Restaurants / Openings

Money Cat Brings Serious Restaurant Power to Houston’s Levy Park — New Japanese Spot is Young, Hip and Different

A 35-Year-old Chef Makes a Bold Move Inside the Loop

BY // 01.03.23
photography Kimberly Park

Sherman Yeung, chef and owner of the Katy restaurant Tobiuo Sushi and Bar, has just opened his second restaurant called Money Cat inside the loop at Kirby Grove (otherwise known as the home of Levy Park). An alum of Uchi, Yauatcha and Izakaya WA, Chef Yeung is cooking under the mantle of “new Japanese cuisine,” where regional American foods meld with global influences and mingle on a menu that stands on a solid foundation of Japanese and French cooking techniques.

Named for the friendly figurine created in Japan that beckons diners inside (its left paw raised — reputedly a sign of good fortune for a business), Money Cat is tucked inside a 4,200-square-foot minimalist space. Inside, the restaurant is clad with black marble, emerald tiles and walls paneled in shou sugi ban treated wood, where the surface is burned to bring out the wood’s natural grain and inherent patterns.

Inside chef and owner Sherman Yeung's new restaurant Money Cat, located at Kirby Grove off Richmond Avenue, wood rules. (Photo by Kimberly Park)
Inside chef and owner Sherman Yeung’s new restaurant Money Cat, located at Kirby Grove off Richmond Avenue, wood rules. (Photo by Kimberly Park)

Yeung serves as executive chef, guiding Money Cat’s menu’s development and working to oversee the nightly dinner service in conjunction with a quartet of Tobiuo alums. That means chef de cuisine Jiolo “Jio” Dingayan, head sushi chef Steve Nguyen, general manager Le Chau and assistant general manager Ashley Castro.

The 35-year-old chef emphasizes the importance of hospitality, the foundation of which, Yeung says, is education. So the Money Cat team works to educate customers about the history, inspiration and preparation of menu offerings, encouraging diners and employees alike to be bold and explore their food passions.

“We didn’t want to offer straight, traditional Japanese food,” Yeung says. “First, that’s not who we are. We’re part of a new age of restaurants. We’re young and want to do something new that pays tribute to and builds upon tradition.

“We want to create a dialogue with guests, build relationships, educate them about preparations and share our passion.”

The Money Cat Menu

Yeung’s menu is broken into seven savory sections: vegetables, tempura, robata, hot tastings, cold tastings, makimono and nigiri/sashimi. Some of the selections I tried include the cool tomato garden ($10), built on a rich but delectable black garlic and cheese foam topped with crunchy squid ink “soil” with tiny heirloom tomatoes bobbing up from beneath. The sake char ($16), a bright red beet-cured salmon with blood orange and salmon skin “chicharron,” is another memorable entry.

The kitchen’s chuturo toast ($25) is Money Cat’s cheeky take on bagel and lox, created upon a base of tender toasted squid ink milk bread topped with burnt honey cream cheese and cured chutoro (tuna) drizzled with a shallot lemon grass oil. Don’t miss the katsu sando ($16), which we understand the kitchen tested intensively). The sandwich is composed of crisp, breaded chicken cooked on the bone (for maximum flavor) before it’s deboned and layered upon toasted milk bread slices with Japanese tartar sauce and a tamari caramel.

Don’t miss Money Cat's katsu sando ($16), which we understand the kitchen tested intensively). (Photo by Kimberly Park)
Don’t miss Money Cat’s katsu sando ($16), which we understand the kitchen tested intensively). (Photo by Kimberly Park)

Care for a cocktail? It seems Money Cat’s crafted cocktails are poised to change with the seasons and utilize Japanese tea and produce, including matcha, citrus juices, lychee fruit, ginger and house-made syrups and infusions.

“Our approach is to think like a chef, creating from seasonality and based on the quality of the product available,” Chau says. “This approach allows the ingredients to speak for themselves. It’s balance through simplicity.”

Look for original elixirs like Calpico Fizz, a play on the French 75 that adds a tangy, milky Japanese soft drink and swaps Champagne for sparkling sake, and the Orenji Sunset, fresh-pressed satsuma, kabosu and carrot juices paired with gin and celery bitters. In addition to cocktails, Money Cat serves Japanese craft beers, sakes, plum wine and spirits. You’ll find Albariños and Vinho Verdes on the wine list, which aren’t typical at Japanese restaurants, but pair well with the Money Cat food.

Money Cat is open daily for dinner, Sundays through Thursdays from 4 pm to 10 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 4 pm to 11 pm. A daily happy hour runs from 4 to 6 pm. Valet parking is available; self-parking is also available in the paid garage and on the streets around Levy Park. You can get reservations thru Resy.com.

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