Fourteen months after a devastating fire ripped through the restaurant, the 33-year-old Mai’s reopened April 16. “I’ll never forget the day of the fire, yet I don’t want to remember,” says Mai Nguyen, the restaurant’s owner and its namesake. “The words of support we received during that time were encouraging,” says Nguyen’s daughter Anna Pham, the restaurant’s new general manager and the third generation to operate the family business that was initially opened by Mai’s parents. “We dusted off our shoulders and went to work doing what needed to be done.” Built by Dang La Architecture with Richland Construction and designed by Studio Red, the same firm that rebuilt Brennan’s of Houston after their devastating fire one year earlier, the new Mai’s features a contemporary dining room in soft shades of bamboo green, brown and yellow. Accents include stone, bamboo, mosaic tile and warm wood tones in the millwork (a tribute to Mai’s carpenter father). The new Mai’s has the second floor open for diners for the first time, a streamlined Vietnamese menu, more parking and more staff. Mai's, 3403 Milam St., Houston, TX 77002, 713-520-7684.
The long awaited El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, the vintage border-style restaurant from celebrity chef Bryan Caswell, Bill Floyd and cookbook author Robb Walsh, is now open. Thanks to their Twitter followers, the soft opening last month was packed from day one. Housed in the revamped 1936 Tower Theater in Montrose, the eatery is a kitschy and colorful joint packed with memorabilia from Tex-Mex legends including Mama Ninfa and Felix Tijerina: old menus and advertisements adorn tables and walls. And old western films play on the big screen on one wall. El Real serves up fun as a side dish to old school Tex-Mex, with many menus recreated from 50’s classics. El Real Tex-Mex Cafe, Tower Theater, 1201 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77006, 713.524-1201.
Eddie V’s Rolls Out a Gluten-Free Menu
Eddie V’s Prime Seafood will roll out a gluten-free menu on May 1 in hopes of bringing awareness to National Celiac Disease Month. The menu is appropriately prepared for a gluten-restricted diet, in cooperation with the Gluten Intolerance Group’s recommendations. The specialty menu includes shellfish, starters such as the tartare of ahi tuna, premium seafood and Black Angus steaks and gluten-free sides like steamed asparagus. The restaurant, with two locations in Houston, says the launch of the specialized menu comes on the heels of a greater demand for gluten-free options at fine dining restaurants. Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, CityCentre, 12848 Queensbury Ln., Houston, TX 77024, 832-200-2380.
Toast the Royal Wedding at Spindletop
Didn’t get an invite to the royal wedding? You can still raise a glass of champagne to Kate and William. On the royal wedding day for England’s Prince and his bride, Friday, April 29, guests dining at the revolving rooftop Spindletop will receive a complimentary glass of bubbly to toast the royal couple. The Spindletop, Hyatt Regency, 1200 Louisiana St., Houston, TX 77002, 713-654-1234.
Tony Vallone has finally replaced opening chef Michael Dei Maggi at his Caffe Bello. The new executive chef at this more casual cousin of Ciao Bello is Bobby Matos, a young chef from San Diego by way of a short stent at Brennan’s of Houston. Matos has been tweaking the contemporary Italian menu and has added some dishes of his own like the blistered peppers; flash grilled green peppers with a touch of Sicilian sea salt and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. And some diver scallops with a Sicilian blood orange reduction and just a hint of mustard. Caffe Bello, 322 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77006, 713-520-5599.
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