Inside Bludorn’s Already Hopping Houston Scene — Dreamy New York Chef With Michelin Credentials Shares All
How Aaron Bludorn and His Elegant Hospitality Maestro Cherif Mbodji Have the Place JumpingBY Shelby Hodge // 09.17.20
Chef Aaron Bludorn and wife Victoria are hitting it big in Houston with their namesake restaurant, Bludorn. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Bludorn's squash blossoms (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Bludorn partner and general manager Cherif Mbodji (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
A view to the open kitchen from where Chef Aaron Bludhorn delivers his exceptional cuisine. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The roasted quail dish with quail forcemeat and a huckleberry compote (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The Bludorn dining room is filled to COVID-19 capacity as the new restaurant's popularity grows. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Cucumber and avocado soup (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Baked Alaska (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The Baked Alaska is filled with a layer of pistachio ice cream and centered with berry ice cream. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Gulf Cioppino (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
A duo of oyster appetizers, baked and fried (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Chef Aaron Bludorn seems to be walking on air as he courses through his buzzy namesake restaurant that opened only a few weeks ago. It’s a natural high as Bludorn has already carved out a niche in Houston’s restaurant scene. The cognoscenti are pouring in.
On a recent night, the open concept kitchen and raw bar were bustling as staff scurried to prepare and deliver Bludorn’s exceptional cuisine to eager diners who filled the new Houston restaurant to its COVID-19 restricted maximum. Word has spread rapidly on the culinary talent of the 36-year-old chef with Michelin credentials. (He has worked for two Michelin Star restaurants, most recently as executive chef at New York’s Café Bouloud.)
“We love it here. Everyone has met us with open arms,” the handsome chef tells PaperCity. “Everyone from the chefs to the guests, everything has been amazing . . . We’ve had a blast putting this restaurant together from A to Z and we just wanted to include as many of Houston’s finest as possible. So far, so amazing.”
Bludorn is visiting with his wife, Victoria Pappas Bludorn, behind the raw bar during a rare moment when he isn’t hustling. Even behind their masks, we sense the broad smiles generated by the duo’s seemingly boundless enthusiasm. It was this passion for Bludorn that kept them going despite the COVID-19 shutdown during the restaurant’s building. And perhaps it is their positive demeanor that convinces diners to forgo any pandemic fears.
The couple did not come alone from New York. They brought along the elegant Cherif Mbodji as partner and general manager. He worked with Bludorn as general manager and service director at Café Bouloud before being promoted in 2018 to service director at the two Michelin starred Restaurant Daniel.
It is clear that the towering native of Dakar, Senegal is at home in a restaurant setting. In the short time that Bludorn has been open, Mbodji has already made friends with diners and enjoys sharing how much his Italian wife and their three daughters are loving Houston after living in New York.
“I had this feeling that he was meant for Houston,” Chef Bludorn says. “He loves it. He exudes hospitality.”
We would agree.
A Bludorn Dinner
Our dinner began with a new dish that would be introduced to diners the following day: A creamy cucumber and avocado soup topped with a slice of pickled red Fresno chili.
As we were on a tasting mission, we shared plates from Bludorn’s menu. No surprise that we began with oysters as the bivalves are among our favorite dishes. We had them deliciously roasted in the shell with watercress and parmesan and perfectly fried with gribiche and capers.
I don’t claim to be a food critic so don’t expect any lyrical descriptions of our dinner. I will tell you what we chose from the menu and say right now, we loved every bite.
The oysters were followed by the must-have squash blossoms filled with a melt-in-your-mouth ricotta, basil and pepper jam combination. For the record, the amazing appetizer is one of Victoria Bludorn’s favorite items on the menu.
By the time our entrees arrived we were feeling quite sated and maybe thinking of a nap but none of us were going to miss the main course. We shared the Gulf Cioppino of red snapper, crab and shrimp in a tomato broth; short rib ravioli with fig, red onion and blue cheese; polenta with shrimp, panchetta, rosemary and tomato; and the incredible quail dish including quail forcemeat topped with huckleberry and wrapped in bacon.
We felt we could not leave without sampling at least one dessert so we ordered the dreamy baked Alaska with a pistachio layer and a berry center.