Exclusive: New Restaurant Opening Today in Time for NCAA Weekend

Categories: Restaurant News

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Chef Martin Hamish is ready to take all comers at The Dark Horse.
Been wondering about the construction going on at 363 Travis near Market Square in downtown? Wonder no longer.

The Houston Press has received an exclusive press release from Scottish celebrity chef Martin Hamish about the new gastro-tavern that he's opening today, April 1, just in time for the big NCAA weekend: The Dark Horse. Hamish has done everything in his power to keep the restaurant's opening -- and even its very construction -- under wraps, although hints and rumors have been swirling ever since permits were pulled for the address back in October 2010.

The Dark Horse seems a fitting name for the gastro-tavern, not only due to its location in a still-growing part of downtown but also because of the visiting Virginia Commonwealth University basketball team, underdogs who beat the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks to advance to the Final Four.

But a clever name isn't all that Hamish has up his sleeve.

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Hamish has big plans for foie gras in his new place.
Hamish and his team -- which includes a full brigade sourced entirely from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France -- are prepared to shake Houston up with a modern twist on classic French cooking that Hamish claims "will forever change the face of Houston dining and elevate it to a truly world-class dining city."

Easy access to seafood (poissonnier Jacques Gagnaire is particularly excited about this) and cheap dishwashing labor are two of the main reasons Michelin-starred Hamish named as his reasons for choosing Houston. "The freeways were particularly attractive to me," he wrote in the press release, "as were the billboards and their many opportunities for advertisement. Having my face on as many large surfaces as possible will be crucial to making The Dark Horse a success."

Hamish prefers the term "gastro-tavern" to the more common "gastro-pub," because -- he says -- "it has a more darkly and exotically European bent to it, and 'tavern' implies a sort of murky and elusive thing. I don't want people coming in and expecting the same old fried mushroom caps they see at every other gastro-pub." Murky seems to be key here, as the press release indicates that the building has achieved LEED-certification in part by having its dining room lit solely by imported Danish candles made with fragrant bayberry wax.

As for the menu, Hamish says to expect extravagance on all ends.

Tasting menus only will be offered: a 10-course chef's tasting menu for $250; a 15-course tasting menu for $450 and a 20-course tasting menu that requires reservations six months in advance and a credit check. Guests are also advised that the 20-course menu involves dishes which might be considered controversial. Hamish didn't explicitly state in the press release what those dishes might be, but hinted that he was in the process of obtaining ortolans from France through his boucher.

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Houston's pool of easily-exploited immigrant labor was a plus when Hamish and his team were scouting for locations.
He did state, however, that there would be a few happy hour items available to go with the extensive craft beer and cocktail selection (which includes nothing you've heard of except for absinthe). Braised veal tongues in a Château Pétrus reduction with Szechuan peppercorns will be available for $40 in the bar, as will a confit of white truffles and matsutake mushrooms with Bangladeshi spices for $50.

"Bangladeshi cuisine is truly overlooked on a global dining scale and my intent is to interpret their sweetmeats and other specialties with a modern French edge, as no one ever has before," said Hamish. "But not in every dish. It is a third-world country, after all."

The rest of the menu is straightforward, as far as world-class dining goes: Menu descriptions are short and sweet, written entirely in français méridional on individually numbered menus that are letterpressed every night before service.

Foie gras will be used in place of butter in all recipes, even the pastries. Microgreens will be foraged from Houston's vast network of overgrown, vacant lots, while vegetables will be grown in an enclosed, organic rooftop garden using manure sourced from local orphanages. No dish will weigh more than 1.4 ounces, weighed before being plated on the handcrafted bamboo dishes Hamish has made in China through a cost-efficient child labor system whose brutality is offset by the plates' environmental appeal.

Even turquoise sea salt from a Bhutanese monastery will be available by request for an additional $15 a head (a bargain when you consider the fact that Hamish is notorious for kicking out any diners who request additional seasoning or any alterations to his menu, then following those diners out to the parking lot for an inebriated brawl).

Anyone requesting a vegetarian or vegan menu will be taken out back and quickly killed with a captive-bolt gun to the temple, their bodies exsanguinated and their adipose tissue used to make cured lardo by charcutier Alain Bocuse. Perhaps that's one of the other "controversial items" Hamish hinted at...

The secret's out now!



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22 comments
Wyatt
Wyatt

trolololololol

simplyrick
simplyrick

He'd have to serve the owner of Warren's fingers on a hot dog bun for prying her parking spot from her cold dead hands...

Evan Vinumguy T.
Evan Vinumguy T.

I was the wine director for Chef Hamish years ago. We served the blood of wild animals fermented with indigenous herbs and spices from mountain ranges around the world. Every selection was awarded 100 points from Robert Parkers pool boy.

Ryamorris62
Ryamorris62

Even turquoise sea salt from a Bhutanese monastery. LOL. I hear that the beaches are to die for in Buthan too.

Liz Biss
Liz Biss

Hrrrrm... April 1st, Ms. Shilcutt? Makes a person wonder if you might not be pulling our gigot, eh?

Great job though.

~L

Winelush
Winelush

Love it! You punked Houston, good on ya Katharine!

SirRon
SirRon

I only thing that sucks more than April Fools jokes are commenters that bad mouth restaurants they've never visited. And I like ketchup on my *hamburger*. No, seriously I do.

Matthew
Matthew

is this an april fool's joke?

Stacy
Stacy

All I saw was "new restaurant" and "tasting menus" so I immediately forwarded this to my parents and sister with the subject line "New Restaurant To Try!"

Now I feel very estupido...

Scots Git
Scots Git

Very, very funny.... You got me with the d-bag at the Dork House post--nicely done.

GeoPlimpton
GeoPlimpton

Syd Finch will be the first guest, I presume...

joel_luks
joel_luks

ortolans..aren't those the birds that are traditionally drowned in liquor as a butchering method?

Kyle
Kyle

Looks awesome! But the name, there's a Dark Horse Tavern a few blocks away...

Kyle
Kyle

April Fools! ;)

Matthew
Matthew

so much for the convenient parking right next to treebeards... they sure put it up quick. last night there was only scaffolding.

Stacy
Stacy

No, my Dad wrote back "We'll send all our vegan/vegetarian friends there." And that's when I caught on....

That was a good one though, I must admit. Hilarious description. The micro greens from vacant lots, foie gras as butter. You got me!

GeoPlimpton
GeoPlimpton

He must be getting a big appearance fee, then. I forgot the recluse part!

joel_luks
joel_luks

Hilarious "vegetarian or vegan menu will be taken out back and quickly killed with a captive-bolt gun to the temple" - would I taste good? lol

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