Michelin doesn't publish a Houston edition of its guide, so no matter how good a local restaurant is, it doesn't have any Michelin stars. Yet. In the final quarter of 2016, London-based Hakkasan Group will export its Michelin-starred stunner, Yauatcha, to the Houston Galleria.
According to Didier Souillat, executive vice president of restaurants for Hakkasan, the move to the Bayou City is motivated partly by the size and international scope of Houston and partly by a new collaboration with Simon Property Group, the company that owns the Galleria. Yauatcha is the first coupling for the corporations and Souillat says that if all goes as expected, it will not be the last.
Visitors to other large US cities may have tried the crispy duck salad and wok-fried wagyu at a Hakkasan restaurant. But Houston will be the first city in the country to host a Yautacha. A Honolulu location will later join existing restaurants in the UK and India.
Why did Hakkasan choose the dim sum restaurant for the group's Houston debut? "It’s no surprise to people from Houston that dim sum is little parcels of joy," says Souillat. He's quick to add that there isn't much overlap between Yauatcha's brand of small bites and those you'll find on Bellaire.
Though diners can order simple siu mai and har gao, they'll be better advised to fill up on the edamame-truffle dumpling or venison puff. Souillat adds that the patisserie that's emphasized almost as proudly as the dim sum is "actually very French." Besides cakes, tarts and macarons in uncommon flavors such as cashew-sesame and matcha-yuzu, homemade chocolates are paired with carefully selected drinks and digestifs.
Michelin-starred Hakkasan executive chef Ho Chee Boon will conceive the dishes with Houston seasons and produce in mind, Souillat says. Dim sum master Lam Kowk Keung, currently working at the Las Vegas Hakkasan, will helm the restaurant's dumplings and rolls, croquettes and toasts.
"We’ve been saving him because Hakkasan has a limited choice of dim sum," says Souillat. Not so in Houston, where "it will be vast and varied." Other kitchen staffers will likely be hired from Chinatown restaurants.
The Houston Yauatcha will be located in the stand-alone “jewel box” that can be seen on the Galleria's Westheimer-facing side, but don't worry about views of endless traffic. Stylish Yauatcha will feature an outdoor terrace. "We’re creating a really beautiful oasis in the middle of the parking lot in the Galleria," Souillat says with zero irony.
But much of what Yauatcha will be has yet to take shape. As Souillat puts it, the existing restaurants' elements "were all created in London. We’re not trying to impose anything on anyone else. We’re different."