A First Look at Osso & Kristalla and Potente

A First Look at Osso & Kristalla and Potente

A First Look at Osso & Kristalla – TasteandSeeLife.com

This post is sponsored by Potente and Osso & Kristalla. All opinions are mine alone.
#OssoandKristalla #FirstLookPotente


A First Look Tasting:
Osso & Kristalla and Potente

Osso & Kristalla and Potente, the new kids in town, bring Northern Italian cuisine to the heart of Houston. Astros owner, Jim Crane, recently opened his new Italian eateries across from Minute Maid Park. Leading the culinary side is executive chef Michael Parker and chef du cuisine Michael Rideout. So when the Houston Food Blogger Collective was invited to experience a first look tasting of these upscale eateries, I knew we were in for a treat!

When you enter Potente, the foyer is stunning. Marble tiled floors and rich, warm gold tones with modern accents welcome you to experience an evening of fine dining. We toured Potente and glanced at the menu. They actually light up when you open them. What a great feature to have so you can see what to order!



Then we crossed over to the Osso & Kristalla side for our first look samplings. We heard that Osso & Kristalla was still updating their menu and preparing for their grand opening. We were thrilled to be first in line to see the gorgeous space and taste some delicious Northern Italian cuisine in Osso & Kristalla’s new casual dining area.

Our tastings started off with frozen negronis. They reminded me of a frozen strawberry margarita. Since we were visiting on National Margarita Day, the frozen negroni seemed appropriate for the event!

There were close to forty food bloggers at our tasting which made it a bit challenging to capture the essence, the ambiance, and the food. Yet, I managed to get a few good pics to get your taste buds salivating!

















A couple of things really stood out to me. The service at Potente and Osso & Kristalla is outstanding. I spoke to several of the staff and everyone was polite and attentive. These upscale gems are off to a good start with their incredible service.

Second, the pizza was impressive. Osso & Kristalla use fresh, local ingredients with Houston Dairymaids being one of their cheese sources. But what really wowed me was Osso & Kristalla’s pizza crust. Osso & Kristalla’s chefs use a hundred-year-old starter to make the pizza dough. Then the pizza is hand-tossed and fire baked to perfection. You will love the cheese pulls on these pizzas!

The Margherita pizza and the rigatoni & Fontina stuffed meatball topped with marinara were my favorite bites of the night. The marinara has a wonderful sweetness to it with oregano and basil flavors.

Osso & Kristalla is perfect for casual dining with friends for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Reservations are not required for Osso & Kristalla so you can pop in after work or before a game.  Potente, on the other hand, is fine dining and requires reservations. Potente is the place to go for elegant, formal dining for anniversaries, birthdays or whenever you want to treat yourself. Honestly, you don’t need a reason to spoil yourself. Just gather your friends or significant other and check out Osso & Kristalla and Potente for your own first-hand look.

Thank you, Potente and Osso & Kristalla, for inviting the Houston Food Blogger Collective for a first look view of your two new restaurants and delicious tastings! Northern Italian cuisine in the heart of Houston is exactly what Houston needed to unwind after work or to catch a bite before a game. I wish you all the best in success and I hope to see you soon for happy hour.

Go taste and see for yourself and let me know what you think!

2 Girls Who Travel Get a First Look at Houston Astros Owner Jim Crane’s New Restaurants

2 Girls Who Travel Get a First Look at Houston Astros Owner Jim Crane’s New Restaurants

2 Girls Who Travel Get a First Look at Houston Astros Owner Jim Crane’s New Restaurants

Houston patrons can experience some fine Italian cuisine at new downtown restaurant Potente, located on the ground floor of a luxury apartment building just steps from Minute Maid Park.

Potente boasts a menu of high quality seafood, steaks and pasta; an exhausting wine list and décor that would make anyone stand in awe. Their menus even light up … how fancy is that?

Potente Bar - courtesy photo

Potente Bar – courtesy photo

Potente wine room - courtesy photo

Potente wine room – courtesy photo

Astros owner Jim Crane owns Potente as well as his other, more casual Italian restaurant Osso & Kristalla, which is located next door to Potente. The restaurants are named after his three children.

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

The Houston Food Blogger Collective was invited to tour both restaurants Feb. 22 and sample some delicious food offerings at Osso & Kristalla prior to the restaurant’s official opening. And before we get to the yummy food pics, you must be informed that executive chef Michael Parker (personal chef to Crane), Chef du cuisine Micah Rideout and executive pastry chef David Berg are behind the magic. Now … enjoy!

We love our wine!

We love our wine!

Mini wedge salads

Mini wedge salads

Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

Get in our belly!!

Get in our belly!!

Arancini with marinara sauce (also known as risotto balls)

Arancini with marinara sauce (also known as risotto balls)

Purple kale, anyone?

Purple kale, anyone?

Can't go wrong with shrimp

Can’t go wrong with shrimp

Beef carpaccio

Beef carpaccio

We're getting a first-hand demonstration of how to make the cocktail Dante's Inferno

We’re getting a first-hand demonstration of how to make the cocktail Dante’s Inferno

We love a good truffle and cake ball

We love a good truffle and cake ball

Both restaurants are now open to the public, so be sure to stop in and get full. Potente opens at 5pm every day for dinner and Osso & Kristalla serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tell them 2 Girls Who Travel sent you!

A Look at Osso & Kristalla and Potente

A Look at Osso & Kristalla and Potente

A Look At Osso & Kristalla – TheDrunkenDiva.com



Photo courtesy of Ossa & Kristalla
Last week members of the Houston Food Blogger Collective were invited to take a sneak peek at Astros owner Jim Crane’s newest Italian eatery, Ossa & Kristalla. The casual sister restaurant toPotente opened to the public this past weekend. Both restaurants are overseen by executive chef Michael Parker and feature modern Italian fare.


Photo courtesy of Ossa & Kristalla


Photo courtesy of Ossa & Kristalla
Ossa & Kristalla is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu focuses on fresh, local ingredients and large portions that encourage sharing. Bread, pastas and pastries are all made in-house. Lunch includes salads, sandwiches, pasta and wood-fired pizzas.


Photo courtesy of Ossa & Kristalla


Photo courtesy of Ossa & Kristalla
The rustic dining room at Osso & Kristalla features an open kitchen which allows diners to be part of the action. The restaurant has an extensive, yet reasonably priced wine list as well cocktails. The Quattro Formaggi pizza, Rigatoni and Meatball pasta and Arancini were my favorite dishes of the night. 


Photo courtesy of Potente


Photo courtesy of Potente
Our final treat for the evening was a quick look at the upscale Potente. A laid back bar is connected to the elegant dining space. The bar features several signature cocktails and a variety of Campari and Gin based drinks. Open for dinner only, the menu at Potente includes daily seafood selections, pastas and steaks.
Houston Astros Owner Jim Crane Opens Potente and Osso & Kristalla Downtown

Houston Astros Owner Jim Crane Opens Potente and Osso & Kristalla Downtown


Potente and Osso & Kristalla are the newest additions to the downtown dining scene. They come to us from Astros team owner Jim Crane who looks to help guests create memorable moments with family through dining. The restaurants, named after Crane’s children, are located at the ground floor of the new luxury apartments a short walk from Minute Maid park.

Chicken Skewers

The Houston Food Blogger Collective was invited to have an inside peak into these two beautiful restaurants. Our dining experience took place at Osso & Kristalla, which is more on the casual trattoria side. The trattoria features an open kitchen, allowing guests to get a peak of the kitchen action. As you walk through both locations, you’ll most likely notice their ceramic tile and patterned walls. From their cubic, to brown, grey and black tiles to the patterned walls in both restaurants. Either way, as you move from casual Osso & Kristilla to sophisticated Potente, you’ll feel the mood and ambiance change.

Margherita Pizza: Roma Tomato sauce, Buffalo Mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, oregano and basil. THE BEST MARGHERITA I HAVE EVER HAD! The dough is perfection and it has just the right amount of cheese and sauce.

Executive Chef Michael Parker and Chef de cuisine Micah Rideout, treated us to a night we won’t forget. Serving dishes from their Olive and anchovy croissants(on the same addiction level as Chips & Salsa), to their iceberg lettuce topped with bacon, to Chicken skewers, steak with purple kale and house-made pizzas. And let’s not forget the bar staff, who treated us to deliciously smooth frozen negroni, perfect for these hot winter days and their ” Dante’s Inferno” cocktail demonstration.

Dante’s Inferno: Great combination of spicy and sweet, not for the faint-hearted.

Osso& Kristalla is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; Potente opens everyday after 5pm. My dining style leans more to the Osso & Kristilla trattoria, so I cannot wait to come back for stuffed croissants, pizza, dessert and a some nice cocktails.

Astros Owner Jim Crane Opens Two New Restaurants in Downtown Houston



HOUSTON — Guests were invited on Sunday to sample light bites and enjoy cocktails at the soft opening of two fantastic new restaurants, owned by Houston Astros owner Jim Crane.  Osso & Kristalla is a casual trattoria located next door to Potente, an upscale dining establishment in downtown Houston. The names of the restaurants are references to the Crane’s three children, translated in Italian.

Osso & Kristalla features an open kitchen which brings diners closer to the action to engage them with the food and the environment. The soft, rustic space boasts a neutral, Italian aesthetic with a playful and casual feel that transfers to an outdoor patio – the perfect place for diners to soak in lively downtown Houston.

The restaurant will open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner and serve brunch on Saturday and Sunday. All bread, pasta and pastries will be homemade and served alongside Houston’s own Katz Coffee. Lunch offers sandwiches, salads and wood-fired pizzas, perfect for the downtown business person. At dinner the space transforms into a modern, yet relaxed lounge atmosphere with casual Italian fare, a full bar and all wine served by the glass.

The culinary team will be led by Executive Chef Michael Parker, Chef de Cuisine Micah Rideout and Executive Pastry Chef David Berg, the same team that oversees Potente.

Executive Chef Michael Parker has close to three decades of culinary experience and also oversees dining operations at Crane’s exclusive club in Florida, Floridian National Golf Club. Born in England, Parker worked with the famous Roux Brothers at The Waterside Inn a three-star Michelin restaurant outside of London. He received his culinary degree at Bournemouth and Poole College in Dorset, England in 1987. In addition to Parker’s appointment at The Waterside Inn, his career has included time at The Club at Carlton Woods, The Lodge at Sea Island, Century Plaza Hotel and Tower, Caesars Palace and Gallagher’s Steak House in Las Vegas. He has also cooked for former Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Obama, as well as the Queen of England, Prince Phillip and the Queen Mother. Chef Parker’s culinary vision will bring a new level of luxury to the Houston restaurant scene.

[Click first photo to activate slideshow..Beware the food is AH-MAZING!!!]

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osso kristalla (1)
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Chef de Cuisine Micah Rideout comes to the restaurants with over a decade of high-end experience and a passion for taking diners on a unique culinary journey. He most recently served as Chef de Cuisine at Reef Restaurant and KUU Modern Japanese Restaurant. Rideout previously served as Executive Chef at Tarakaan Asian Restaurant, Executive Sous Chef at the JW Marriott Houston Downtown and also as Sous Chef at The Inn at Dos Brisas –a Relais & Chateaux property.

Executive Pastry Chef David Berg has over 35 years of culinary experience in Los Angeles and Houston as a chef, pastry chef and artisan bread expert. Berg most recently served as Executive Pastry Chef at Tony’s Restaurant and Phoenicia Specialty Foods. Previously Berg served as Chef de Cuisine at Kiran’s Restaurant and was Director of Operations and Partner at Mi Luna Tapas Restaurant and Bar. He also owned and operated two successful bakeries in California, Café Opera & Bakery and Naturally David’s Bakery & Catering.

Bill Floyd oversees the operations for both restaurants. Floyd, a Jean Georges Vongerichten alumnus, brings decades of high-end hospitality experience to the new restaurants. He is also owner of Jackson Street BBQ and co-owner of Reef, Third Bar, Little Bigs and El Real Tex Mex.

Fore more information, visit the website at www.ossoandkristalla.com.

Potente, the upscale sister restaurant, is located next door to Osso & Kristalla. Its interior is evocative of a luxurious Italian villa with a modern twist, featuring a spacious bar, magnificent main dining space, private room and a special chef’s table in the wine room. Potente is open nightly at 5 p.m. and accepts reservations  For more information, visit the website at www.potentehouston.com.

First Look at the Food and Wine of Osso & Kristalla and Potente

First Look at the Food and Wine of Osso & Kristalla and Potente


Potente and Osso & Kristalla are the newest, and much anticipated, Italian restaurants to grace Downtown Houston.

Conceived and brought to life by Astros owner Jim Crane, the restaurants sit side by side and are located across from Minute Maid Park, home of baseball’s Houston Astros.

Potente is an upscale, luxurious, Italian-villa inspired dinner destination.

Sister restaurant Osso & Kristalla is a bright, cheerful, casual trattoria that is open all day.

Where Potente wows with its swanky, over the top sophistication, Osso & Kristalla invites you in to relax in its easy going, rustic, yet modern interior.

I was invited with the Houston Food Blogger Collective to a ‘First Look’ event to get a glimpse of all of the glamour and Italian deliciousness. While the restaurants are a study in contrasts – Potente which oozes romance and elegance and Osso & Kristalla which beckons to chill with a group of friends – the similarities that bind them are high quality, local ingredients and a commitment to making the customer feel at home with great service.

The Food

The menu at Potente sets the stage for a truly fine-dining experience and features a compact selection of seafood and homemade pastas, as well as beef, duck, and lamb. The more casual menu at Osso & Kristalla offers up delicious pizzas, pastas, salads, and Italian Secondi with a modern twist. And because the restaurants are so new, diners can expect to menus to evolve given customers reactions and input.

Some tasty highlights of the evening included:

Arancinis with marinara were drool worthy and a perfect start to the evening.

As was this beef carpaccio on a bread stick.

The Salads – they were truly a thing a beauty and so artfully presented. While the kale salad with apple, pancetta, pine nuts, ricotta and preserved lemon dressing as well as the Caesar salads were fantastic in their own right, this steak salad definitely stole the show.

The pizzas with fresh ingredients and toppings were top notch, but the perfectly executed crusts – crispy on the outside with a light and fluffy softness on the inside – were the perfect base for the authentic Italian style pizzas. This pizza is the real deal.

Entrees of note included:

Italian BBQ Shrimp with Giant Couscous, Sundried Tomato, and Almond.

This amazing Rigatoni & Meatball stuffed with Fontina. Seriously delicious meatball.

And this juicy Roasted Chicken.

The evening ended on a fittingly sweet note. While pastry chef David Berg indicated that the dessert menu was still being tweaked, these Tiramisu bites were absolutely divine! If they make it on to the menu, get the chocolate. Really.

The Wine

Because this is a wine blog. And while foodies will for sure swoon over the menu, wine enthusiasts are sure to love the wine selection for what it has and does not have. Both restaurants feature a large selection of Italian wines (about 65% is made up of Italian wines), as well as a selection of French, Spanish, and California wines amongst others. But what is missing are the oft seen, and much maligned, high restaurant markups. Osso & Kristalla and Potente will sell wine at blessedly low markups (think Clark Cooper’s Ibiza, Brasserie 19, and SaltAir; Underbelly; or Reef). The goal? To have the customer not be afraid to truly explore the wine list. And – to make them want to come back and try more.

Even though the restaurants will share the same focus on Italian wines and favorable pricing, the menus themselves will be quite different. Osso & Kristalla will feature around 50 wines, all by the glass, with the goal that most wines sell for under $50. Want a $50 Barolo? You’ll be able to get one at Osso. Additionally, Osso will feature wines that are more recognizable to the average consumer and that will sell themselves.

Potente on the other hand will have wines that generally start at the $50 price range and go up from there. The restaurant will also utilize the Coravin system to showcase some truly special wines. The wine collection at Potente is still being assembled, but the goal is to offer around 300 wines. And if you want to dine surrounded by the nectar of the Gods, reserve the restaurant’s Wine Room, which is the actual cellar and seats eight.


So whether you choose to dine at Osso or Potente, wine lovers can expect great things from this fantastic addition to the Houston wine scene. And no worries if you’re dining at Osso on this fabulous patio and want a bottle of some high-end juice on the Potente list as they will bring one right over for you.

Rejoice Houston wine lovers!

February’s Culinary Picks

February’s Culinary Picks

February’s Culinary Picks – Osso & Kristalla and Potente – Yo Mariana – A Houston Lifestyle Bilingual Blog

Jim Crane, the owner of the Houston Astros delights us with the opening of two new restaurants in Downtown, Osso & Kristalla and Potente. Both are located just a block away from Minute Maid Park and you must go try them both.

The innovative architecture and decoration of both restaurants enhance the corner of Texas Avenue and Crawford Street with two very interesting Italian proposals – A casual trattoria called Osso & Kristalla and its high-end sibling Potente.

This week I had the chance to attend a first look tasting at the trattoria and let me tell you that the secret behind their delicious dough is the 100-year yeast starter with which Chef David Berg makes all his bread and pizza bases in both restaurants.

The concept behind Osso & Kristalla offers an Italian menu with big portions so everyone can share. The shrimp pizza with caramelized onions had a bubbly and crunchy crust that was spectacular. I also tried the BBQ shrimps that came on a bed of couscous, a purple kale salad with apple, pancetta, pine nuts, and ricotta as well as the Steak Salad with rosemary balsamic vinaigrette that was delicious.

On the other hand, Potente restaurant focuses on a more upscale and exquisite menu. Some of their specialties are the Lobster Risotto with black truffles and the Branzino with crab. It also offers an elegant bar, perfect to enjoy a delicious drink like the frozen Negroni I had, prepared by one of their expert mixologists.

So now you know, if you are looking for new dining options in Downtown, Yo Mariana recommends you these two new proposals.

Bon appetite!

Where to Eat Now: 11 new restaurants, including several from Houston’s best chefs, to try in February

Where to Eat Now: 11 new restaurants, including several from Houston’s best chefs, to try in February

Where to Eat Now: 11 new restaurants, including several from Houston’s best chefs, to try in February


Xochi scallops mole verde

Scallops in mole verde at Xochi. Photo by Eric Sandler
Bayou & Bottle interior

Inside Bayou & Bottle. Photo by Eric Sandler
Bayou & Bottle burger

Bayou & Bottles twin-patty cheeseburger. Photo by Eric Sandler
Kiran's Kiran Verma

Chef-owner Kiran Verma welcomes diners to her new restaurant. Photo by Eric Sandler
One Fifth dining room

One Fifth has transformed the space that was previously home to Mark’s. Photo by Julie Soefer
Pokeology poke bowls

A selection of poke bowls at Pokeology. Photo by Eric Sandler
Lims Korean fried chicken

Lims Chicken. Photo by Eric Sandler
Potente interior

A look inside Potente. Photo by Eric Sandler
Brasserie du Parc seafood risotto

Seafood risotto at Brasserie du Parc. Photo by Eric Sandler
Afandim Uyghur stir fried lamb

Stir-fried lamb with noodles at Afandim. Photo by Eric Sandler
Fusion Taco Chicken fried oyster

Chicken fried oyster taco at Fusion Taco. Courtesy photo
Xochi scallops mole verde
Bayou & Bottle interior
Bayou & Bottle burger
Kiran's Kiran Verma
One Fifth dining room
Pokeology poke bowls
Lims Korean fried chicken
Potente interior
Brasserie du Parc seafood risotto
Afandim Uyghur stir fried lamb
Fusion Taco Chicken fried oyster

In the almost four years that I’ve been writing this column, I can’t recall a single month that was so top-heavy for new restaurants. The push to be open by Super Bowl LI spurred some of Houston’s best chefs to create exciting new destinations that should rock to the top of diners’ lists of places they want to try.

This month’s list includes a new steakhouse from James Beard award winner Chris Shepherd and an exciting new concept from five-time James Beard award finalist Hugo Ortega, as well as a new brasserie from the city’s best French chef, the return of a beloved Indian restaurant, and Houston’s first hotel lobby bar that should be equally appealing to locals and guests.

If that weren’t enough, I have two new options in Chinatown and, because it already seems to be 2017’s hottest trend, two new poke options, too. As always, these are roughly ordered by how important it is I think you try this, but every restaurant on this list merits attention.

Houstonians have never shown much willingness to support restaurants in hotels, but Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught looked poised to change that with Xochi, their new Oaxacan restaurant inside downtown’s luxurious Marriott Marquis hotel. Drawing on the experiences garnered during both his childhood and frequent visits to the region, Ortega has created a comprehensive menu that utilizes Oaxacan ingredients that he’s specifically importing for Xochi.

Highlights include the tetela, an oversized blue masa tortillas filled with cheese a hoja santa; sopa de piedra, a shrimp soup with a whimsical tableside presentation; and skirt steak barbacoa with masa dumplings. I haven’t had a chance to sample the mole tasting, but that, along with the extensive list of mezcals assembled by beverage director Sean Beck and the innovative desserts created by pastry chef Ruben Ortega, will bring me back soon. 1777 Walker St, Suite A

One Fifth Steak
For the first iteration of One Fifth, James Beard award winner Chris Shepherd presents his version of a steakhouse. As one might expect, Shepherd’s vision blends classic steakhouse elements — wedge salad, raw oysters, beefy ribeyes — with some touches that are uniquely his.

For example, steaks aren’t just listed by cut and weight but also by the ranch that produced the beef. Dishes like uni panna cotta and roasted lamb neck aren’t likely to show up on the menu at more conventional steakhouses. An extensive wine list, well-crafted cocktails, and a selection of desserts round out the offerings.

As at Underbelly, the emphasis is on sharing. Start with a raw seafood tower (either in “big” or “bigger” varieties) then move on to a 30-plus ounce steak. Large parties may opt for a “baller board,” a giant wooden plank filled with the chef’s choice of entrees and sides that will definitely have heads turning when it’s paraded through the dining room. 1658 Westheimer

Brasserie du Parc
Etoile chef-owner Philippe Verpiand keeps things classic as his newly opened restaurant next to Discovery Green. The restaurant’s location features a large indoor-outdoor space with windows that can be opened during nice weather, and a to-go window that offers up freshly made crepes. Anyone who says it reminds them of Paris is certainly exaggerating, but the sidewalk cafe atmosphere feels appropriate for the setting.

Diners who stick around for a sit-down meal will find much to like, including seafood risotto with red bell pepper stew, shrimp salad with crushed avocado and grapefruit, and a full selection of desserts. Beverage director Kimberly Paul offers a number of creative cocktails, including a few that are designed for two, which is perfect for lingering when the windows are open. 1440 Lamar

It took almost a year for Kiran Verma to move to her new home in the Kirby Grove building near Greenway Plaza, but absence for the chef’s fine dining Indian fare has only made its return more satisfying. The new Kiran’s is larger than the original, with a dedicated bar-lounge area that should make it a happy hour destination.

The new location also brings lunch service for the first time; Verma presents a range of soups, salads, sandwiches, and biryani rice dishes that offer Indian flavors in approachable forms. At dinner, signature dishes like tandoori rack of lamb and snapper still deliver big flavors. With dishes like saffron panna cotta available, diners should definitely save room for dessert. 2925 Richmond Ave

The first of Astros owner Jim Crane’s new Italian restaurant has opened in the 500 Crawford building across from Minute Maid Park. Since executive chef Michael Parker divides his time between Potente and Crane’s Floridian golf club, he’s tapped Micah Rideout (Kuu, Tarakaan, Reef) to serve as chef de cuisine and David Berg (Tony’s) as pastry chef. The duo gives Potente a mix of old and new school techniques, as Berg uses the training he acquired in the ’80s and ’90s in the restaurant’s breads and pastries, while Rideout brings a slightly modernist touch to classic dishes like his melon salad with proscuitto that uses compressed melon and is topped with basil foam.

Like Berg, Parker has had a lengthy career, and his approach is to serve classic, mostly northern Italian fare like truffle risotto, osso bucco, and steaks, but Rideout gets to put his stamp on the menu with dishes like Sicilian BBQ Shrimp, which swaps the classic New Orleans buttery sauce for a red pepper mop sauce. Berg shows excellent technique in a lemon tart with a properly sour tang. While it may not be groundbreaking, Potente gives Da Marco fans a new option for fine dining Italian food, especially when they’re downtown. 1515 Texas Ave

Afandim Uyghur Restaurant
Last year, Houstonians discovered Uyghur cooking at Chinatown’s Uyghur Bistro, and now the city has a second option for the lamb-oriented cuisine at this recently opened restaurant. Dishes like Uyghur pizza (a savory meat pie filled with ground lamb) and Kordak (braised lamb with vegetables) delivered big flavors, and a dish with thick, stir-fried noodles had us fighting over the last few bites. Friendly service and reasonable prices make it approachable even for those who aren’t familiar with the dishes, although liking lamb is probably mandatory. 9126 Bellaire Blvd

Bayou & Bottle
Whatever concerns I had about this new lobby bar and restaurant inside the Four Seasons — most of which stemmed from its premise: an out-of-town chef, in this case Richard Sandoval (40-plus restaurants all over the world), who creates the menus, trains the staff, and leaves it to the hotel to operate — mostly evaporated when I visited on a recent weeknight. A lively crowd defied my expectations of finding it sleepy and mostly empty.

With its wood-paneled walls and leather furniture, Bayou & Bottle is quietly one of the better looking dining rooms to open in Houston recently. Even more than the decor, the food vastly exceeded my expectations.

Paying $12 for a banh mi sounds like a terrible idea until you delight in the over-the-top porky goodness of the fried head cheese that fills the bar’s version of the sandwich. The B&B burger, which utilizes two thin patties in the mode of Hay Merchant’s Cease and Desist burger, keeps things classic with housemade pickles and American cheese.

The whiskey selection may not match Reserve 101’s in terms of depth, but it’s full of tempting choices at fair prices, and trained whiskey steward Olgi Katona can offer suggestions for the list’s hidden gems. A couple of cocktails are made tableside on a cart, which always adds a fun theatrical element to the proceedings. 1300 Lamar St

Sushi chef Jason Liao (Preview Modern Seafood, Aka Sushi) has joined the poke craze with this pop-up-turned-restaurant that’s located inside Rice Village bar Doc Holliday’s. The setup is the same as at other poke restaurants — diners choose their fish (tuna, salmon, scallops, or snow crab), base (white rice or spring mix), toppings, and sauce — but Liao adds a few cheffy twists.

For example, Liao’s signature Salmon Thaiviche gets crunch from peanuts and heat from Thai chili peppers. Similarly, green apple provides acidity and crunchy to hamachi in the Applemachi. At $12 for a large bowl, it’s affordable, too. 5555 Morningside Dr.

Lims Chicken
South Korea-based fried chicken chain Lims Chicken has opened its first American location in the same Chinatown shopping plaza that’s home to Kim Son and Chez Beignet. The setup is similar to other Korean fried chicken restaurants where dishes like dumplings and rice bowls supplement the offerings, but they’re relatively undistinguished compared to the chicken.

A friend and I preferred the sweet and salty soy-ginger to the regular spicy, which lacked heat. Regardless of the flavor, the chicken arrived crispy and juicy. It probably won’t abate my occasional cravings for Dak & Bop, but Lims is a welcome addition to Chinatown’s ever-evolving mix of dining options. 10603 Bellaire Blvd

North Shore Poke Co
The California-based poke chain is the third dedicated poke restaurant to open in Houston in the past couple of months. This one is located in the Westchase district in the same shopping center as Ramen Jin. I found the small space packed with a young-looking crowd on a recent Saturday afternoon.

I opted for the Pipeline Wave bowl that blends tuna and salmon with a creamy, mayo-based sauce. The fish tasted fresh and had been properly marinated, and the toppings added texture and flavor. Like Lims, it seems to be more solid addition than a legitimate game changer, but it’s worth checking out for people in west Houston who want to see what all the poke hype is about. 11195 Westheimer

Fusion Taco – Heights
The opening of a second location for the food truck-turned-restaurant prompted me to visit Fusion Taco for the first time in at least a couple years. The restaurant remains a reliable source for tacos that utilize globally-inspired fillings like chicken tikka masala and falafel as well as more traditional, Mexican and Tex-Mex inspired flavors. The smoked brisket taco proved to be a pleasant surprise with well-seasoned, properly smoky brisket covered with creamy guacamole. A lunch special of two tacos and a drink for $10.95 keeps prices reasonable, too.

Thankfully, the new location has a full liquor license, which means it can serve margaritas. They’re only $5 during happy (3 pm to 7 pm). 4706 N. Main St

Looking for more suggestions? Try our list of must-visit restaurants for Super Bowl visitors, as well as where to eat columns from January, December, and November.

Houston Astros owner’s downtown Italian eateries opening this month

Houston Astros owner’s downtown Italian eateries opening this month

Food & Lifestyle, Restaurants

A pair of restaurants backed by Houston Astros owner Jim Crane are now opening following a string of name changes and the departure of Houston chef Bryan Caswell.

Potente, a luxury Italian eatery, opened this week, while Osso & Kristalla, a casual trattoria next door, is slated to open Feb. 20, according to a release. The restaurants will be at 1515 Texas Ave., on the ground floor of The Finger Cos.’ new 500 Crawford apartment complex across from Minute Maid Park. Click through the slideshow for a tour of the apartment complex as it was nearing completion last year.

The restaurants’ monikers are the names of Crane’s three children translated into Italian.

Crane’s personal chef, Michael Parker, was named executive chef for the restaurants’ culinary team. Micah Rideout was named chef de cuisine, and David Berg was named executive pastry chef. Caswell mutually split with Crane and the eateries in November to pursue new projects with his company, Bryan Caswell Concepts.

Parker has served various dignitaries in his career, including presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama, as well as Queen Elizabeth II. He also heads the dining team at Crane’s exclusive club, the Floridian National Golf Club, in Palm City, Florida.

“Opening the restaurants with a team of top chefs gives me great confidence that we will establish ourselves as the premiere fine dining destination in Houston,” Crane said in the release.

Potente offers the feel of a luxurious Italian villa with modern touches, per the release. The restaurant features a bar, main dining room and three private rooms. It will open nightly at 5 p.m.

The more casual concept, Osso & Kristalla, will have a soft, rustic feel and includes an outdoor patio. The eatery is expected to open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.

Both restaurants were designed by Gensler.

In October, Crane renamed the downtown eateries after two of his children’s names translated into Italian. Prior to that, the restaurants’ original names were a nod to baseball due to the proximity of the Astros’ stadium across the street. The casual concept’s original name was Panchina, Italian for “bench,” and the high-end restaurant was called Brocca, Italian for “pitcher.”

Jack Witthaus produces digital content for the Houston Business Journal’s website and social media accounts. Follow him on Twitter.

Jim Crane’s New Restaurants Open with a Chef Dream Team

Jim Crane’s New Restaurants Open with a Chef Dream Team

View article online at PaperCity Magazine.

The highly-anticipated new restaurants from Houston Astros owner Jim Crane are set to quietly open this week with a powerhouse new kitchen team, PaperCity has learned. In a week of Super happenings, the one that happens almost under the radar is liable to leave some of the most lasting buzz.

Crane’s restaurants have gone through multiple name changes — and a major chef shakeup — to get to this point.

In the end — after mutually parting ways with celebrity chef Bryan Caswell — Crane went with a man used to his exacting demands. Michael Parker, who helms the culinary operations of Crane’s  ultra high-end Floridian National Golf Club, will be the executive chef. Micah Rideout, the former chef at Asian hotspots Tarakaan and KUU, takes on the role of chef de cuisine for Crane’s new Houston restaurants. David Berg, Houston’s own Bakery Magician, is the pastry chef.

This new chef team speaks to the scope of Crane’s ambitions for the new restaurants at 500 Crawford, the Marvy Finger mid-rise that overlooks Minute Maid Park. Crane yearns for the more formal of the two restaurants, an Italian fine dining spot now named Potente, to be recognized as one of the very best restaurants in Houston. This is an extremely personal project for the Astros owner.

In his first foray into the culinary world, Crane’s named the restaurants after his kids. Potente is the Italian translation of his youngest son James’ nickname. Potente means mighty in Italian. Osso & Kristalla — the more casual all-day cafe — is named after his son Jared and daughter Krystal’s nicknames.

These final names end quite the naming odyssey. When plans for the restaurants were first revealed, they were dubbed Brocca and Il Panchina before morphing into Osso and Kristalla. Now, Osso & Kristalla are one restaurant and Potente is the showpiece high-end spot.

Potente will be going full force for this upcoming Super Bowl weekend, but a restaurant spokesperson tells PaperCity that it will be likely exclusively limited to private dining for openers. With its prime location, right next to Minute Maid (the site of Monday’s night’s media day and Super Bowl opening night extravaganza) and its short walking distance from Discovery Green and all the NFL-booked downtown hotels, Potente has already drawn plenty of big game power player interest.

Yes, Roger Goodell may get to eat there first. But the plan is to be open to everyone shortly after.

Crane’s culinary dream team has been putting out test dishes since last week. The results show that Rideout’s Asian influences make an major impact on the Italian menu. This will be a cutting-edge modern restaurant rather than a throwback traditional Italian spot. (See an exclusive photo of the new food in the slider above this story).

Jim Crane’s new restaurants have gone through a number of changes pre-opening, but they’re here now — and as ambitious as the Astros’ self-made mega-millionaire owner himself.

For more, read PaperCity’s exclusive profile of Jim Crane in the February print issue of PaperCity magazine, on newsstands now. Crane talks Astros, fiscal responsibility, his vision for downtown and the new restaurants — and you get an exclusive look at his behind-the-scenes day-to-day operations.