Oxheart, the long awaited and highly anticipated restaurant by chef Justin Yu, opened in March last year, and has not disappointed the legions of Yu fans. Located in the underground art enclave that is downtown Houston’s Warehouse District, Oxheart seats 30, including the counter seats, which is where you want to sit for a view of the action in the open kitchen. What I enjoyed most is the casual atmosphere; the restaurant doesn’t take itself too seriously and encourages a relaxed vibe. The seven-course tasting menu is a treat, not the trap that other tasting menus can become. Each dish is prepared with care and attention to detail.
On the night I dined at Oxheart, the two standout dishes were the first and the last of the savory menu. The first, a sweet dumpling squash foam with raw persimmon segments dressed with basil bud vinegar, appeared to be a simple cold soup, but surprised me with its fresh burst of complex flavors and textures, from the fruit and squash in the foam to the tapioca cooked with malt, crushed Marcona almonds and oregano on the bottom. The foam itself was dressed with grated nutmeg and burnt peach. The crunchiness of the nuts, the rootiness of the herbs and the caramely essence of burnt peach with fresh persimmon was such an intriguing and delicious start to the meal.
You can check out our Oxheart video for the rest of the menu, but I must elaborate on the last dish of guinea hen, which goes down as one of the most memorable dishes I’ve eaten. The flavors and preparation of the dish are very reminiscent of how Chinese chicken is cooked. Two pieces of chicken arrived on the plate, the breast and wing. Chef Yu explained that the breast was poached in a guinea hen bone stock blended with cooked lemongrass and galangal, and the wing was deboned and roasted. The wing was served atop a cima di rapa leaf purée, and the breast atop cima di rapa stems cooked in young ginger juice. The chicken breast, glistening from the juices, was just as succulent as you might imagine. And the wing’s crispy roasted skin was a wonderful contrast in texture. This dish is perfection.
Both dishes showcase Chef Yu’s mastery in not only melding unique flavor profiles, but also using contrasting textures that make the dishes interesting and unforgettable. I will say no more — just get yourself to Oxheart in Houston.
Watch our video on Oxheart.