Restaurants / Openings

Houston’s Newest Fine Dining Restaurant Is a Rosy, Cherry Blossom Wonder — Inside Muse

Everything From Caviar Service to a Top Pastries Program

BY // 04.11.23
photography Adrian Barboza and Dylan McEwan

For years, I’ve driven past the former locale of Emmaline on West Dallas on my way to the gym and wondered why this great location and even better renovated restaurant space was still sitting empty. The building has great bones and you can’t beat the location, right? Wonder no more. Bar owners turned restauranteurs Brandon Duliakas and Dan Wierck of Sundown Entertainment Group are making their first foray into the world of dining (on the finer side) at a new Houston restaurant called Muse.

With the help of seasoned pros — and Muse’s newly minted partners — executive chef E.J. Miller (Mina Group, Riel, SaltAir) and general manager Patty Burbach (Mastro’s, MAD), they’ve gathered a talented team in the front and back of the house and completely reimagined the interiors.

Black velvet curtains cordon off the Muse entrance from the nearly 4,200-square-foot space appointed with dark wood paneling and faux cherry trees in full bloom, their limbs up-lit with a rosy glow. The elevated banquettes upholstered with a swirly malachite pattern — arguably the best seats in the house — envelop warm walnut-wood tables and grant diners lucky enough to score one a bird’s-eye view of the 18-seat horseshoe-shaped bar that centers a room hung with provocative black-and-white photos.

Inside the new Muse restaurant, you'll find pink uplit cherry blossom trees. (Photo by Adrian Barboza)
Inside the new Muse restaurant, you’ll find pink uplit cherry blossom trees. (Photo by Adrian Barboza)

The service is on point at Muse too, thanks to collaborative chef Miller and his team, who have created a thoughtful menu of tempting food that touches upon Asian flavors, cooking techniques and ingredients while paying homage to their own culinary muse. That would be the diverse cultures and tastes of Houston.

Miller can boast that the Muse kitchen is “completely scratch,” from the homemade Parker House rolls served warm with a schmear of house-churned cream-cultured butter seasoned like an everything bagel and topped with smoked salmon roe ($12) to the fluffy steamed bao buns and pickled vegetables nestled in the chicken karaage dish ($16). Alluring sharable plates include a light-as-air salt-and-pepper cauliflower served atop miso cashew cream with pickled jalapenos ($14), and crispy shrimp glazed with hot honey with black walnuts ($18).

They all pair well with seasonal cocktails such as The Marilyn, a vodka-based tincture with passion fruit and lychee ($16) and the Open Sesame with rye whiskey, sesame, pineapple spice, maple and lemon ($17).

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Dung Nguyen, E.J. Miller, Patty Burbach (Photo by Adrian Barboza and Dylan McEwan)
The back and front of the house staff at the new Muse restaurant on West Dallas is impressive. From left: chefs Dung Nguyen, E.J. Miller and g.m. Patty Burbach. (Photo by Adrian Barboza and Dylan McEwan)

These days, it has become quite fashionable to offer caviar service, and Muse is on trend, offering a changing array of caviar varieties at market price. Best yet, regardless of which variety you select, each is accompanied by warm, perfectly prepared brown-butter potato madeleines and a generous dollop of crème fraiche covered in chopped fresh chives.

Cold and raw selections include raw oysters ($14) and sushi-style options such as the Muse roll with spicy crab and yellowtail with teriyaki-like kabayaki sauce ($21) and the Gulf Coast roll with shrimp, blue crab, tuna, avocado and jalapeno ($19). The yellowtail aguachile mixes Japanese amberjack with cucumber. And fermented pineapple spiced with serrano is ladled at the table onto crisp seasoned rice chips, producing an audible snap, crackle and pop ($18).

Entrees include a lobster-filled pasta with sweet chili sauce ($29), glazed black cod ($34), a wood-grilled bone-in filet with garlic herb butter and coal-roasted potatoes ($65), a boneless grilled half chicken ($32) and duck breast napped with caramelized duck sauce ($38).

You can spot a serious budding restaurateur by his or her pastry program. At Muse, pastry chef Maggie Lin creates exotic sweets with touches that feel familiar and comforting. Her generously sized desserts include a yuzu tart with elevated lemon meringue vibes — a sophisticated assemblage of sesame shortbread dressed with yuzu curd, toasted Italian meringue and oolong tea caviar ($16), Her rich mocha torte looks like a mini layer cake with a base of red-bean brownie beneath a café sua da (Vietnamese coffee) mousse, covered in a slick, shiny chocolate ganache and served with poached mandarin and vanilla ice cream ($15).

Muse is open for dinner only, Tuesdays through Sundays, with brunch to come. You’ll find this new Houston restaurant at that prime no-longer-unused perch at 3210 W. Dallas.

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