Restaurants / Openings

New Heights Restaurant Aims to be the G.O.A.T. — Chivos Puts Modern Mexican-American Food in the Spotlight

This is Anything But Just Another Tex-Mex Spot

BY // 10.27.21
photography Dylan McEwan

Two heads are often better than one. Aiming to prove that point are old friends and new collaborators Greg Perez of Night Moves Hospitality and Chris Manriques, former owner of the Heights Mexican restaurant called Calle Onze. Perez and Manriques are now partnering to open a new Houston restaurant dubbed Chivos in Calle Onze’s former space this Thursday, October 28.

Fans of Calle Onze might recall seeing Perez behind the bar where he once worked as their beverage director.

Chivos  — Spanish for the phrase The Goat — is a riff on the acronym G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time).

“The name Chivos personifies our concept and group’s ethos,” Perez tells PaperCity. “We deeply admire anyone who aspires to be the greatest in their profession, so we strive to pursue the same greatness for our guests.”

Located in The Heights, the restaurant space has been tweaked outside and in since its last incarnation. Its interior walls have been painted charcoal gray and its banquettes and dining chairs upholstered in a happy pop of lime green velveteen. Faux plants and greenery dangle overhead along with globe lights that cast a moody glow.

Chivos_Interior (1) (Photo by Dylan McEwan)
Chivos has almost completely redone the old restaurant space it took over. (Photo by Dylan McEwan)

Executive chef Thomas Bille, whose last position took him to the Belly of the Beast in Spring, brings two decades of fine dining experience in his native Los Angeles. Bille arrived in Houston in 2018 and for a brief time served as chef de cuisine at Hugo Ortega’s restaurant Xochi.

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At Chivos, Bille insists his unique menu is neither traditional Mexican, nor what we’ve come to know as Tex-Mex. Instead it’s a more modern iteration of the Mexican-American culinary experience. For instance, drop in at dinner, and you’ll find salsa macha-spiced pozole dumplings ($14) on the menu along with roasted duck ($42) served with a fig mole and pickled fennel.

A bread course of warm handmade flour tortillas is served with truffle butter and salmon roe ($13), while hamachi tiradito, a raw fish Peruvian dish (akin to sashimi, carpaccio, or crudo) is served with layers of thinly sliced yellowfin alternating with sliced avocado and beads of caviar ($22). Don’t miss the pollo al carbon ($26/$48) a perfectly grilled whole chicken cut apart and napped with a soy glaze accompanied by blistered shishito peppers and cherry tomatoes. The dish comes replete with warm, handmade blue corn tortillas and a tomatillo/avocado puree designed to respectively cradle, coat and wrap the tender chicken pieces.

Handmade Flour Tortillas with truffle butter and salmon roe (Photo by Dylan McEwan)
Handmade Flour Tortillas with truffle butter and salmon roe make for a greater starter at Chivos. (Photo by Dylan McEwan)

Sides include baby potatoes roasted and served with a creme fraiche enlivened with sumac and aleppo pepper ($9) and Bille’s version of crispy Brussel sprouts ($12) finished with the Tijuana-born caesar dressing with bits of bacon, shreds of parmesan and pickled onions atop.

Celi Perez, the former executive chef at Calle Onze, is making the leap to the front of the house at Chivos and shaking up fun, cheeky cocktails with Mexican-made spirits. Chivos’ drinks list, created with masterful mixologist Leesly Valdez, plays with the flavors of the foods and candies they grew up eating.

For example, West Tejas ($14) is an alluring tincture made with corn-infused tequila and hominy syrup with a worm salt edge, while the D.F. is a play on the classic Manhattan but made with Mexican whiskey and tamarind bitters. Why not make your dessert a liquid one? (Although I must say the passion fruit meringue topped tres leches and blood orange topped panna cotta, each $12 are delightful. ) The sweet Rutas Ganseras is the Chivos team’s fun take on the Mexican dessert cake Gansitos where Valdez infuses sugarcane spirits with vanilla and strawberry jam, finishing it with a spot of cream and a grating of nutmeg.

Chivos, located at 222 W. 11th Street in the Heights, will be open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 5 to 10 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 11 pm. Reservations can be secured via Resy.

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