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First Bite: Third Coast

We dig into the new fine dining in the heart of the Texas Medical Center.

By Mai Pham October 13, 2016

Third coast dining room large maq8zu

Boutique hotel or hospital?

Image: Mai Pham

Arriving at the new fine dining restaurant located in the heart of the Texas Medical Center feels a lot like arriving at a swanky boutique hotel. An elevator takes you from the parking garage directly to the sixth floor of the John P. McGovern Commons. An immaculate white hallway adorned with rectangular wall art leads the way to the restaurant entrance, where a marbled hostess stand and small sitting area furnished with modern Italian-style white leather furnishings frame a large, deep grey metal sign and wall sculpture in Roman numerals.

III, it reads.

"Three" stands for Third Coast, the name given to the restaurant and a symbol of TMC’s future. “When people talk about innovation in medicine, you only hear about the East Coast—Boston—or the West Coast, San Francisco,” explains EVP, CSO and COO William McKeon. “But the fact of it is, the Texas Medical Center is the largest medical complex in the world. We have the best, the largest, cancer treatment center at MD Anderson, the largest children’s hospital at Texas Children’s Hospital. We want people to know that innovation in the life sciences starts here, in Houston, the Third Coast.”

Third Coast, the restaurant, was therefore conceived of as “a destination where the world’s entrepreneurs and change-makers can come together to feed their hunger for innovation,” says TMC President and CEO Robert C. Robbins.

Red snapper green curry lemongrass ginger rice dsp0wp

Red snapper with green curry

Image: Mai Pham

Designed by Gensler, the 13,500 square-foot restaurant—which has been completely transformed from its former identity as Trevisio, an Italian restaurant—is upscale yet versatile. A grey and white color scheme set against polished silver and deep chocolate wood is elegant and soothing. In the center of the room, a large multi-paneled LED screen displays rotating art above a long, open fireplace that will add warmth during the cold season.  

Plush, high-backed chairs imbue the space with elegance while contributing to diner’s privacy. There’s also a fantastic bar area where patrons drop by for craft cocktails, wine and local beer overseen by sommelier David Cook. The outdoor patio is impressive as well, where a spacious, curved designed gives a bird’s eye view of the vast TMC complex.

The menu by executive chef Jon Buchanan is being touted as “Modern Houstonian,” a reflection of the diverse melting pot of cultures that makes up Houston today. Buchanan, who was given free reign in developing the menu, has dishes that draw from Asian influence, Cajun, Czech, German and more. He’s also sourcing from local purveyors as much as possible, including using cheese from the Houston Dairymaids, beans roasted by Katz Coffee, produce from Atkinson Farms and meat from 44 Farms.

At a media preview dinner, hors d’oeuvres of Berkshire pork belly-filled steamed bao buns were served alongside crostini topped with Pure Luck Farm & Dairy chèvre and a berry compôte, sliders made with 44 Farms bacon and caramelized onion, and skewers of charred octopus with applewood bacon and fingerling potatoes.

Ahi tuna poke zobbl8

Ahi tuna poke

Image: Mai Pham

An Asian-esque jumbo lump crab tower made with alternating layers of avocado, tomato and crab, was topped with julienned Fuji apple, and finished with a tangy orange-ginger vinaigrette, was very easy on the palate, something diners from just about any culture would enjoy.

Ahi tuna poke, beautifully served in half coconut shell with taro chips on the side, was outstanding: Perfectly seasoned, with slivers of mango for sweetness and avocado for creaminess. Toasted avocado and sesame gave each bite a well-rounded finish.Thai-inspired crispy-skinned red snapper, served on a bed of green curry with a small cocotte of lemongrass-ginger rice was also noteworthy, as was the 44 Farms braised short rib with sautéed spinach and saffron risotto, a take on Italian osso bucco which Buchanan changed up with Northern African and Asian spices including cardamom and star anise.

Throughout the dinner, Cook ably displayed his talents as a sommelier, drawing from his 115-label wine list to pair interesting wines such Stolpman Carbonic Sangioveese from Ballard with each course. “There are more than 50 delegations from all over the world represented in The Medical Center. We wanted to have something that appeals to the diversity we see every day….We’re going to keep the menu evolving. The bar menu is where the fun stuff is going to happen,” says Buchanan. “I want to get the med students in here, and I want to try to get people from outside of the Medical Center to come here, and do something that’s relevant to the food scene.”

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