This tiny Warehouse District restaurant may just represent the future of Houston dining. Chef Justin Yu’s food is that personal, that precise, and that daring in its refusal to let major hunks of protein dominate its painterly plates. Three tasting menus are offered each evening — four courses for a modest $49; seven for $75; and a vegetable-centric four-course “Garden menu” for $49, reflecting Yu’s time at Napa Valley’s vegetarian mecca, Ubuntu. These very modern meals, assembled with meticulous technique, would attract notice in any of Europe’s or America’s food capitals. Yet Yu’s cuisine could be served nowhere but Houston. It is intensely seasonal and local, devoted to what is best and most forward-looking from Gulf Coast producers, whether they be farmers or bycatch fishermen. The results can be as simple and pure as a mosaic of watermelon radish slices poached briefly in butter and dotted with arugula emulsion, or as intricate and emphatic as seared terrine of pork cheek, seasoned with the masala blend called vadouvan, and set astride the tiniest, tart dice of turnip and cutting celery stems. Even the season’s first potatoes, in multiple colors and varieties, emerge from the open-to-view kitchen with the importance of a luxury item. Striking baked goods and desserts by Yu’s wife, pastry chef Karen Man, round out the constantly changing bill of fare; and super-smart wine and beer selections by sommelier and general manager Justin Vann complete a singular experience. (Do try the reasonably priced pairing options.) The tall brick-clad room, fitted out in spare industrial style, feels relaxed and intimate — and every bit as personal as the food. There are only 31 seats, so book well ahead. It’s worth it to eat so vividly, and to go home thinking.
Entree price range: $$$$
Where: 1302 Nance St.
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