8 things to know about Houston food right now: openings, closings, and a major chef change


8 things to know about Houston food right now: openings, closings, and a major chef change

A major chef change tops this week’s news. Montrose restaurant Aquiand chef de cuisine Gabriel Medina have parted ways, CultureMap has learned.

General manager Steven Lo confirmed Medina’s departure but politely declined to comment on the circumstances. Medina has yet to respond to CultureMap’s request for comment about the situation or what his future plans might be.

Chef-owner Paul Qui, who is still awaiting trial on charges for domestic assault stemming from an incident in March 2016, and former Kuneho chef de cuisine Mia Li are spending more time at the restaurant in the wake of Medina’s departure, according to Lo. Sous chef Niki Vongthong and CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Pastry Chef of the Year winner Jill Bartolome are still with the restaurant.

Medina, who came to Aqui after successful stints at Kata Robata, Soma Sushi, and acclaimed Tokyo restaurant Narisawa (among others), helped lead Aqui to widespread acclaim, including a four-star review from Chronicle critic Alison Cook and a nomination for Medina as one of the CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Rising Star Chefs of the Year. The New York Times reported that Aqui would have been nominated for the country’s Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Awards if not for Qui’s assault charges.

MidiCi, the California-based Neapolitan pizza chain, has closed its Greenway Plaza/Upper Kirby location at 2925 Richmond Ave. after less than a year in business. Although the space still has its equipment and furniture, the restaurant has been removed from the company’s website and its Facebook page has disappeared. Locations in Katy and Pearland remain open.

Che Inka, a Peruvian and Argentinian restaurant in Rice Military, recently closed. Despite generally positive reviews, a “For Lease” sign now hangs above the space at 5535 Memorial Dr. Argentina Cafe, the restaurant’s sister concept in the Galleria area, remains open.

River Oaks residents with a taste for General Tso’s chicken take note: Cafe Ginger has moved to its new home at 1574 W. Gray. The popular Chinese restaurant moved approximately half a mile to make way for The Driscoll at River Oaks, Weingarten Realty’s 30-story residential tower that will be built on the site. Cafe Ginger will be BYOB at its new location until it receives its liquor license.

Houston’s second Velvet Taco opened quietly last month at 907 Westheimer Rd. The Dallas-based restaurant is known for its creative tacos, loaded tater tots, and rotisserie meats. With a two-story space, late night hours (open until 4 am on Friday and Saturday), and casual atmosphere, it’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

Memorial-area favorite Leibman’s Eatery, Market, and Gifts (formerly Leibman’s Wine & Fine Foods) has reopened in its new location at 10100 Katy Freeway. Although smaller than the Memorial Drive store it replaces, the new Leibman’s still features the same wine, gifts, and deli that has made it a neighborhood staple for almost 40 years.

Owner Sharon Leibman, the daughter of founders Ettiene and Ralph Leibman, has expanded the deli’s selection and seating area to allow for dining during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While some items are new, signature dishes like the chicken salad Afrique and Gone In a Minute dip are still available and made with their classic recipes.

Popular Italian restaurant Grazia Italian Kitchen has opened its third Houston-area location in Katy at 22764 Westheimer Pkwy., the restaurant announced on Facebook. Currently open for dinner only, lunch and brunch services will begin in May. Expect the same pizzas, pastas, steaks, and seafood items that have made the restaurant successful at both its Pearland and Clear Lake locations — including the award-winning smoked short ribs and risotto.

Creamistry, a California-based chain that serves ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, will open its third Houston-area location in Friendswood at 211 W. Eldorado Blvd., Ste. D. The new location will join outposts near the Galleria and in the Memorial area when it opens in May.

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