Sad news for fans of Gigi’s Asian Bistro & Dumpling Bar --- but good news for Sugar Land residents: executive chef Junnajet “Jett” Hurapan --- formerly of Gigi’s --- along with his pastry chef wife Jira Hurapan, are now ensconced at Blu, a Fort Bend County globally-inspired dining and lounging concept by owners Amy and Jiten Karnani. Signature Jett dishes include massaman beef short ribs, a Thai-influenced entrée with potato, peanut and coconut-tamarind; meatball lollipops, a Mediterranean dish with sweet chile glaze; sweet potato samosas, a dish of Indian origins with chile tamarind sauce; and crispy Peking duck. Pastry chef Jira Hurapan’s desserts include hand-rolled chocolate truffles, in dark chocolate, champagne, pistachio and almond flavors. Blu also offers vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. The lounge is open late Wed. through Sat. with live entertainment. Blu, 2248 Texas Ave., Sugar Land, TX 77479, 281-903-7324.
Austin’s über chef Tyson Cole opened his first foray into Houston’s restaurant scene on Feb. 2 with his second Uchi. The hotly anticipated modern Japanese restaurant already has reservations booked through the end of the month and wait times for tables are running over an hour on some evenings. The dinner-only eatery features sushi and entrees of lightly battered fish and vegetables overseen by chef de cuisine Kaz Edwards and some amazing pastries created by Phillip Speer of the Austin operation. The restaurant serves beer, wine and sake only and is in the completely renovated historic Felix Mexican Restaurant on the Westheimer Curve in the Montrose area of town. The arched windows and entrance of the building are still there, but inside it’s been turned into a sleek and comfortable building featuring reclaimed wood, a communal dining table and a private room with a 60” TV. Dinner nightly. Uchi, 904 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77006, 713-522-4808.
New Sunday Supper Service at Sorrel Urban Bistro
The Sunday supper trend continues to march along in Houston as Sorrel Urban Bistro joins the list of restaurants adding an early meal on Sunday. In the case of the farm-to-table Sorrel, supper will be a chops and frites affair from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The seasonally changing menu by chef Soren Pedersen might start with Brookshire pork chops, veal chops, a Rib-eye chop with chili and a seafood golden tile chop, all served with pommes frites and steamed vegetables. Starters and desserts round out the meal, and of course there are the usual wines and custom cocktails to enjoy. Sorrel Urban Bistro, 2202 W. Alabama St., Houston, TX 77098, 713-677-0391.
Texas to Get a Master Chef of France
The French Cowboy, chef Philippe Schmit, has been honored with a Maîtres Cuisiniers de France (Master Chef of France) designation in Perpignan, France. Schmit is one of only ten U.S. chefs to receive the honor this year. Currently there are only 45 Maîtres in this country. The Paris-based Association des Maîtres Cuisiniers de France awards the title annually to French chefs who “preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine, and assist professional development.” Schmit, who’s Philippe Restaurant + Lounge opened to much acclaim last year, says it’s a great honor to receive the “most coveted award in France.” Chef Schmit, formerly of New York City’s La Bernadin, Orsay and La Goulue, is known for his traditional French cooking and use of Texas ingredients, as well as for his trademark cowboy boots that earned him his nickname. Philippe Restaurant + Lounge, BLVD Place, 1800 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, TX 77056, 713-439-1000.
What do you do after a life threatening illness? If you are Philip Green, a computer entrepreneur who suffered liver cancer for six years while awaiting a transplant, you make dessert. Three months after his surgery, Green attended Houston’s Culinary Institute LeNôtre, where he studied cuisine and pastry. After graduation, he went to work at RDG + Bar Annie for celebrity chef Robert Del Grande. Now he’s the new pastry chef at the popular Rice Village area Prego, where he’s winning over sugar fiends with his grandmother’s pound cake and Italian mostarda, a fruit preserved in syrup that has a touch of mustard seed. The recipe dates back to the time of the ancient Romans, when it was made with fruit, honey and crushed mustard seeds. In Northern Italy, it is commonly served with boiled meats. At Prego, Green makes his mostarda with seasonal fruits such as apples, pears, grapes and pineapple, plus sugar and mustard oil. The fruit is served with a wood-grilled pork chop and fresh-made waffles during Sunday brunch, and the syrup is used to create sauces and syrups for a variety of desserts, including his new tarts. Prego, 2520 Amherst St., Houston, TX 77005, 713-529-2420.
The Spindletop, the revolving restaurant atop the downtown Hyatt Regency Houston, has a new executive chef: Frank Majowicz, whose culinary career started with the U.S. Navy aboard the aircraft supercarrier the USS Forrestal. While maintaining some of the popular Spindletop menu items such as the grilled steaks, Majowicz is also adding some southwestern creations of his own, like the guajillo chile honey-glazed salmon with sweet potato and roasted corn risotto and smoked poblano salsa, along with the 12-spice chicken with homemade mole sauce, Oaxaca cheese and purple Peruvian potatoes, mostly sourced from local produce, meats and seafood. The Spindletop, named for the first major Texas oilfield that started the state’s oil boom in 1901, is a popular special occasion eatery in downtown Houston. The Spindletop, Hyatt Regency, 1200 Louisiana St., Houston, TX 77002, 713-654-1234.
In what looks like a sports trade, restaurant style, Houston got an Uchi restaurant from celebrity chef Tyson Cole but is losing one of its top chefs to Austin’s Uchi. Chef Jeramie Robison has announced he’s leaving Restaurant CINQ and Zimm’s Little Deck at the end of February to move to Austin and work at the Uchi there. Robison says he’s looking forward to working with Cole, a James Beard-award winner for 2011. But Houston foodies will certainly miss Robison, who was the culinary talent behind the reinvention of the restaurant in the historic La Colombe d’Or boutique hotel in the Montrose area. No word yet on who will replace Robison in the kitchen at Restaurant CINQ. Restaurant CINQ, La Colombe d'Or Hotel, 3410 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX 77006, 713-524-7999.
After a troubled year, Ruggles Grill on Westheimer Road has finally closed its doors for good. For 27 years, the Montrose area eatery dished out Southwestern cuisine, but recently, chef/owner Bruce Molzan ran into a spate of legal troubles, first suing 11th Street Café for using the Ruggles name, an act that preceded the Café’s closing. Then, late last year on a busy Saturday night, a group of waiters walked out, claiming they had not been paid tips they were owed. A recorded message on the restaurant’s phone says that Ruggles Grill is currently closed but will reopen at a new location sometime in the future. Ruggles Grill, 903 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77006, no phone.
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