|on the corner of Nance and William Street in Houston's Warehouse District downtown|
I have driven downtown more times since moving home three weeks ago than all my previous years combined. Both work and play are bringing me to these parts. The EY offices are east, conveniently adjacent to the park at Discovery Green. Remember this? It's ideal for an al fresco lunch when I need to escape the AC.
As for play, this past weekend William and I enjoyed the novelty of not one, not two but three bars downtown with friends.
This came as somewhat of a surprise seeing that Houston's downtown has never been known for its nightlife--particularly relative to its "big city" counterparts like New York, LA and Chicago.
But ask executive chef Justin Yu of Oxheart--what I'll soon argue is the most exquisite eating establishment downtown--and he'll tell you otherwise. "My favorite neighborhood is my neighborhood: downtown. It's great to have that big city feel in a city that generally rejects the big city feel."
I found that Yu and Oxheart reject a lot of norms when we dined there earlier this month. What ultimately sets it apart is, if you pay attention, it affords a rich experience for all of the senses--not just taste.
The space is unassuming considering the fine foods.
The plating is gorgeous, making one thankful to sit under the stark lighting that showcases the presentation on the custom pottery. And above all, the food is fantastic. I figured there was a fascinating story underlining this foodie haven.
So, I sought to find out more. What impressed me most was Yu's diligent search for local artisans to bring this creative culinary concept to life. Details like the the server's aprons designed by a local leatherworker attest to this.
I got to visit with Yu when I returned to take photographs minutes before they opened on Monday. With Topo Chico in hand, he tasted each dish to ensure each bite was nothing short of excellent.
The exotic ingredients will delight those with elevated taste buds and pleasantly surprise those simply seeking something good to eat with an added element of adventure. What we found for sure was a refreshing change in pace from picking and plate envy with the set spring prix fixe menu.
Yu doesn't feast on sorrel, wild boar and sunchokes all the time. He loves a good burger and "big pattied, done up burgers with a whole bunch of mess on top" do not fit the bill. He's "an unapologetic advocate of thin patties, overcooked, but still juicy."
Houstonians, take note: he says "Sam's Deli Diner on the West side does a great old school burger, and...Becks Prime is a great example of a simple burger cooked over fire, done well."
Like the fresh ingredients in all of his dishes, Yu is local--a Houston boy through and through who is happy--like the rest of us--to see all three of our major sports teams doing "generally pretty well." A fan of all three (the Astros, Texans and Rockets), he claims that as a Texan, football will always come first.
Though his roots are in Houston, he's excited about what's in store for the food scene across the entire state. "I'm really excited to visit San Antonio. There's a whole mess of restaurants and bars I'd like to try like Hot Joy, Mixtli, and The Granary."
As far as future projects go, he is open to any and all ideas that get Taylor Swift through the door. Pop stars or not, we can promise that Houston patrons will continue to flock to Oxheart on a Friday night. It is just dinner, but Yu and his staff find more ways than one to make it more than that.
As for what's the next menu will include, Yu is enthusiastic that okra season is upon u; he loves to show how versatile and delicious this Southern veggie is to unabashed haters. As an unabashed lover, this is exciting news.
When asked for three items always stocked in his fridge, he could only come up with two: beer and water.
Thanks for letting me and my readers feast their eyes.
My hope is, at the very least, it inspires you to satisfy more than your taste buds the next time your dinner is served.