Bar Beat

Openings and Closings: Victor Debuts, Kukuri Shutters

We feel French just looking at the decor.
We feel French just looking at the decor. Photo courtesy of Victor

Victor, 4321 Montrose, is adding a little savoir-faire to the Bayou City's repertoire of urbane and stylistic hotspots. The concept, named for French author Victor Hugo, is decidedly French and there are plans to make the new bar/lounge a destination spot for Francophiles, music aficionados and uber-chic cocktail drinkers.

Owner Vincent Sinard has brought in avant-garde restaurateur Jean-Pierre Gleize from Toulouse, France. He is also collaborating with "barpreneur", DJ and music producer Frank Boissy to curate a " multisensory experience of all things French culture from a classic and modern perspective".

click to enlarge Have an aperitif or two with your amour. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VICTOR
Have an aperitif or two with your amour.
Photo courtesy of Victor
Boissy will serve as General Manager and music director. With a " steamer trunk" DJ platform and guest deejays from Boissy's global connections, Houstonians will be treated to a European collection of different music styles.

The bar will broadcast French news and Eurosport, which will be a great draw for expats. For those not of Gallic heritage, you can experience the quintessentially French custom of L'Apero at Victor, each evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. It's like happy hour without the drink-as-many-cheap-shots-as possible angle. Think of it more as an opportunity to indulge in an aperitif or glass of champagne and some complimentary nibbles, while discussing Proust with your friends. Or the newest " Fifty Shades of Grey" movie. Whatever floats your bateau.

Expect typical French nosh such as tapenades, foie gras, pates, caviar, cheese and charcuterie boards to be on the menu along with items like croque monsieur. The French can even class up a ham and cheese sandwich.

Taking over the former Zimm's space, the bar debuted on March 14 with its first signature weekly social rendezvous from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Wednesdays. Les Valseurs will feature la musique de Francaise from the past and present.There will also be specialty drinks. We don't know how to say "hump day" in French, but it certainly sounds like a perfect way to get over the middle of the work week blues.

Speaking of blues, the interior of Victor features blue velvet seating, crystal chandeliers, and a marble-topped bar to give patrons a feeling of sumptuous pleasure. It will definitely add a few la's to your ooh-la-la. There is a private VIP room for 20 people, plus heavy drapes that can close off areas to create semi-private lounges. If your entourage consists of ten or more people, please make reservations.

Victor is open Tuesday through Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. It is closed on Sunday and Monday.

Keep an eye out for the Victor team to bring more of the French experience to the former Cafe Azur space at 4315 Montrose, as reported here in the Houston Press.

Kukuri, we barely got to know you. - PHOTO BY GWENDOLYN KNAPP
Kukuri, we barely got to know you.
Photo by Gwendolyn Knapp
Kukuri,1902 Washington, closed after barely six months of operation, according to CultureMap Houston. Chef Shimao Ishikawa, with 40 years of sushi experience and a stint at New York City's Michelin-starred Jewel Bako, was known for his omakase, an intensely chef-driven tasting menu. There is no word yet on why the restaurant shuttered.

click to enlarge The Fig and Olive salad has figs and olives. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FIG AND OLIVE
The Fig and Olive salad has figs and olives.
Photo courtesy of Fig and Olive
Fig and Olive, opened March 9, officially. Yes, we know we originally put the wrong date due to the person (moi) who writes this weekly article reading her notes wrong. Said person sincerely apologizes to all who were affected by her mental lapse.

However, Fig and Olive is well and truly open now to serve the folks who have been lusting for some fresh Mediterranean seafood and colorful salads served in an elegant and sunlit dining room.

click to enlarge The food and the decor are bright and light at Fig and Olive. - PHOTO BY SHANNON O'HARA
The food and the decor are bright and light at Fig and Olive.
Photo by Shannon O'hara
Fig and Olive will have a few dishes exclusive to Houston like the balsamic glazed short rib served with crispy polenta, frisee and lardons of smoked bacon. In keeping with its theme, there will also be olive oil cake, soaked in Moroccan syrup and topped with blood orange dust.

The olive oil-centric, Mediterranean restaurant opened in the Galleria's former Saks Fifth Avenue space, with a dramatic Philip Johnson-designed facade. The upscale dining area will soon include Nobu, a Japanese/Peruvian sushi restaurant, The Spice Route Company, and Blanco Tacos+Tequila.

Torchy's Tacos, 19111 Katy Freeway, opened March 12 with its Katy Green Opening Party offering free tacos. The restaurant officially opened March 13. Go check it out and see if the queso is really as good as reported here in the Houston Press.

click to enlarge The Morning Wood is a cheeky name for this breakfast pizza. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FINN HALL
The Morning Wood is a cheeky name for this breakfast pizza.
Photo courtesy of Finn Hall
Finn Hall, 712 Main, has announced that it has added four more confirmed operators to its eclectic list of businesses. Goode Co. Taqueria will serve its tacos and Tex-Mex favorites, plus a bulk menu catering to offices downtown with breakfast tacos by the dozen, large fruit platters and fajita packs. Owner and CEO Levi Goode says, " We are excited to offer our food to our current customers who work Downtown and introduce our food to a new generation in this environment".

click to enlarge Ali Jarrett and Richard Knight are bringing fresh seafood to Finn Hall. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FINN HALL
Ali Jarrett and Richard Knight are bringing fresh seafood to Finn Hall.
Photo courtesy of Finn Hall
Low Tide will be a seafood and raw bar from the team at Harold's Restaurant and Taproom. Owner Ali Jarrett and chef Richard Knight, who recently took over as chef at Harold's after the resignation of Antoine Ware, will collaborate on the menu. Knight was formerly with Feast and Hunky Dory. Jarrett wants diners to feel as if they are eating at the beach with a menu of fresh seafood and seasonal ingredients.

Dish Society will be part of the line-up, with a condensed menu including favorites like its pimento cheese crackers and pork belly bites. There are plans to experiment with new dishes depending on the clientele at the food hall.

We're looking forward to Mr. Nice Pie, a pizza restaurant that will open at Finn Hall, from the group behind Love Buzz, Moon Tower and Voodoo Queen Daquiri Drive. Expect some of the creatives dishes from Love Buzz like The Morning Wood, a breakfast pizza with bacon, eggs and crispy hash browns. It sounds naughty in more ways than one.

Mr. Nice Pie will also sell slices from over-sized pizzas up to 30". Can a pizza really be over-sized? We think not.

Finn Hall, located in the JPMorgan Chase and Company building, is slated for a mid-2018 opening, with plans to have ten chef-driven restaurants, a craft beer and curated wine bar, an art deco cocktail lounge and private event spaces.

Don't be surprised if you see Houston's foodies and boozies tapping on the windows like the woman from the Target commercial. " Open, open, open".

Bloofin Sushi and Bar, 6615 N. Grand Parkway West, opened mid-February. The sleek and simple decor is topped with a large wooden chrysanthemum light fixture. The Japanese restaurant serves the usual dishes one would expect like sushi rolls, sashimi, maki and nigiri, but there are more adventurous offerings for culinary explorers such as Chawanmushi, a Japanese egg custard topped with uni or foie gras. There are bento boxes and sushi rolls for those who stick to the familiar.

Jin Korean BBQ, 3645 Cypress Creek Parkway, opened March 1. The all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue eatery was founded in Plano, Texas in 2013. There is another location in Arlington, as well as the first Houston location at 8338 Sam Houston Parkway. There is a variety of meats to grill at your table, plus banchan( Korean side dishes) like fish cake and cabbage and radish kimchi.

The lunch buffet is $16.99, while the dinner is $25.99. As is becoming the norm at many Korean barbecue joints, there is a charge for leftover food. This one is pretty steep at $20, so make sure your eyes are not too big for your stomach. They might be a bit dilated from all the blue lighting in Jin's dining room.

Aguirre's Tex Mex, 27727 Highway 249, opened February 3. This is the second location. The original is located at 6166 Highway 6 N. If you are desirous of some liquid refreshment to go along with your fajitas or enchiladas, Aguirre's has happy hour all day-all week. With $2.50 house margaritas, you can finally afford to take that lush friend of yours out for her belated birthday dinner. Uber!

Jinya Ramen is bringing more of its sleek restaurants to Houston. - PHOTO BY TROY FIELDS
Jinya Ramen is bringing more of its sleek restaurants to Houston.
Photo by Troy Fields

JINYA Ramen Bar is planning a location at Heights Waterworks, according to CultureMap Houston. The popular ramen restaurant already has three locations in the Houston area, including Midtown, Katy and near NASA, with plans to open several more stores this year at 5050 FM 1960, 2162 Spring Stuebner, and 11930 Barker Cypress.

click to enlarge The Tonkotsu Black is the way to go at JINYA Ramen. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JINYA RAMEN BAR
The Tonkotsu Black is the way to go at JINYA Ramen.
Photo courtesy of JINYA Ramen Bar

Founder Tomonori Takahashi opened his first JINYA Ramen in Tokyo in 2000. He came to the United States in 2010 and saw a void in California for good ramen restaurants. JINYA Ramen has expanded to ten states in the U.S. plus locations in Canada.

The restaurant puts a lot of emphasis on its broth, using only Fuji water for the purity. It also ages its noodles for three days.

Takahashi is suing several Houston ramen restaurants, claiming they copied JINYA's menu and employee uniforms, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Kau Ba Saigon Kitchen is coming to 2502 Dunlavy, recently occupied by Bacchus Coffee and Wine Bar, as reported by Eater Houston. Vietnamese chef Nikki Tran is known for her "Viejun cuisine", a style she created at her restaurant, Ca Ba Quan in Ho Chi Minh City. Tran incorporated some of the Cajun spices she discovered while living in Houston. Now, she's coming back to Houston bringing her Viejun flavors. Tran recently appeared on "Ugly Delicious", David Chang's Netflix series which also featured Houston and its increasingly diverse and multi-cultural dining experiences.

No word as of yet why the much-loved Bacchus closed. Its Facebook page says it closed for renovations and the phone number is no longer in service.

Chuy's, the Austin-based Tex-Mex and Elvis restaurant chain is opening a location at Chasewood Park and Vintage Preserve Parkway in the fall of 2018, according to Community Impact. If your blue suede shoes are itching to get to Chuy's now, there are nine other Houston-area locations.

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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.