Each Friday, Gastronaut rounds up the most notable opening and closing of the week.
Let's get the bad news out of the way first: Lillo & Ella called it quits this week after only 16 months in business, as chef Kevin Naderi closed the doors of his Asian fusion restaurant in Shady Acres. Despite being a critical favorite, Lillo & Ella never quite caught on with its surrounding neighborhood. And despite the continued success of Roost, Naderi's popular Montrose bistro, Lillo & Ella never quite achieved the same destination status with Houston foodies.
It's Roost that Naderi says he wants to refocus on, according to a press release. "Simply put, I received an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’ve loved Lillo and Ella, the concept of Asian street food, our Heights neighbors and what we’re doing at the restaurant. But I’ve felt more and more that I want to devote more attention to Roost."
Whomever moves into the space at 2307 Ella Blvd. next (which previously housed gastrocantina El Gran Malo) will have beautiful spot on their hands: as the press release noted, Naderi invested a significant amount in updating the property, including the addition of a partially covered patio and a much-needed parking lot.
But where Asian fusion didn't take off in Shady Acres, it stands a much better chance in Midtown, which has long boasted an assortment of popular Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants. That's where Tarakaan opened this week, serving a menu it's calling "a tasty tapestry of Asian fare." In the kitchen, chef Micah Rideout aims to offer a unique spin on the Asian fusion genre by way of his roots: Rideout grew up in Thailand before moving to Melbourne, Australia to earn his culinary stripes. Look for dishes that similarly span cultures, including a lamb tagine with massaman curry, crab nasi goreng (the Malaysian version of fried rice) and miso brûlée sea scallops.
As if its menu isn't novel enough, Tarakaan occupies a 6,000-square-foot space at 2301 Main St. that might surprise many longtime Houstonians: originally the location of the Davis Baking Powder Co. and Lipper Motor Car Co. when it was built in the 1920s, the building has been more notable since the 1980s for a facelift it received from Chicago-based architect Stanley Tigerman. The remodel made the building look as if a piece of the George R. Brown Convention Center had been lopped off and lost in Midtown, which could be part of the reason it's sat vacant for the last decade (although it could also be the fact that the surrounding neighborhood wasn't quite up to supporting a 6,000-square-foot Asian fusion restaurant until recently—though that's been solved thanks to the residential construction boom in the area).
For now, Tarakaan offers dinner service Wednesday through Saturday and lunch on Sunday, with extended hours to come. A full menu of wine, beer, sake, Scotch and various cocktails can be enjoyed under the watchful eyes of two massive Buddhas that were hand-carved for the space, which also sports a vintage rickshaw near the front door and a private event space that features a sunken dining room, a dedicated bar and bathrooms, plus a private street entrance all its own. With late-night hours that keep it open until 2 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Tarakaan aims to draw more than just diners into its French colonial-themed space—after all, dinner service ends at 11 p.m., but the cocktails and sake will keep flowing in true Midtown nature until the TABC says it's time for everyone to go home.