In this svelte minimalist space nearly a decade ago, chef-owner Monica Pope got the Houston ball rolling for local and seasonal ingredients. She pioneered artisanal cocktails and set trends that range from regional-based tasting menus to the use of commissioned local art and furnishings. Her vision seemed to grow ever more spare in recent years, almost forbiddingly so. But lately there are signs of a thaw, and some truly welcoming flavors: Chinese-style dumpling with an improbably good filling of shiitake and blue cheese in a smooth chestnut sauce; or an impromptu post-holiday turkey pot pie, ungainly and free-form and utterly winning. Simple, homely desserts like a polenta pound cake with cranberry and gelato are a trademark here, as is the smartly edited wine list. Pope may have pulled back from the inventive dynamism of t’afia’s early days, but she remains an influential chef who has led by example.
Entree price range: $$$
Where: 3701 Travis St.