La Fisheria Opens Tomorrow as Houston Welcomes a Mexican Celebrity Chef to the City

Categories: Restaurant News

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Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Chef Aquiles Chávez and co-owner Ena Niño. See more behind-the-scenes photos of La Fisheria and the taping in our slideshow.
Most Americans wouldn't know chef Aquiles Chávez if they saw him on the street, even with his trademark handlebar mustache and Jack Sparrow-style dreadlocks tucked under a straw hat.

But ask anyone in Latin America about Chávez and they'll immediately grin and say, "El hombre con el bigote!" as they twist the ends of a mock mustache on their own faces. Throughout Latin America, Chávez -- who is the star of two reality shows, with a third in production -- is as famous as Anthony Bourdain.

And he hopes to accomplish the same level of fame here in the United States, starting in Houston with his brand-new restaurant: La Fisheria (4705 Inker), which opens to the public tomorrow, February 11.

It was at La Fisheria that I met Chávez yesterday afternoon, accompanied by his co-owners in the restaurant and a Colombian production crew from the Fox-affiliated station Utilisima. Utilisima is the South American version of channels like HGTV and the Food Network in the U.S., and Chávez's two shows are very similar to No Reservations and various live cooking shows. His third show, currently filming, is called Aquiles in Houston and follows the chef as he and his family have packed their bags and moved to Houston permanently to open La Fisheria.

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The tables and chairs at La Fisheria are made of reclaimed wood from the shipping crates that Chávez and his team used to get their supplies to Houston.
For the purposes of filming, Chávez and his team had assembled a glut of diners that packed the still-closed restaurant for a mock service. The audience included fans of Chávez's, members of the Latin American business community and an assortment of Latin chefs, including Arturo Boada of Arturo Boada Cuisine, Ruben Ortega from Backstreet Cafe and Hugo's, Roberto Castre from Latin Bites and David Guerrero from Samba Grille.

"What do you think of the name? La Fisheria?" Boada asked me as we ate lunch with boom mikes overhead and cameras in our faces.

"I think it's a bit silly, honestly," I responded. Boada nodded his head in agreement.

"In Houston," he said, "you have to keep a name simple, short." He paused, then added: "Sexy. La Fisheria is not sexy. It sounds...fishy."

But the name is there, for better or worse: It's branded throughout the place in a way that may be off-putting to Texans who aren't familiar with Chávez nor his level of fame throughout the rest of the Americas. Despite this, the restaurant is effortlessly charming and welcoming, splashed with bright hues of citrus and aqua and decorated in a way that reminds one of a beach house in Veracruz.

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The entrance features a wall of ivy, watered by a series of PVC pipes that has the unintended effect of sounding like a softly babbling brook. It's truly lovely.
This is how Chávez and his team intended it: as a monument to not only Veracruz but all of the colorful, casual places in Mexico that evoke feelings of vacations and happier times.

In spite of its casual demeanor, though, Chávez and his team of chefs mean business: This is a chef-driven restaurant, as laid-back as it may seem. The quality of the ingredients and the starkly modern presentation of the dishes suggests that La Fisheria could eventually be one of the best "upscale" Mexican restaurants in town, a point Boada also agreed with. Time (and consistency) will tell, but every one of us came away surprised with how much we loved both the restaurant and the cuisine.

"We liked everything," Ruben Ortega told me after our lunches were over and the cameras were busy filming Boada for an interview segment. In particular, he'd loved the roasted cacao foam used as the base for Chávez's bread pudding dessert with macerated berries, high praise from one of the city's best pastry chefs and an expect in cacao himself.

Roberto Castre, who makes the best Peruvian ceviches in town at Latin Bites, was equally impressed, especially with La Fisheria's own ceviche: a pile of plush red snapper mixed with fat kernels of corn, slices of radish and a dusting of chile powder -- made in-house, of course, like nearly everything else here.


Location Info

Venue

Map

La Fisheria

4705 Inker St., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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23 comments
mrs.mariajv
mrs.mariajv

Great tortas, presentation is awesome, taste and service the best,, friendly people,,

love it!!!! Clam chowder with nopales and flor de calabaza,,,sabrosisimo! 

Pescador
Pescador

Great atmosphere and might make a great bar, however the food was horrible. 25 minutes after ordering lunch today our 3 tacos and cup of soup hadn't arrived.  The octopus had the texture of a garden hose and the fried shrimp were equally tough.  Much better tacos can be had at Berryhill or El Rey.  The chips however are awesome. 

Lalo
Lalo

Excelente. Finally real Mexican seafood

Galvan Ociel
Galvan Ociel

Had dinner, at The Fisheria opening evening. Have to say that I was impressed by the food. Very authentic Mexican Coastal dishes... I would recommend the Red Snapper dish to anyone who loves fish. Chavez and Staff are working hard to get every detail perfect when serving. Hope that it becomes successful to continue to visit and true Mexican Seafood Cocina in town. 

Jan
Jan

Aquiles, Cannot believe you are now in Houston...just as we leave. Miss you and your food and how about opening in Kuala Lumpur where we are now.  Jan and Lino ex Villahermosa. Good luck to you and your family in this new venture. Will come visit whenever we are in town and will pass on the info to all the others who knew youin the beginning and knew you would be great!

Francesco Orodinapoli
Francesco Orodinapoli

I think it would be interesting for the Houston Press to do a comparison/contrast of La Fisheria with Carlos Mencia's Maggie Rita's. Pros, cons, etc.

moll0
moll0

Aquiles Chavez isn't as famous as Anthony Bourdain in latin america... sincerely a Mexican

Freddy
Freddy

I visit the restaurant this week, It's great, the food is perfect and the wine form Mexico was amazing.

cafeluz
cafeluz

Can't wait to try this place! Given the hard time that more avant garde chefs have had with bringing fine Mexican cuisine to market in Houston I hope that the authenticity and reputation here can make the concept feasible.

Lauren
Lauren

Just curious--is there a reason why this opening has received no press until now, just a few days before opening? Given that so many restaurants get repeated articles when they are conceptualized and during the construction/permitting phase, I'm surprised this is the first I've heard about a big opening like this.

FlacoJ
FlacoJ

Can't wait to try this place!!

Not sure Arturo Boada is the guy to dispense naming advice, but agree with your point.

Imageno
Imageno

My friend, If you really are from latin america and don't know Aquiles, you should get some cable..  everyone knows him..  salud!. 

Rampeaux
Rampeaux

 PR peeps are annoying, always spinning wordy nonsense, and thinking they move mountains. Maybe these guys had the good sense to avoid them. Doesn't sound like they're hurting for it.

Kylejack
Kylejack

 Maybe restaurants that have a national media blitz following them around don't feel the pressure to send out as many local press releases?

Jim Ayres
Jim Ayres

I guess it's the power of PR. Artisans is another example. It's opening tomorrow, but I haven't heard a peep about it. I thought Artisans was supposed to be kind of a big deal.

Can't wait to try La Fisheria.

EDIT: Never mind, I jumped the gun. Openings and Closings.

Moi
Moi

 Maybe the haven't been nice enough to Kath

Jasminesmith198714
Jasminesmith198714

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Kylejack
Kylejack

 Yeah, kind of funny for a guy to say that restaurant names should be sexy when he names his own after himself.

Anyway, this place looks awesome. Can't wait to try it.

Analog Girl
Analog Girl

Don't know where you're from Imageno, but I have to shake my head on this... maybe the middle & elite in Latin America can watch these shows and have cable, but them majority I met on multiple visits didn't even have solid walls or anything but dirt for floors, forget cable. Yes, Been There.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I wouldn't say these days that it's PR. Most of the interest around restaurants is generated by the chefs/owners themselves interacting with the public and the media. Underbelly and Hay Merchant, for example, don't have a PR agency (that I'm aware of) and instead use tools like Twitter and Facebook to generate advance talk as well as their own connections -- of which they obviously have many -- throughout the food community/service industry.

Uchi, on the other hand, has a tremendous PR machine in place and that certainly makes the restaurant more accessible to the media. But that doesn't guarantee coverage, either; for example, none of the EOW bloggers attended or covered the media preview dinner that Uchi hosted.

In the case of restaurants like Artisans or bars like Mongoose vs. Cobra, many of these places don't want advance publicity and instead want to focus all of their energies on getting their places up and running before starting to talk about them. I have a feeling it was the same way at La Fisheria.

I won't say that any of these three approaches are good or bad -- they're all just different. More importantly, these different tactics are designed to serve the individual needs of the owners and operators. So what I'm saying is that more often than not, it's a restaurant/bar's decision as to how much advance publicity they want although that's not a definite indicator of how much they'll receive.

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