CityCentre has been stocking up on new restaurants lately as the popular mixed-use development in Memorial expands—including a couple of our personal favorites: Sal y Pimienta and Grub Burger Bar, both of which we named as two of Houston's best new restaurants. But with the exception of Sal y Pimienta—a South American parrillada concept from Uruguyan ex-pat Giancarlo Percovich—all of those new restaurants have been chains. And none of them offer late-night dining, unless you count the reverse happy hour at RA Sushi or "last call" at Yard House.
Radio Milano, the newest entry into the busy CityCentre landscape, hopes to distinguish itself—and attract diners to its second-story location adjacent to the Hotel Sorella—with an interesting late-night menu as well as chef Jose Hernandez's inspired Italian cooking.
"Can you name another restaurant around here that has a chef?" asked Radio Milano general manager Jon Kuit last week at a media preview lunch. By chef, Kuit clearly meant an executive chef, one who's creating a menu himself rather than taking cues from a corporate office and overseeing a kitchen daily to ensure that menu is executed to his standards.
At Radio Milano, creating a menu all his own is exactly what Hernandez has done. Though best known in Houston for his work cooking French cuisine at Etoile in Uptown Park and La Balance in Katy, the Mexico City native has shifted gears here: the menu is modern Italian, with dishes that run the gamut from traditional (witness a beautiful burrata served with balsamic vinegar and toast) to inspired (a beef tenderloin crudo with pepitas and truffle cream, also on the appetizer list). The soft-spoken chef elected not to speak much about this change, returning quickly to the kitchen after a friendly hello and allowing the dishes to speak for themselves instead. And speak they did.
An appetizer of brilliant red ribbons of beets with an arugula pesto and soft crumbles of True Luck goat cheese set the tone for the courses to follow: a housemade tagliatelle dish topped with sweet, whole lobster claw meat in an uni cream sauce that was as briny and rich as pure uni itself; a perfectly medium-rare ribeye with roasted cauliflower that was every bit as delicious as the bone marrow sauce atop the steak. We couldn't even consider dessert after such a spread.
After a soft opening the last weekend of October, Radio Milano is now open for lunch and dinner—as well as those late-night bites. The idea, explained Kuit, is to offer smaller antipasto-style dishes and finger foods that pair well with cocktails. To call this a late-night menu would be a misnomer, however: the dishes are served free every evening from 11 p.m. to close. All you have to do is purchase a cocktail, and the kitchen keeps sending various small plates out for as long as you have room in your stomach. You'll probably want to purchase additional cocktails, too, once you see the bar menu.
While the upstairs portion of Radio Milano is an upscale restaurant with a killer view, the downstairs portion is being touted as a speakeasy Italian bar, which offers craft cocktails made with shrubs, tinctures, and syrups created in-house. This part of Houston has long-lacked a cocktail bar, and Memorial residents just may find themselves staying near home for Negronis from now on instead of driving (or Ubering) into town.
Those same residents may also recognize the space Radio Milano occupies as that of Bistro Alex, though much has changed in the interior design. The upstairs dining room is much lighter, with its windows uncovered to present a better view of the bustling CityCentre green below—"it's a very feminine space," said Kuit, singling out in particular a colorful installation of stylized paper flowers by local artist Khrystyna Balushka—while the downstairs bar is darker, cozier, and more intimate.
Taken together, they may just be the flagship restaurant CityCentre has needed. And they say all the really great restaurants only open inside the Loop...
Radio Milano, 800 Sorella Court, 713-827-3545, radio-milano.com