Each Friday, Gastronaut rounds up the most notable opening and closing of the week.
If ever Houston saw a restaurant that epitomized the word "quagmire," it was The Fish & the Knife. The project spent more than three years under construction—three years during which there was rampant speculation that the uber-expensive, 13,000-square foot space would never even make it to opening—and cost an estimated $6 to $8 million when all was said and done. The ritzy sushi restaurant-cum-club finally opened its doors at 7801 Westheimer the day before Valentine's Day in 2014, and only a few days later was met with controversy after its publicist insinuated that famed restaurant designer Tony Chi was involved in the design and build-out. (Chi, for his part, claimed that The Fish & the Knife was trading on his name and reputation, and issued a statement emphasizing that he had "NO CONNECTION WHATSOEVER" to the restaurant.) Nine months later, The Fish & the Knife announced that it would be temporarily closing to "rebrand" itself; apparently, diners found the mix of sushi bar and dance club rightfully confusing.
Further muddying the waters is news that a Brazilian steakhouse is moving into the space, which—like Tony Chi—appears to have no connection whatsoever to The Fish & the Knife. It does bear a passing resemblance, however, to a very famous Houston resturant chain: Churrasco's. Churrasca Brazilian Steakhouse has begun moving into the nigh-abandoned sushi space (as The Fish & the Knife appears to have disappeared entirely after announcing its "temporary" closure last November). And though it's not related to the Cordúa family of Churrasco's restaurants, it does appear to be a Houston offshoot of a Lubbock restaurant that opened last January. (Excerpt from Lubbock In The Loop Food Finds on that news: "The concept of this restaurant is unique in our area: unlimited tableside service of amazingly seasoned and slow-roasted meats.") This connection seems to be confirmed by a Craigslist help wanted ad for the restaurant, which lists an 806 area code for potential job applicants to contact. The restaurant is already hiring a full retinue of staff, but construction and cleaning appears to be underway and could take a while—though hopefully not three years.
In closings, the Heights has lost yet another fried chicken spot less than a year after the neighborhood was declared a "fried chicken capital." First, The Bird House closed in January, in a planned move to allow chefs Jason Hill and Matt Opaleski to open their next project, Hugs & Donuts, and to allow original tenant The Boil House to move back in just in time for crawfish season. This week, however, an unplanned closure saw The Chicken Ranch shut its doors, as first reported by CultureMap.
Owner Joshua Martinez contests that the closure—like that of The Fish & the Knife—is only temporary, the result of a dispute with his landlord, and hopes to reopen The Chicken Ranch in a new location before long. "We had to pull the plug in a very rapid manner and it was not ever our intention for this to be in the cards," Martinez wrote on Facebook. "We are diligently following up on spaces and will keep everyone informed." This marks Martinez's second unplanned exit in a year, having departed Goro & Gun—the downtown ramen joint he helped open on the 300 block of Main Street—last June. A few months later Goro & Gun closed briefly before reopening as cocktail-centric bar Moving Sidewalk, where original bar manager Alex Gregg still makes a mean block of ice.