Xochi turned heads.
Hugo Ortega is known for revolutionizing the Mexican food scene in Houston.
Theodore Rex was highlighted because of its careful and precise dishes. (Photo courtesy of Theodore Rex)
Justin Yu's Theodore Rex is earning as much credit as Oxheart.
Nancy's Hustle's rabbit "wings" are served wit brown butter, lemon and capers. (Photo courtesy of Nancy's Hustle.)
The results are in, and they’re all in good taste. Especially for Houston. GQ magazine selected the Best New Restaurants in America and two Houston spots make the coveted tough cut.
This is on a list with only 13 restaurants in the entire country. GQ food guru Brett Martin voyaged from California to Tennessee, from New York to Texas on his grand culinary odyssey.
To be one of America’s best new restaurants of 2018, a spot had to have opened in the last 12 to 18 months by GQ’s criteria.
No Austin, Dallas or other Texas restaurants anywhere made the list. California earned three spots, but Houston’s two restaurants on the list equal New York, which is still widely considered America’s food capital.
Justin Yu’s Theodore Rex and Hugo Ortega’s Xochi emerged as the big Houston winners. GQ praised Yu’s meticulously flavored dishes and Xochi’s lengthy list of mouthwatering moles.
The other best new restaurants in America are The Charter Oak (St. Helena, California), Chez Ma Tante (Brooklyn), Cote (New York City), Dialogue (Santa Monica), Hello Sailor (Cornelius, North Carolina), Henrietta Red (Nashville), JuneBaby (Seattle), Kitsune (Chicago), Lady of the House (Detroit), Majordōmo (Los Angeles) and Maydān (Washington D.C.).
Theodore Rex had big shoes to fill after the sweeping success of Yu’s tasting-menu restaurant Oxheart, which occupied the same space. Yu found something a little liberating.
“It reflects the easy, happy feel of a chef released from the obligation of making all of his customers’ decisions for them,” Martin writes of Theodore Rex.
He describes the food as “careful and precise,” each flavor fastidiously chosen by Yu. Martin singles out the warm thin-sliced snap peas, the true standout of the grapefruit salad.
Xochi has already garnered attention in Houston and beyond, even earning a James Beard Award nomination for Best New Restaurant: Southwest. Ortega’s downtown hotel restaurant centered on the seldom highlighted cuisine of Oaxaca, Mexico continues to impress, in large part thanks to its menu’s eight — sometimes more — moles.
Martin praises the many faceted sauces, from the “deep, burnt brass notes of chilhuacle” to the “dusky middle tones of red coloradito.” He agrees with a dining companion who remarks, “All those famous French sauces? These kick all of their asses.”
Rabbit Wings Fly High
The Houston love did not stop with the two Best New Restaurant winners. Nancy’s Hustle took home Best New Wings honors in the magazine’s Best New Dishes of 2018 list.
There’s something a little bit different about Nancy’s Hustle’s wings. It looks like chef Jason Vaughan’s fantasy took flight with these rabbit wings. The rabbit forelegs are are tossed in rice flour and pan-friend with brown butter, capers and lemon. The rabbit wing risk certainly pays off.
It’s almost impossible to argue with Houston’s food prowess now.