Each Friday, Gastronaut rounds up the most notable opening and closing of the week.
For a city so close to the coast, Houston has surprisingly few upscale seafood restaurants—and now it has one fewer. Eleven XI plans to close this Saturday after just over two years in business. As first reported by CultureMap, the Montrose restaurant's owners sold the property and notified chef Kevin Bryant and staff earlier this week. Prior to housing Eleven XI, 607 West Gray was home to two notable diners: One's a Meal and Bibas Kitbar.
Though the old structure was extensively renovated after Bibas closed, one always got the sense that the facelift never quite matched Bryant's warm, interesting dishes, as the space inside Eleven XI often felt spare and cold despite wood tones throughout and an inviting patio out front (no surprise the patio here was often far more populated than the dining room). Service was often cool too, no more so than on my last visit a few Fridays ago. In the end, we paid $100 for a dozen oysters, two appetizers and a bottle of Pellegrino to go with that grim service, so perhaps it wasn't the service or atmosphere that did Eleven XI in, but rather the abundance of less expensive dining alternatives in the immediate area—seafood or not.
In happier news, Montrose is gaining one more of those less expensive dining alternatives with the opening of Mala Sichuan in the old Mo Mong space at 1201 Westheimer. This marks the second location of the popular Chinatown restaurant run by Cori Xiong, and the first time I can recall that a Chinatown restaurant expanded into the Loop rather than vice-versa a la Kim Son.
The Houston Press reports that Mala is trying to keep this soft opening under wraps, but that the restaruant is indeed up and running and already turning out the spicy stuff. Its award-winning wine list from sommelier Justin Vann is not up and running yet, however, but that means you can BYOB while you wait for the new Montrose Mala to get its liquor license.