Yelapa Is Back on Track

Categories: Restaurant News

yelapaguac.jpg
Over a spicy jalapeno-infused margarita and a bowl full of the chunky "real guacamole" last night, I looked around the busy bar at Yelapa Playa Mexicana (2303 Richmond, 281-501-0391) and felt a wave of relief wash over me.

I admit to being very nervous about the restaurant's lifespan when it parted ways with Chef L.J. Wiley last November. Wiley's food, though highly inventive and technically brilliant, could be polarizing to diners looking for a more traditional Mexican meal. But without the man who helped open the restaurant and had made it the iconoclast that I loved, I was worried that it would lose its way entirely and end up shuttered, like so many previous tenants.

However, salvation for the restaurant has come from within...in a way.

Brandon Fisch, formerly of The Burger Guys and -- prior to that -- Bootsie's Heritage Cafe, took over the position of executive chef this past Monday and has been working full steam ahead in the kitchen since then. It's a return to his roots, as Fisch was a sous chef at Yelapa when it first opened.

fischcrop.jpg
Facebook
Fisch at work.
General manager Brett Story seemed thrilled to have Fisch back in the kitchen, explaining that he and owner Chuck Bulnes had been holding things down themselves since last November. "It was like, 'Whose turn is it this day?'" Story said of those months, clearly happy to be back in the front of the house.

For his part, Fisch seems equally thrilled to finally have a kitchen of his own. The menu at Yelapa has already become more streamlined, although favorites like that "real guacamole" -- the "summer" version, shown above, is a thrilling blend of buttery avocados, watermelon radishes, mango and a concentrated blood orange puree -- will stay on. A chalkboard menu by the front door listed daily specials, and it appears that Fisch will be keeping Wiley's focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients while blending in a few of his own.

My dining companion and I tried one of the new dishes last night, a simple plate of bacon-wrapped Gulf shrimp with a smoky quartz-colored sherry gastrique. Two different kinds of peppers were threaded through the shrimp, stuck onto wooden skewers. It was fresh, unfussy stuff that let the sweet flavor of the shrimp -- just subtly enhanced with the sherry reduction -- shine through.

"That's what French cooking techniques teach you," Fisch said as I asked about the gastrique. "Just use simple flavors and layer them on top of one another and you'll have something exquisite."

Another dish, a rich tomato bisque with herb-studded chevre in the middle, was the ideal buffer before heading back into the blustery evening. And to match a belly warm with soup, my heart warmed to see a restaurant I truly love back on its feet and poised to be even more successful with young, focused Fisch in the kitchen.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords


Location Info

Yelapa Playa Mexicana - CLOSED

2303 Richmond, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
15 comments
Mhark
Mhark

We went to Yelapa this week and Brandon hooked us up with some of the new things he's trying. Very good stuff and I'm impressed with what he's doing. Generally, it seems those who are disappointed are expecting something very different and more like other restaurants that advertise as Mexican. If you have an open mind and understand exactly what type of "Mexican" food this is representing, the experience will be very gratifying. If you're expecting anything from El Tiempo to El Real, then those places are easy to find.

Drew
Drew

I'm not sure there is a more polarizing restaurant in Houston. Very dissapointed before. i will try again with Brandon in the kitchen. I really want this place to work.

Mike
Mike

Fantastic news! This will be great, to see what Brandon can do here.

Dan
Dan

Yelapa's food was never good before. Either too salty or tasted as if the sauce was from a bottle. The real downfall was lack of homemade tortillas.

I'm not sure what you're calling "real guacamole" either but tortilla chips with 4 chucks of avocado isn't promising.

Lone Star
Lone Star

Good things are coming out of the kitchen at Yelapa. I am very happy that they are back on track. Congrats to Brandon!

Kyle
Kyle

I went about...2 weeks ago? And it was really disappointing. When did Fisch return?

Wuwu
Wuwu

Average food + poor parking = while go here?

Clumsy Plumsy
Clumsy Plumsy

Totally disagree on all points, but I think we've had this conversation before. Yelapa was one of my favorite places (and the "real guacamole" sounds simplistic but is surprisingly delicious). Katherine is right, it never tried to be traditional Mexican or Tex-Mex and that seemed to turn a lot of people off (if Yelp and the like are to be believed).

Fred
Fred

If you want homemade tortillas, La Mex, Pappasitos, Jimmy Changas, Spanish Flower and Teotihuacan all await your arrival.

Yelapa was never about homemade tortillas, it was obviously too upscale for you.

Kyle
Kyle

Ah, "this past Monday", next time I will RTFA.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

"Poor parking"? You know there is a HUGE parking lot just to the east, right?

CMN106
CMN106

Average intelligence + nothing to say = while comment here?

Dan
Dan

Upscale? Not quite. Food quality was just bad. We definitely have different tastes because I couldn't recommend Pappasitos or Teotihuacan to anyone.

CE
CE

What the heck does homemade have to do with upscale?! And no offense but Yelapa isn't exactly "upscale" period.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...