Openings and Closings: Brennan’s New Executive Chef, Phat Ghost Kitchen

Phat Kitchen, 2616 Blodgett, is slated to open in early September 2020 at Cloud Kitchen’s Blodgett Food Hall. Cloud Kitchen is specifically designed for production kitchens creating food for off-premise dining. Phat Kitchen will join a number of other “ghost kitchens” operating at the food hall.

Phat Kitchen comes from owner/chef Alex Au-Yeung, known for his Malaysian restaurant, Phat Eatery, located at 23119 Colonial Parkway in Katy Asian Town. The cuisine at the new Phat Kitchen will include many of the items popular at Phat Eatery including beef rendang, chicken curry, roti canai, curry laksa and dim sum items. The new ghost kitchen will be for delivery service only.

Alex Au-Yeung has some phat new concepts.EXPAND

Alex Au-Yeung has some phat new concepts.

Photo by Chuck Cook

Later in the fall, the much anticipated Yelo is expected to open next to Phat Eatery. It is a collaborative effort from Au-Yeung and executive chef Cuc Lam. Due to the pandemic, the opening has been delayed so Au-Yeung and Lam will use the Phat Kitchen space to begin offering the public a glimpse of what to expect with items like craft banh mi sandwiches, vermicelli bowls and spring rolls.

Another concept, Pig and Duck, is planned for the future under the Phat Kitchen umbrella as well. It will serve Cantonese-style barbecue pork, char siu and crispy roast duck, harkening back to Au-Yeung’s Hong Kong upbringing.

Kamp Houston is for grown-ups..EXPAND

Kamp Houston is for grown-ups..

Photo by Jonathan Reitzell

Kamp Houston, 6025 Westheimer, opened this week in the space which formerly housed Beaver’s, as reported by CultureMap Houston.  The outdoors-y venue will offer a casual atmosphere for socializing and dining. It comes from local restaurateurs and bar owners Mojeed Martins and Jonathan Reitzell.

“There are so many restaurants in the City of Houston, so when we open a restaurant we don’t just want to bring the people good food, we want everyone to have an experience. Camping is something we have to leave the city for, but Kamp Houston brings the camping experience to the people,” co-owner, Jonathan Reitzell said. 

The campgrounds feature a large, colorful patio which leads to a full bar with crafted cocktail drinks There’s a hookah trailer and the restaurant boasts a menu reminiscent of wood-fire cuisine. There’s even an on-site fire pit for toasting marshmallows and telling spooky stories plus a DJ booth. With experience catering to celebrities, athletes and influencers who live in and visit the Bayou City, the owners have included a VIP cabin with bottle service and the full ‘luxury’ camping experience. The dress-code is casual in keeping with the laid-back camping vibe.

Kamp by firelight.EXPAND

Kamp by firelight.

Photo by Jonathan Reitzell

The owners are no strangers to the restaurant and bar scene. They understand what it takes to survive a down market and have taken creative measures to not only ensure a successful business and continued jobs for employees, but also open new positions with additional employment opportunities even during the pandemic. Some of their combined businesses include Prospect Park, Lost and Found, Cake Houston and Dear Daisy.

The owners have brought in chef Tony Nguyen, formerly of the now-closed Saigon House, for help with the menu. He and executive chef Jason Hill have designed a food menu that offers a Houston bent with some Louisiana influences. The seafood and barbecue dishes will be perfect for enjoying with a cold brew or craft cocktail under the Houston stars.

Monkey's Tail owners Greg Perez, Sharif Al-Amin and Jessie Gonzales (not pictured) have plans for Oak Forest.EXPAND

Monkey’s Tail owners Greg Perez, Sharif Al-Amin and Jessie Gonzales (not pictured) have plans for Oak Forest.

Photo by Shannon O’Hara

Barrel of Monkeys, a newly-formed hospitality group from Sharif Al-Amin, Jessie Gonzales and Greg Perez, have announced that it will open a new concept in the former Petrol Station space at 985 Wakefield in Oak Forest. No more details are forthcoming at this time but it should be as cool and unique as the trio’s other bar/restaurant, Monkey’s Tail.

Mingo’s Latin Kitchen, 21945 Katy Freeway, opened July 1 when the space rebranded from Azul Seafood Tapas. It is a collaboration between Chris Vasquez and Tomas Villareal. Villareal has owned Mingo’s Latin Food Truck and Catering since 2015. Now, the Latin fusion brand has set up a permanent spot at the Katy Freeway location while continuing to operate its food trucks around town.

Items on the menu include a variety of empanadas, ceviche, the popular Havana sandwich, and starters like the Snow Crab Jalapeno Poppers. Fusion choices includes rolls like the Texans Roll with spicy salmon and cream cheese rolled in soybean paper and topped with brisket or the Hamachi Aguachile. There’s also Mingo’s Chicken Fried Rice and Seafood Masa Gnocchi. There are classic tacos pus options such as cod, shrimp tempura or squash blossom tacos.

Joey Chavez has taken on the role of executive chef at Brennan's.EXPAND

Joey Chavez has taken on the role of executive chef at Brennan’s.

Photo by Kimberly Park

Brennan’s, 3300 Smith, has announced a new executive chef to take the place of Joe Cervantez who has left to helm the kitchen at Pier 6 in San Leon. Proprietor Alex Brennan-Martin has chosen Joseph “Joey” Chavez to take over the role, alongside 37-year veteran Creole Chef Jose Arevalo and sous chefs James Reedy and Lexy Garcia.

Chavez is a native of Los Angeles who ended up in Beaumont on a football scholarship to Lamar University where he earned his bachelor’s and culinary degrees. After working at local restaurants, he took a position at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago at the Ritz Carlton in Beaver Creek, Colorado. He eventually made his way to New York City working in Michelin-starred restaurants such as Le Bernardin, Per Se, Dovetail and more. He joined the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group in Napa in 2015 and spent a year training at The French Laundry and Bouchon, which he considers the highlight of his career thus far. He has also served as chef de cuisine under James Beard Award-winning chef Charles Phan at OTD in San Francisco and was most recently executive chef at The Bygone at the Four Seasons Baltimore. He made his national television debut on Food Network’s Chopped in May 2020.

Chavez brings some classic French techniques and whole animal butchery skills to the table and is thrilled to work with a legacy brand like Brennan’s which allows him to return to Creole cuisine and the opportunity to immerse himself in Houston’s diverse food community.

Chavez said in a press release, ” “I’m excited to work with the big, bold flavors that Houston is known for. It’s a melting pot of cultures. Similarly, Creole cooking welcomes influences from other cuisines. It feels like a perfect fit.”

Welcome to Houston, Chef Chavez.

Homestead Kitchen and Bar, 600 N. Shepherd, is shooting for a December 2020 or January 2021 opening, according to CultureMap. The breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant will join other dining spots like Mendocino Farms and Da Gama Canteen, a restaurant from Oporto owners Shiva and Rick Di Virgilio,  at M-K-T Heights, a mixed use development currently under construction.

The cuisine will be a blend of Southern, Cajun and Tejano flavors. Expect omelets covered in queso, eggs Benedict with steak fajita meat and even crawfish pistolettes, an item that should be on more Houston menus as far as this writer is concerned. The fried chicken is promised to be extra special.

Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette will repen August 7.EXPAND

Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette will repen August 7.

Photo by Carla Gomez

Liberty Kitchen at the Treehouse, 963 Bunker Hill, and Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette, 4224 San Felipe, will reopen in early August under new ownership. Culinary Khancepts, a sister company of Star Cinema Grill, has entered into an agreement to purchase the two Liberty Kitchen concepts. Culinary Khancepts also acquired State Fare Kitchen and Bar in 2018, recently opening a second location in Sugar Land.

Omar Khan, CEO of Culinary Khancepts said, ” I have always been a big fan and supporter of Liberty Kitchen and I am thrilled to be able to carry on the legacy of the brand.” He added that the amazing staff are anxious to get back to work. Liberty Kitchen and Oysterette will reopen August 7. Liberty Kitchen at the Treehouse will reopen August 14.

The menus at the Liberty Kitchen outposts will still offer many of the more popular favorites including housemade gumbo, deviled eggs and Island Creek oysters. However, there will also be new made-in-house additions to the menu focusing on fresh, seasonal ingredients.  Lance Fegen, founding chef of Liberty Kitchen and Culinary Director, will still be part of the team leading the reopening.

Liberty Kitchen and Oyster Bar in the Heights will remain closed but operator, F.E.E.D. TX Restaurant Group, plans to rebrand and launch a new concept at the location.

Alice's Tall Texan succumbs to the pandemic.

Alice’s Tall Texan succumbs to the pandemic.

Photo by David Rozycki

Alice’s Tall Texan, 4904 N. Main, closed this week, as previously reported here in the Houston Press. The announcement was made on its Facebook page naming the coronavirus as the culprit for the closing of the longtime watering hole in the Heights. The woman-owned business was operated by Alice Ward for nearly four decades and was much loved for its welcoming vibes and inexpensive drinks, not an easy score in the Heights anymore. Now, there is one less place to go for a dive-y experience without the usual dive-y negatives. Alice’s Tall Texan was a place you could take your grandma and feel comfortable, especially if your grandma enjoyed a frosty 18 ounce chalice of draft beer.

For the remainder of August, the bar will sell beer to-go and is offering a souvenir chalice or mug with a purchase of a six-pack or more. Toward the end of August, it will begin selling some of its memorabilia for those who want to have a piece of its history for their own home watering holes.

David Chang's Chilean sea bass dish is served in a bath of his special red wine miso sauce.EXPAND

David Chang’s Chilean sea bass dish is served in a bath of his special red wine miso sauce.

Photo by Rolita Chang

Blue Onyx Bistro, 4720 Richmond, has added a  new pop-up  Sunday brunch hosted by The Original Phil and Derek’s, a wine bar, restaurant and jazz club in Midtown. Phil and Derek’s was voted Best Brunch for Houston’s Black Restaurant Week 2020. The $40 brunch experience includes complimentary mimosas and a new DJ each Sunday.

Blue Onyx has also just added Chow Now as its delivery service so if dining out is not in the cards right now, David Chang’s delicious Asian fusion dishes can be brought to the front door. However, Blue Onyx has an attractive dining room and glass-covered terrace for those who can socially distance and dine at the same time.

This beauty is available on the HRW dinner menu at Blue Onyx.

This beauty is available on the HRW dinner menu at Blue Onyx.

Photo by David Chang

Its Houston Restaurant Weeks menus include a $20 pre-fixe lunch with two courses or the $45 dinner menu with three. The lunch offering includes a choice of starters such as Seafood Chowder or Five-Spice Calamari and entrees like Chipotle Red Fish, Flounder or Stuffed Chicken Breast. The HRW dinner menu includes a first course of options like Wasabi Candied Tuna, Blue Crab Fingers and Blue Onyx Ravioli. For entrees there are dishes such as Chef Chang’s Chilean Sea Bass, King of the Sea, or Wagyu Baseball-Cut Sirloin. For dessert guests can choose between Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake, White Chocolate Bread Pudding and Raspberry Sorbet.

Kirby Icehouse, 1015 Gessner, opened June 18 but due to pandemic restrictions set out by the Governor’s office regarding bar operations, it closed temporarily beginning June 26. The original location at 3333 Eastside is also temporarily closed.

The Enchilada Queen is going virtual.EXPAND

The Enchilada Queen is going virtual.

Photo by Gina Pizzini

Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen,1140 Eldridge Parkway, will host a  South Texas Breakfast virtual cooking class with the Enchilada Queen herself, Sylvia Casares, August 15 at 1 p.m. Customers must order the virtual class and the pre-packaged ingredients by August 14 and pick up the packages and online Zoom codes at the Eldridge location before noon on Saturday, August 15. Payment must be made by credit card.

The class will begin at 1 p.m. with Casares teaching viewers how to make flour tortillas, migas, gorditas and salsa ranchero. The cost is $55 per person and includes the ingredients, recipes and a list of kitchen items and equipment needed for preparation. However, for an additional cost, the menu items can be already prepared or participants can choose just to watch the class online and receive a $25 gift certificate in lieu of the ingredients. Additional drinks and menu items can be purchased to-go as well including The Enchilada Queen Cookbook which features many of Casares’ delicious recipes.

K-Pop pizza beats K-Pop music any day.

K-Pop pizza beats K-Pop music any day.

Photo by Bryan Davis

Vinny’s, 1201 Saint Emanuel, is selling a limited time pizza in collaboration with Feges BBQ. The K-Pop pizza is a Vinny’s pie topped with Feges BBQ brisket, Korean bbq sauce, mozzarella-provolone mix, pickled onions, pickled Fresno chile and cilantro. The regular NY-style goes for $26. The K-Pop is available with a gluten-free crust for $36.

Like many other take-out options nowadays, the restaurant has beer,wine and for you hipsters, White Claw, plus sodas, Topo Chico and Mexican Coke. There are salads, pasta dishes and wings, too. If you forgot to pick up toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, flour or yeast at the grocery store, Vinny’s has a small offering of those items that can be ordered online with food purchases.


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