Ambitious New Japanese Tasting Restaurant Puts Former Uchi Cook and CityCentre in the Spotlight
Everything You Need to Know About ReikiNa, Houston's Foodie Obsession to BeBY Gabriela Izquierdo // 04.11.21
Enjoy a course of Crab Agemono, Orange Miso Brown Butter Emulsion, with Pickled Endive and Habanero at ReikiNa. (Photo by Kat Ambrose)
Thomas Stacy and Andrew Herron enjoy a bowl of pasta and Stacy's curated vinyl collection (photo by Yan).
ReikiNa's menu includes a desert of Matcha Pastry Creme Tart with Whiskey Ice Cream and Peach Jam. (Photo by Kat Ambrose)
ReikiNa's inventive dishes include chutoro and fermented plums (Photo by Kat Ambrose).
As the pandemic raged on in the outside world last year, diners were treated to an intimate dining experience in Chef Thomas Stacy’s home. The lucky few literally stepped into the chef’s personal home and got to know what inspired Stacy during the length of a 10-course meal. The small group sat around Stacy’s childhood dining room table and took in the art he had made on the walls while listening to his collection of vinyl records.
The evening was capped off by a piano serenade from Stacy as everyone enjoyed dessert.
One of Houston’s most ambitious new restaurants, ReikiNa, was inspired by that night.
“One day I was just like you know what? Let me just make dinner,” Stacy tells PaperCity. “(A friend) wanted a restaurant experience but couldn’t go to a restaurant because he didn’t want to be in public. So he brought a couple of friends over and I made a 10-course meal.”
That fateful dinner grew thanks to the power of our modern world’s word of mouth — aka Instagram — and on New Year’s Eve at the end of the dinner, one of the diners mentioned that his family is involved in the ownership of CITYCENTRE. Now Stacy, a former prep and line cook at Uchi, and Andrew Herron, who will be director of operations, are opening ReikiNa in CITYCENTRE. Stacy’s new spot will be an intimate, reservations-only restaurant with a 20-person communal table and rotating eight course menus.
The idea is to replicate the personal experience from that dinner in Stacy’s home at ReikiNa. Stacy is even bringing his personal vinyl collection to the CITYCENTRE space. There will be a 105-foot gallery wall, which will be filled with the work of local artists, some of whom are Stacy’s friends. All the proceeds from the sale of any of the art will go directly to the artist.
Stacy has been building the furniture for the restaurant himself. He built a table from barnyard wood and is building the bar-top tables from reclaimed wood.
“I’m trying to have as many stories behind the decor and the experience,” Stacy says. “And then obviously we’ll tell the story of how the concept came to be and then the methodology behind what we’re trying to do. And the emotions that were trying to bring out in people.”
Designer Cat Matthews is helping to create a retro space full of bespoke pieces. This includes furniture and plates from Texas’ antiques mecca of Round Top.
ReikiNa’s Menu Power
The eight course menus at ReikiNa will change up often. Stacy plans to have a new menu every six to eight weeks.
The menus will be heavily inspired heavily by Stacy’s love for Asian food. This love affair began when Stacy lived in Seattle just up the hill from the city’s International District. The appreciation blossomed when Stacy moved back to Houston a few years later and started working as a chef at Uchi where he learned how to execute the dishes he adores.
“That’s where the big Japanese-Asian fusion inspiration comes from,” Stacy says. “I really love and respect the traditional French gastronomical traditions and think that that’s like the quickest and time tested way to elevate something. So I kind of bring a rustic presentation to it.”
At ReikiNa, Stacy and his team plan to adhere to three guiding principles — kanso, shizen and datsuzoku. Translated, they roughly mean simplicity, naturalness and freedom from habit. Stacy aims to not add anything unnecessary and instead highlight the naturalness of the food.
“Freedom from habit just comes with everything else that I’m doing,” he says. “I don’t think there’s anything else like this in Houston. I wanted to do something that I hadn’t found in Houston, but I had maybe seen some elements of elsewhere.”
There is also serious intentionality behind the name ReikiNa, which is a combination of two words.
Sakana is a concept Stacy is familiar with from his time at Uchi. There was even a dish called Sakana Mushi at Uchi. Sakana is a side dish that is typically paired with sake, usually without rice. Reiki was chosen because Stacy is drawn to the meditation discipline. In Reiki, the practitioner channels negative energy out and radiates positivity back in.
“ReikiNa means a side dish to pair with divine energy,” Stacy explains.
ReikiNa is starting out as a series of three pop-up dinners. The dinners will serve as a preview and benefit Chris Shepherd’s Southern Smoke Foundation. The first dinner was on Thursday, with another planned for this Thursday, April 15, and next Thursday, April 23, at Sanman Studios at 1109 Providence Street. Tickets are available on Resy and run $150 per person.
“We are we wanted to give back to the community that has helped us get to where we are and that’s the restaurant industry,” Stacy says.
ReikiNa will be open in full at its CITYCENTRE space sometime around June. You can get a preview of the menu on the restaurant’s Instagram page.