Houston’s most anticipated restaurant opening of the year has finally happened, and we’re happy to report that the late November debut of Aaron Bludorn’s Navy Blue was well worth the months-long buildup. We were fortunate enough to score a visit to the seafood restaurant a few days after it officially opened on November 18, and we’re pleased to say that Navy Blue is home to as much maritime magic as the chorus of Enya’s “Orinoco Flow”—albeit our meal there had us wanting to set sail rather than sail away.
As is the case with most things Bludorn & Co., New York City’s famed-but-now-defunct Café Boulud, where Bludorn served as executive chef before relocating to Houston to open his eponymous restaurant, plays a role in the Navy Blue story. Bludorn tapped fellow Café Boulud alum, Jerrod Zifchak, who served as the restaurant’s executive sous chef under Bludorn before stepping into the executive chef position there after Bludorn’s departure, to helm the kitchen at Navy Blue as executive chef.
Bludorn and Navy Blue partner Cherif Mbodji, another Café Boulud alum, is overseeing the restaurant’s front-of-house operations. Meanwhile, fellow Café Boulud alum, Darryl Chan, is overseeing the restaurant’s extensive cocktail program. Rounding out the team are sommelier Molly Austad and general manager Elizabeth Acosta, who both scored their roles without having first earned their Café Boulud diplomas.
While Navy Blue’s menu is decidedly upscale (in keeping with the restaurant’s upscale design aesthetic), Bludorn & Co. have managed to put it all together in a way that it feels approachable, not unlike the French-inspired fare that has made Bludorn a quick Houston favorite. We started our meal with the tuna crudo, a refreshing and prettily plated dish featuring fennel, green apples, and yuzu kosho, before moving onto the baked oysters—because who can pass up baked oysters? Navy Blue’s version are a bit more subtle than those offered at Bludorn, but the lightness of the flavor really helped the luscious brininess of the oysters shine through.
We then moved onto the Caesar salad. Ordering a Caesar salad at a fine-dining restaurant may sound like a cop out, but it’s always a good way to judge the overall strength of a menu: If a restaurant is pulling out the stops for their salad options, it’s almost guaranteed—almost—that you’re going to be in for a real treat once you move onto your entrées.
Indeed, the Caesar was a real gem, and not just because it’s primarily constructed from baby gem lettuce. Decorating the salad were boquerones (fancy anchovies), parmesan, and some truly show stopping, last supper-quality croutons. Since the croutons were coupled with the boquerones, I held onto hope that we were about to experience a loaves and fishes miracle and the salad would multiply itself after every slice of my knife, but unfortunately (or fortunately) Navy Blue reserved most of its magic for our next course: the mussel bisque.
One of Bludorn’s most popular dishes is its lobster pot pie, so it makes perfect sense that something adjacent to that would make its way on Navy Blue’s menu. Although not necessarily family-size like its Bludorn counterpart, the mussel bisque at Navy Blue is still big enough to be easily split between two people. It comes to the table topped with puff pastry that is punctured tableside by waitstaff, who then rather theatrically plop several mussels from another vessel inside of it—a portion of our dinner that I’ve started affectionately referring to as the “baptism of the bivalves.” The heavenly bisque, which features healthy amounts of fennel and saffron, was full of both flavor and circumstance.
We then made our way onto our main courses. From the pasta menu, we opted for the spaghetti vongole, a luxurious dish featuring Manilla clams that came to our table topped with sea urchin—as I’m going to require all of my spaghetti vongoles to be topped from here on out—and crispy strips of seaweed. From the seafood menu, we ordered the fancy-sounding swordfish au poivre, which features a robust green peppercorn sauce flavorful enough to convert even the most militant of terrestrial-inclined eaters.
For the epilogue portion of our meal, I sipped the dregs of my second sbagliato—Navy Blue, notably, has three of the TikTok-famous cocktails on its menu—and enjoyed the clean and crisp aesthetics of the restaurant’s dining room (which we probably should mention has seating for 110 people), all while enjoying the dual crunchy and oozy aspect of the restaurant’s chocolate coulant—a lava cake-recalling creation featuring salted caramel, passion fruit, and vanilla ice cream. All taken together, it’s safe to say that our meal at Navy Blue indicates that the restaurant has officially come into harbor.