IN and Out

The Opening & Closing of the Week: July 25-31

Of Chinatown changes and Midtown makeovers

By Katharine Shilcutt July 31, 2015

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Hold up on those Golden Panda plans...

Each Friday, Gastronaut rounds up the most notable opening and closing of the week.

If this is the weekend you've picked to finally get around to trying the salted jellied tofu and youtiao at Golden Panda, you'll want to make alternate plans. The popular breakfast spot in Dun Huang Plaza is temporarily closed for renovations, as first noted by KTRK reporter Miya Shay. A quick cruise past the restaurant yesterday afternoon revealed a crew of men inside, where sparks were literally flying as welders installed new structures amidst the carefully stacked chairs and tables that will hopefully be back in place soon.

We're not going to leave you hanging on those breakfast plans, by the way; there are other options available along Bellaire Boulevard. "Try Central China, it's next to Ding Ding—a Hong Kong cafe, also worth a try," says Shay, who's mined the area for the best breakfast joints for years. "Central China does breakfast and it was packed this weekend. Ding Ding is a Hong Kong style cafe. They do that crazy French toast with peanut butter and condensed milk." (p.s. This is the French toast Shay is referring to and yes it is as insanely awesome as you're hopefully imagining.)

Elsewhere in Dun Huang Plaza, Chuanr (also confusingly known as Tree Tree Grill) has closed a little over a year after its grand opening in April 2014. As Chuanr (the name on its marquee), the barbecue/hot pot joint enjoyed a decent 3-and-a-half-star rating on Yelp, over a total of 22 reviews. As Tree Tree Grill, however, it held a dismal 1 star rating from a total of 1 review. Perhaps not coincidentally, this was also the name listed on the eviction notice pinned to its door on July 10.

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Café Hélène is dead; long live Saigon House.

In other news, Midtown's chic Vietnamese-French fusion cafe on the light rail line is no more. Café Hélène was the lifelong dream of Hélène Le, who was born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City and trained in classic French cuisine at the Sorbonne in Paris. Le was in her 60s when she opened Café Hélène in May 2014; she sold the restaurant a year later, finding, perhaps, that the dream of running a restaurant is more demanding in reality. It operated quietly as Café Hélène sans Hélène before closing two weeks ago, though not for good, as it turns out.

The newly rebranded Saigon House will soon open with a new menu and direction, retaining some of the old Café Hélène favorites and adding to that repertoire with a few new dishes of its own. We'll have more on the new Saigon House as soon as additional details are revealed, but look for it to open those big glass front doors again in mid-August.


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