Restaurants / Openings

PaperCity Exclusive — MAD Food Gurus Reveal the Secrets of Houston’s Most-Anticipated New Restaurant

This New River Oaks Hotspot is Going to be Anything But a BCN Copy

BY // 06.10.19

It’s no secret that one of the dazzling standouts of the Houston restaurant scene is opening a much-anticipated follow-up restaurant. The second restaurant from the group behind the acclaimed BCN is finally almost ready to debut.

The new MAD is set to open June 19th in its swanky River Oaks District spot, ushering in a new era of Spanish cuisine in a city celebrated for its diversity.

But business partners Ignacio Torras and chef Luis Rogers are hardly resting on their much-deserved laurels with this new restaurant, which promises an experience both timeless and contemporary, boasting classic dishes alongside contemporary ones. In fact, they’re determined not to lean on BCN’s reputation.

“We are not coming in as a superstar. We don’t want to take advantage of BCN branding. We are starting a restaurant from scratch,” Roger tells PaperCity.

MAD is its own unique restaurant.

Simply step into the dynamic space — a sea of oranges and blues, inspired by day and night, with a central bar topped off with rotating mirrors with two kitchens, a 122-seat dining room and a 16-seat patio — and order tapas, and you’ll see what all the buzz is about.

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“It’s the first time we’ll have this bread in Texas ever. We have to fly bread. It’s insane, but we’re doing it,” Roger laughs.

MAD, a celebration of all things Madrid, attracted instant attention thanks to its beloved sister restaurant. But this is a restaurant that’s been in the works for years.

“We didn’t come up with this one day after dinner, ‘Let’s open another restaurant.’ ” Roger says. “It’s been two years. MAD is the BCN evolution — we want to keep expressing Spain gastronomically. In another form — in a different form.”

While BCN has made quite the impression, Roger wants to take it further, showing off more dimensions of his home country.

“As a Spaniard, we have been very terrible ambassadors. We’re really excited to share more versions with everybody. We feel that responsibility,” Roger tells PaperCity.

And it’s not just showcasing Spain’s finest. It’s about enhancing it.

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MAD’s thought-provoking menu, rooted in creativity, is a buffet of eclectic tapas, whole fish and rotating paellas, originally known as arroz a la leña, made of rice imported from Spain and cooked over a wood-burning fire. Experimentation and exploration are the name of the game, encouraged by the array of light bites.

About 50 percent of the tapas and paellas on MAD’s menu will be traded out monthly.

“We’re going to be a very dynamic concept in terms of gastronomy so people will find different things every month,” Roger notes.

Innovative authenticity will dictate the menu, thanks in large part to the bevy of imported Spanish ingredients. Quality is key for Roger, who spent his last 10 years in Spain in the countryside.

“I was living the country life, growing my own tomatoes, raising my own chickens, every kind of vegetable you can imagine. I walked two steps and I had a real egg. Farmhouse to table,” Roger laughs.

That commitment to quality Spanish ingredients will color MAD’s offerings.

“I speak to Spanish distributors and producers. I speak straight to the factory when they produce jamon, a lot of the items. And they send it to me. One of the goals was, ‘Are we going to be able to bring all of those Spanish ingredients to Texas? And after that, are we going to be able to sell it?’ ”

Even Spanish bread — pain de cristal — is making its Texas debut. “It’s the first time we’ll have this bread in Texas ever. We have to fly bread. It’s insane, but we’re doing it,” Roger laughs.

His devotion to Spanish products-through-and-through means many overnight Fed-Ex shipments. He wants it to be worth it, and he knows it’s something special.

“It’s a unique offering, the kind of experience through original Spanish items and products,” Roger says.

Through it all, the menu will emphasize approachability.

“MAD is for any kind of palate, not just people who like Spanish food or like modern food or like tapas. Our proposal fits any kind of palate in Houston, or the whole U.S.,” Roger says.

“We are opening a restaurant for everybody. And we are grateful to have that opportunity.”

Expect the unexpected. The chef designed the inventive tapas to please the eyes as well as the stomach — imagine a Foie Gras Cornetto tapas shaped like an eye-catching ice cream cone, comprised of foie gras terrine, duck consommé glaze and bright sprinkles.

The Foie Gras Cornetto tapas at MAD is shaped like an ice cream cone. (Photo by Julie Soefer)

The drinks should not disappoint. Cocktail consultant Jerry Argūelles, a gin & tonic master, has been brought in to lend his expertise.

A late-night bar and lounge concept will take over MAD Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 pm to 1 am, with an exclusive late-night menu.

“The only mission — our only mission — is to keep enhancing the great variety Houston has in terms of restaurants. That’s the only mission. We’re Spaniards, we know how to cook Spanish food in the heart of this great history of restaurants in the city,” Roger says.

“We are fully committed and very grateful to have this opportunity. But nobody knows if we’ll be successful or not. Who knows?”

Eager foodies will find out soon with MAD almost guaranteed to be a hot reservation as soon as it opens. The wait’s almost over — and the real buzz begins.

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