The Heights’ New Asian American Restaurant Brings Double Chef Power — Jun Is More Than Just a Top Chef Follow Up
A 1950s Washateria Is Transformed Into a Diverse Food WonderlandBY Laurann Claridge // 03.23.23
Chefs Evelyn Garcia and Henry Lu, owners of Jun in the Houston Heights, are creating some foodie buzz. (Photo by Claudia Casbarian with JIA Media)
GIn Braverman of Gin Design Group created the interiors of Jun in a former washeteria on 20th Street in The Heights. (Photo by Claudia Casbarian with JIA Media)
The Dining Room at Jun features a lush display of plants in the center of the seating area with an art installation created with wooden shipping pallets with strips of canvas woven between the frame. (Photo by Claudia Casbarian with JIA Media)
Taking center stage, the massive half-moon shaped bar features a warm white concrete top and illuminated asymmetrical arched shelving. (Photo by Claudia Casbarian with JIA Media)
Local fans of Bravo’s powerhouse competition cooking show Top Chef were excited when not only was Houston the featured city last season, but hometown chef Evelyn Garcia made Bayou City food lovers proud again and again. For Garcia made it far in a very competitive field of talented toques, reaching the finals.
Now Garcia is onto her next exciting venture, this one a restaurant collaboration with her friend and co-owner chef Henry Lu. The duo recently opened Jun (pronounced like the month) in The Heights. The new restaurant is named for the women in their lives born in that summer month, including Garcia. The new Asian American restaurant explores the story of both chefs’ upbringings in diverse households.
Both of Jun’s chefs are first generation Americans. Lu grew up the son of Chinese immigrants in the Bronx, while Garcia’s family hailed from Mexico and El Salvador before making Houston home.
The duo tapped Gin Braverman, principal/owner of Gin Design Group to transform a 3,400 square-foot space which once housed a circa 1950s washateria into Jun. Gin worked closely with Garcia to create an approachable but beautiful setting replete with curved design elements and organic forms to soften what was formerly a boxy space.
Enter through the double hand-carved wooden doors and you’ll find a half-moon-shaped bar backlit with arched shelving. Inspired by the places they’ve traveled (think Tulum and points throughout the Americas), the design directive was to create a space with vaguely Asian aesthetics with South American influences from hand-troweled plaster walls to lush plants, dark woods and handmade ceramics.
A Look at the Jun Menu
Open for dinner (with weekend brunch to come in the very near future) you’ll find a curated menu with small tastes that build to bigger plates, all meant to be shared. Cocktails include the lady Lillet ($15) made with the rouge Lillet French aperitif, vermouth and grapefruit as well as zero-proof options. That includes the tincture I tried — the “ginger she hot” ($12), made with agave blanco spirit, ginger, Thai basil and lime. Pair it with peanuts ($4) skins on and roasted with kefir lime leaf, garlic and chili flakes — and prepare for what’s to come.
I enjoyed the farmed Louisiana oysters ($12) topped with a diced fermented mango brunoise and seasoned with turmeric; the beef tartare ($13) held together with a toasted rice aioli and topped with bunuelo (fried dough) that looked like a savory fluted funnel cake; and the Gulf shrimp aqua chile ($10) cooked sous vide with avocado, bits of crunchy fried taro root finished with a floral flourish with thin slices of radish atop.
Don’t overlook Jun’s creative multi-cultural preparations of vegetables from a sweet potato ($10) roasted with walnuts, dill and chives and a smear of labneh to carrots roasted with a mélange of Asian spices and a hint of matcha piled atop a soft unpasteurized cheese that hails from the El Salvador farm Garcia’s family owns.
Jun is located at 420 E. 20th Street in The Heights. Jun is now open 5 pm to 10 pm Sundays through Thursdays, and 5 pm to 11 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.