The new era of Houston has ushered in a hotbed of repurposed historic buildings like The Post and The Ion, which are helping add a refreshed feel to some of Houston's oldest landmarks. The latter, located in the heart of Midtown, was formerly home to the Sears showroom. Now, the newly remodeled interior has been transformed into a multipurpose space, home to Houston's leading innovation hub and multiple best-in-class restaurants, one of which is The Lymbar. We previously shared that the restaurant opened back in December, and now, we’re finally getting around to giving it a taste.
Chef David Cordúa helms this culinary tribute to his Nicaraguan family. The Lymbar is named after the street in Meyerland, where his grandparents settled in Houston. Nestled inside the first floor of The Ion, the restaurant is utterly nostalgic, an ode to his grandmother's home, where the Cordúa family practiced their unique approach to hospitality.
With 120 seats, in what feels like a cozy and warm dimly-lit living room the 4,000-square-foot restaurant is filled with nuances that speak to Cordúa's upbringing. Remnants of his childhood adorn the walls, including Spider-Man comic books, vintage electronics, a grand piano, and, tying it all together, artwork from Nicaraguan artist Vernon Caldera, who showcases Cordúa's family tree on a large wall canvas. Artist Carissa Marx hand-painted the floors and also created the plasterwork over the kitchen as well as the mosaic mural on the bar facade.
"The Lymbar was an opportunity to recreate the style of hospitality from home," Cordúa told Houstonia. "From my grandmother's precision in the kitchen to my wife's Lebanese-Mexican heritage, we wanted to give the Ion its heart and hearth through the perspective of some exceptional ladies."
Cordúa is no stranger to the kitchen. He's the son of the famous chef and restaurateur Michael Cordúa, who opened several nationally acclaimed restaurants in the Houston area, including Churrascos, Américas, Amazón Grill, and Artista, where Cordúa worked alongside his father. But this is his first solo effort. And he says his focus was on making guests feel comfortable. "It's all feel-good food here. The menu was hand-picked with the intention of making people feel at home."
That intentionality is exceptional and noticeable at every turn. It's intimate and cozy enough that you'll feel right at home, but eclectic and surprising at the same time. The ambiance is balanced between work and play, which Cordúa says was common growing up. "A Nicaraguan party includes people talking and laughing loudly, usually with bad words,” Cordúa said. “Nicaraguans speak and swear like pirates...it must be the rum."
The service is attentive, friendly, and trustworthy. Ask for a cocktail and expect your waiter to run you through each one on the menu to help you find something that aligns with your palette. If you need more time to decide on an appetizer, expect both the Rosepuds and the Monte Cristo empanadas with smoked turkey, ham, gruyere, and sweet raspberry sesame vinaigrette to land on your table, courtesy of your waiter, because you simply can't go wrong with either.
If those don't convince, the main courses indeed will—with Cordúa at the helm, the kitchen is led by executive chef, Adolfo Lopez, Jr., who also formerly worked at Churrascos. Together, the two curated a rotating menu of Lebanese-Mexican cuisine, with dishes such as corn-smoked lamb chops and beef tenderloin tacos arabes. The lamb chops are made with a decadent guajillo chili glaze, couscous tabbouleh, cucumber, and tomato. The tacos are topped with chimichurri and chili bomba.
Of course, Latin fare is one of the biggest draws here, and empanadas get their own section on the menu—I already vouched for the Monte Cristo. However, the spinach, feta, halloumi, and beef kofta are also worth ordering. If you can't decide, just get the empanada trio to try all three.
Cordúa’s outstanding interpretation of ceviche comes with snapper, shrimp, octopus, red onion, sweet potato, and coconut, topped with chili oil. I also recommend the baby gem caesar for a lighter plate option. The Lymbar isn't short of large format plates, either. Go all in and try the 16-ounce Churrasco or the pan-seared snapper; both are great for sharing and packed with flavor. "The best food is always had at home where beans simmer, and beef is marinated for the entire day," Cordúa said.
The desserts are delicious and authentic. The foie doughnut holes are well-balanced with a fig preserve finish. And, in a surprising but tasty twist, the sweet corn flan is topped with cracker jacks.
The all-day restaurant is an amalgamation of culture and customs and speaks to the great diversity that we love about Houston. The best part is that everything delivers, and you'll feel right at home. Precisely what Chef Cordúa is aiming for. "Nicaraguans know that no better party can be had than the one in your own four walls," he said.
The Lymbar is now open inside The Ion at 4201 Main St. Visit The Lymbar for more information.