The pink bar is dramatically lit by a show-stopping massive crystal chandelier overhead.

The Parlour Hideaway is available for parties, corporate events and special gatherings seven days a week.


Kirby Ice House, 1700 Lake Robbins, broke ground  April 29 in The Woodlands. Business partners Russ Morgan and Danny Evans, along with Jim Carma, President of the Houston region for the Howard Hughes Corporation, celebrated the groundbreaking by throwing shovels of ice, rather than dirt, as a nod to its icehouse roots, according to hellowoodlands.com.

Located across from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, the new location is expected to open in the fall and will feature the longest bar in Texas at 141 feet. It will be similar in style to the other two Kirby Ice House concepts with over 10,000 square feet of indoor space and an additional 18,000 square feet of a backyard area for games, food trucks and events. In keeping with its Lone Star State heritage, there will be rustic touches and decor representing Texas.

There will be a full bar with cocktails, wine and a large selection of beers, many of them local and Texas craft brews.
By itself or layered with soft serve, Jeremiah's Italian Ice is refreshing. - PHOTO BY AMIR HAGHIGHI
By itself or layered with soft serve, Jeremiah's Italian Ice is refreshing.
Photo by Amir Haghighi
Jeremiah's Italian Ice, 7918 Fry, opens May 24. This will be the sixth Houston area store for the frozen treat brand which first came to Houston in March 2021 with the Katy location. There are plans to open three more Houston area shops in The Woodlands, Katy and Pearland soon.

It offers over 40 flavors of Italian ice plus chocolate or vanilla soft ice cream as well. For the best of both worlds, customers can get the Jeremiah's Gelati which layers the soft serve with your choice of Italian ice.

Some of the many flavor options include Cake Batter, Bahama Freeze, Horchata, Lemon Basil, Pina Colada, Sea Salted Caramel and Mango Margarita.
click to enlarge The new team at Local Brewing Group are ready to brew. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN
The new team at Local Brewing Group are ready to brew.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
Local Group Brewing, 1504 Chapman, has been acquired by Distincture Hospitality Group, a newly formed hospitality group from owners and craft beer professionals Dave Sorrell, Morgan Green and Jorge Benitez. The trio recently purchased the 7,500 square-foot brewpub, located in the Hardy Yards neighborhood.

The pub and restaurant first opened in February 2020, just weeks before the COVID-19 shutdown. The original owners Todd Donewar, Michael Steeves and James "Huggy Bear" Wolfe were brewing some excellent beers in-house and they had Jeff Samoska, formerly of The Post Oak Hotel, creating menu items that were far above normal pub fare. Unfortunately, the pandemic put a big wrench in their vision.
click to enlarge Chef Daniel Leal will debut his new menu in June at Local Brewing Group. - PHOTO BY DYLAN MCEWAN
Chef Daniel Leal will debut his new menu in June at Local Brewing Group.
Photo by Dylan McEwan
Distincture Hospitality is continuing that excellence with Chef Daniel Leal (Night Shift) reopening the kitchen with a menu of casual comfort food, debuting in June. With the new team, Local Brewing group will be expanding its food and drink offerings while sticking with the Mug Club, Formula 1 watch parties, run club, industry night and trivia nights for now.

However, the group plans to open a new concept in the space in the months ahead. Sorrell says, "In the meantime, look for expanded hours and drink options as we reopen the kitchen. We're excited to work with Danny's amazing ideas and creations and we can't wait to see what Jorge does to fill the vibes in the tap room."
We are still waiting for jalapeno margaritas on the patio. - PHOTO BY LORRETTA RUGGIERO
We are still waiting for jalapeno margaritas on the patio.
Photo by Lorretta Ruggiero
Soto's Cantina, 10609 Grant, said in an ad in the May/June 2022 edition of Community Impact Cy-Fair that the wait for its reopening is almost over and that the rebuilding has begun. The ad said, "We are still shooting for an early May opening but cannot give you a date just yet."

In June 2021, the Mexican restaurant suffered a fire resulting in severe water damage, as we reported here in the Houston Press. Owner Juan Soto first opened the restaurant in Cypress in 2011, earning critical acclaim from local food writers such as Alison Cook of the Houston Chronicle.

In the ad, Soto said, "We thank you for your continued support and prayers. There is finally light at the end of the tunnel and we are very excited to close this chapter of our story and welcome you back to Soto's Cantina."
click to enlarge Gourmet Ranch steaks can be ordered online. - PHOTO BY GARY TARDIFF
Gourmet Ranch steaks can be ordered online.
Photo by Gary Tardiff
Gourmet Ranch, 11215 Old Fairbanks N. Houston, opened its new facility May 18 in northwest Houston with a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony. The 38,000 square-foot state-of-the-art meat processing plant is master-planned for future on-site expansion as demand for quality meat products and consumer online consumption grows.

The company has provided premium, custom-cut meats to local restaurants and and chefs for more than 22 years. It also operates an online store offering the products direct to customers. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jake's Finer Foods and was acquired in 2011.
click to enlarge Demand for premium meats means a bigger facility for Gourmet Ranch. - PHOTO BY JOSH GREMILLION
Demand for premium meats means a bigger facility for Gourmet Ranch.
Photo by Josh Gremillion
President of Gourmet Ranch, Jason Blackshear says that the new facility will allow the company to ramp up capacity to meet increasing demand from consumers and restaurants for quality meats. He said in a press release,  "COVID also changed consumer behaviors and spending. With more buyers wanting meat delivered to their homes. That demand is here to stay and our e-commerce business continues to grow."
click to enlarge They look too pretty to eat but we'll give it a try. - PHOTO BY JIO DINGAYAN
They look too pretty to eat but we'll give it a try.
Photo by Jio Dingayan
Tobiuo Sushi & Bar, 23501 Cinco Ranch, is honoring Asian American & Pacific Islander Month and Mental Health Awareness Month this May with a limited time dessert box with exquisite treats from Chef Jio Dingayan, head of the pastry program at Tobiuo. The restaurant will donate 20 percent of the sales to the Asian Mental Health Collective which seeks to normalize and destigmatize mental health issues within the Asian community.

For Dingayan, who is Filipino, and Tobiuo owner and chef, Sherman Yeung, who is Chinese, the cause is personal. The two men are extremely proud of their respective Asian roots but realize that cultural expectations mean not showing emotions or voicing thoughts so as not to be disrespectful. Dingayan says, "We're told by our elders that depression, disorders and anxiety aren't real. Like tradition, these unhealthy mindsets are passed down from generation to generation." Yeung agrees. "We want to do our best to spread awareness and help drive change."

The dessert collection is inspired by boba milk tea flavors and includes Matcha Opera Cake, Jasmine Milk Tea Boba Mousse, Thai Tea Cookie Sando, Ube Butter Mochi Cake, Oreo Milk Tea Macaron, Strawberry Oolong Cheesecake.

The box of beautiful sweets is $55 and must be ordered ahead of time by May 25 for pick up May 28 or May 29. To order, call 281-394-7156. 
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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.