First Look at Pho & Crab Restaurant, A New Vietnamese Restaurant on Houston's West Side

Photo by Mai Pham
What do you order at a restaurant called "Pho & Crab?" Pho and crab.

Approaching from the west, the prominent signage of the one month old Pho & Crab Restaurant is easy to spot. The letters are in bold, the sign's black background pops, and, despite the neon brightness of the Ninfa's sign behind it (its neighbor), the words Pho & Crab Restaurant Vietnamese Cuisine stand out.

That's definitely going to be one of the restaurant's advantages. The fact that it's probably the only Vietnamese restaurant in the near vicinity of Memorial Drive and Dairy Ashford is another. If it's aiming to become the neighborhood Vietnamese hotspot, it's got a good chance, a fact that was underscored during a late Sunday evening visit, when the restaurant was lightly occupied by tables of different age groups and ethnicities.

Like most Vietnamese restaurants, the menu is fairly large, encompassing way more than just pho and crab (there are appetizers, rice plates, rice vermicelli dishes, wok entrees and curries), though it's probably a safe bet to start with those two dishes. We made sure to order both of these, getting a bowl of the "singed beef" pho on the recommendation of Andrew Tran, the general manager. We also ordered the tamarind dungeness crab (they also offer the king crab and soft shell crab, as well a salt and pepper flavor in lieu of the tamarind), a Vietnamese delicacy that is hard to master.

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JohnMichael Lynch Named Executive Chef of Hotel Granduca

Photo by Mai Pham
JohnMichael Lynch is the new executive chef of Ristorante Cavour at the Hotel Granduca.

After a nationwide, year-long search, the Hotel Granduca has finally named a new executive chef: JohnMichael Lynch. Since taking the reins approximately five weeks ago, the classically trained 31-year-old -- who is responsible for all aspects of hotel dining, from banquets, to pool and bar, in-room dining and the flagship restaurant, Ristorante Cavour --has been working seven days a week (which coincided in part with Houston Restaurant Weeks) just to get situated.

Lynch started cooking while in high school. When he realized he wanted to become a chef, he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. He spent his early years in New Jersey and the Washington, D.C. area, where he worked under Jeffrey Buben (a James Beard Foundation Best Chef Winner in 1999) at Bistro Bis, before joining the Cherokee Town Club in Atlanta for seven years. In 2013, Lynch was named American Culinary Federation (ACF) Southeast Region Chef of the year while a chef de cuisine at Cherokee. He later did a short stint Chevy Chase Club in Maryland before joining the Hotel Granduca.

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Sweet Sarriette Pop-Up Dinner To Spotlight Four Talented Young Pastry Chefs

Photos credited to each chef
From top left, clockwise: Samantha Mendoza, Christina Au, Johnny Wesley, Andrew Musico

On the surface, it might seem like just another pop-up at Paulie's, but this Sunday's "Sweet Sarriette" pop-up dinner -- an eight-course with wine pairing gourmet dinner prepared by Christina Au, Samantha Mendoza, Andrew Musico and Johnny Wesley -- promises to be extraordinary.

The collaborating chefs represent some of Houston's most gifted up-and-coming young culinary talent. The youngest of the bunch, Au, is just 22. Straight out of culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, she landed a job as pastry cook at Rainbow Lodge. While working full time there, she performed stages (unpaid internships) at Uchi Houston and Kata Robata in her spare time. She was then hired to be part of the opening crew at The Pass and Provisions, where she worked as a pastry cook under Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan, before joining the opening team at Cloud 10 Creamery under dessert wunderkind Chris Leung.

Mendoza, 25, graduated from the Art Institute of Houston and is the current executive pastry chef at Triniti and the soon-to-open FM 903 Bakery. Mendoza started her career at Bedford under Robert Gadsby. Her vacations are spent traveling through Europe to gain inspiration. She has competed in national competitions such as Star Chefs in New York, bringing home two silver and two bronze medals from ACF Competitions in Houston, Dallas, Conroe, and Las Vegas. Just last week, she completed a one-week stage at Eleven Madison Park.

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Openings & Closings: Tout Suite is Finally Open in EaDo

Categories: Restaurant News

The Pappas Bar-B-Q located at 3814 Little York burned to the ground early in the morning on Sunday, September 7. The restaurant was closed during the time of the fire and no firefighters were injured while responding to the two-alarm blaze. The cause of the fire has not been determined, but Christina Pappas, Director of Marketing for Pappas Restaurants, Inc., provided this statement to the Houston Press:

"We want to thank The Houston Fire Department for their bravery at our location on Little York. We are very thankful that all of our employees and all firefighters are safe. We are working to relocate our staff to other locations. The Little York location will be closed until further notice."

Pappas continues by saying, "Our current priority is relocating all of the Little York employees to other Pappas locations until we are able to reopen."

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How Did Restaurants Do During Houston Restaurant Weeks 2014?

Categories: Restaurant News

Photo courtesy of Houston Restaurant Weeks
HRW is over, but some Houston restaurants are sounding off on their experiences this year.
Houston Restaurant Weeks came to a close on Monday, September 1. The total amount of money raised from the approximately 165 participating restaurants has not been announced yet, but we spoke with a few restaurant general managers/owners about their experience during HRW this year to get some feedback from the restaurant-side in terms of customer traffic, work load in the kitchen, profits for the restaurant and if they would consider participating next year.

Kata Robata (a frequent participant), Radical Eats (newcomer to HRW) and Eleven:Eleven (a second-year participant) provided us with some similar comments about the restaurant's experience, and some strikingly different opinions from the general managers/owners.

Kata Robata has participated in HRW for about five years. General manager Blake Lewis says that Kata Robata is already busy during August, so adding HRW traffic definitely can clog things up in the restaurant. Lewis says about 980 customers dined on the restaurant weeks menu at Kata this year.

"We did a few hundred less than we did the year before," Lewis says. "I just think that there were so many more restaurants doing it this year that that might have been the reason why we didn't see as many as we have in the previous years. We just get guests that wouldn't normally come to Kata because they are afraid of the menu or just think it's too expensive, or whatever have you. We get a lot of first-timers here during restaurant weeks which we are obviously happy about. But a lot of them don't always return just because they end up not appreciating what we do here."

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UPDATED: Pappas Bar-B-Q Restaurant at Little York Burns to the Ground in Two-Alarm Blaze

Update -- 12:30 p.m.: Christina Pappas, Director of Marketing for Pappas Restaurants, Inc., provided this statement to the Houston Press:

"We want to thank The Houston Fire Department for their bravery at our location on Little York. We are very thankful that all of our employees and all firefighters are safe. We are working to relocate our staff to other locations. The Little York location will be closed until further notice."

"Our current priority is relocating all of the Little York employees to other Pappas locations until we are able reopen."

UPDATE: At this time, a spokeswoman for Pappas Restaurants said they still don't know the cause of the fire, and right now there is no information available about the status or future of Pappas Bar-B-Q at Little York.

The Pappas Bar-B-Q located at 3814 Little York burned to the ground at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 7. The restaurant was closed during the two-alarm blaze, and according to KHOU, no firefighters were injured while responding to the fire.

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Openings & Closings: Jonathan's the Rub Is Staying Put in Memorial Village

Categories: Restaurant News

Photo by Molly Dunn
You can still get these lobster tacos at Jonathan's the Rub in Memorial Village.
The second location for Jonathan's the Rub was slated to open at 963 Bunker Hill in November of this year, but that project has come to a halt. Chef and owner Jonathan Levine says he doesn't want to expand his business and would rather stay at his current location in Memorial at 9061 Gaylord. According to the Houston Chronicle, Levine says in statement, "We have made a decision within our family to stay in our current location and continue doing what we do best. We have a great thing going on and an incredible customer base at our unique location on Gaylord Street and will continue providing the best food, the best service and a great experience to our customers. We are exploring exciting opportunities, which will ultimately be better for the organization, the Memorial Village community and our family."

We recently visited Jonathan's the Rub to taste some of Levine's "New Houston Fare" menu, including the Hill Country Chicken & Shrimp, a surf-and-turf style dish featuring fried chicken breast and jumbo shrimp smothered in sautéed jalapeno, peppers and onions, bacon and Sriracha aioli. Of course, no one can visit the restaurant without ordering a plate of the lobster tacos featuring corn tortillas stuffed with lobster salad, tomatillo salsa, seared avocado, chipotle and Aleppo chili.

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Help Chef Luis Gallardo in His Fight Against Cancer

Categories: Restaurant News

Photo by Margaret Medina Lee
Luis Gallardo, a 24-year-old sushi chef at Soma Sushi, was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. He is fighting for his life and needs your help.

The name Luis Gallardo is not a prominent one in Houston food circles. Like the many young chefs just who work hard to get better at their craft, Gallardo spent the earlier part of his career learning English while working 60-plus-hour work weeks. Still, he worked his way up from the maki station (making rolls) as an associate roller to his most recent position as the sous to Soma Sushi's head sushi chef, Pascal Choi.

Says Choi "He's been my second in command. Whenever he's working, I don't have to worry about anything, because he does pretty much everything. He's a really nice, strong person."

Ryan Snyder, who was head of operations at Soma for several years, echoes these sentiments: "Luis is one of my all time favorite employees that ever worked for me. He is the hardest working sushi chef I've had the privilege to work with. When we first hired him be barely spoke a lick of English. He would bust his ass 60+ hrs a week and go to school to learn English on his day off. Any free time he had during breaks he was diligently studying his English book to get better. Slowly but surely he did and within a year or two spoke fluid English, better then some of the guys who have been here for over a decade. And this is to say nothing of his incredible skills as a sushi chef. He ascended from a simple roller to the #2 sushi man at Soma faster then any pupil I've seen before. His knife skills are amongst the best I've seen for a sushi chef, let alone for one so young. A more humble, ego-less, hard working chef you will not find."

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Chef David Coffman Joins Cullen's Upscale American Grille

Photo courtesy of David Coffman
Before assuming the role as executive chef at Cullen's Upscale American Grille, David Coffman worked at other Houston restaurants, including Katsuya.
Chef David Coffman takes the reins of executive chef at Cullen's Upscale American Grille today, September 2. Coffman has experience at a variety of Houston restaurants, including Goro & Gun, Benjy's on Washington and in Rice Village, and Katsuya.

The decision to bring Coffman on board at Cullen's was made on Thursday, August 28, by the owner Kevin Munz and general manager Ryan Roberts. Cullen's is currently going through a transition to revamp its menu offerings.

"We just recently did a tasting for those guys [Munz and Roberts] and they all thought it would be a huge benefit for me to come on board over there and work for those guys and help bring their restaurant back up to award-winning and where it needs to be," Coffman says. "Kind of liven it up a little bit."

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Openings & Closings: Play Strip Twister and Get Evicted

Categories: Restaurant News

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Zelko Bistro remains open in the Heights and you can still get this cheese plate.
Another Upper Kirby establishment closed its doors this week. Irish pub Mugsy's at 2239 Richmond shuttered on Sunday, August 24, but the co-owner Randy Eddy tells Eater Houston that he is closing the Irish pub and replacing it with a New Orleans-style restaurant, Tavern Orleans. The menu will feature Creole and Cajun dishes, such as classic gumbo, shrimp creole and etouffee, along with unique items like chicory coffee-crusted pork chops. The new French Quarter restaurant is set to open on Tuesday, September 2.

As reported by Swamplot, Judge Randy Wilson granted temporary injunction which prevents Zelko Bistro's landlord from placing a for lease sign outside the restaurant at 705 E. 11th. The judge made this decision on August 20, but 30 days from that ruling date, Zelko Bistro and its landlord must "mediate the dispute." As for now, the Heights restaurant remains open, so you can stuff your face with the incredible cheese plate served with a side of fresh honeycomb; and don't forget about the St. Arnold's short ribs.

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