Chefs Chris Leung and Justin Basye
Littleneck clams with house pancetta, confit tomato
Whether you call the museum district home or are simply making a day of it, hopping from the MFAH to the Children’s Museum and off to the CAMH, there’s a notable new eatery in the neighborhood. The Museum Park Café was created by Balcor Hospitality, which also operates nearby Bosta Wine & Coffee and Cloud 10 Creamery in Rice Village. Owner Christopher Balat has made it his mission to partner with rising-star chefs and back their creative concepts. Case in point: Museum Park Café’s chef, Justin Bayse, spent time in the Pappas kitchens doing R&D before he made his way into the limelight at Stella Stolla (where he grabbed national attention with a James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef Award nomination).
The gallery-like space features soaring ceilings and sparse white walls, save for the colorful display of artist Floyd Newsum’s Fractured Landscape. Bayse has created a new American menu with classical touches. Standouts on the dinner menu include the scallion and cheddar biscuits, enrobed in a caramel made with the drippings of salumi ($7) and a beautifully prepared steak tartare with pickled mushrooms, crispy capers and preserved egg yolk ($15). While the Italians make their gnocchi largely with a milled potato base, Bayse’s Parisienne gnocchi is the French rendition rendered with pâté à choux dough, dropped into boiling water then sautéed with trumpet mushrooms, wild arugula and fresh red chiles ($15). The entrees are thoughtful compositions, such as the pasture-raised roast chicken, cut off the bone, its dark meat fashioned into a flavorsome roulade and served on a bed of preserved lemon-tinged spaetzle ($24) and the mighty day boat scallops with a side of crisp pork belly, roasted carrot and authentic Puy lentils ($26). Be sure to finish with one of pastry chef Chris Leung’s inventive sweets — especially notable when paired with one of his luscious ice creams.
Museum Park Café, 1801 Binz St., 713.520.0108, museumparkcafe.com