New and Noteworthy
Kata Robata, Houston and Vapiano, Dallas
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Houston Do not mourn for now defunct Hue. Its sleek wood-and-stone setting has been recycled in newly opened Kata Robata, brought to you by the team behind Azuma and Soma Sushi (well, behind Hue too—you can’t win ’em all). The simple art of robata-style grilling lets the meat speak for itself, so we thought it proper to start with a succulent seared lamb chop served on a slender bamboo leaf. Definitely yum. We constructed the rest of our meal out of small plates, including, for openers, agedashi tofu (deep-fried tofu) and a nice selection of vegetable tempura. Then things got fishy, in the best possible way, with unagi sushi (freshwater eel), peppercorn tuna sashimi, and an American-palate-pleasing Caribbean roll featuring tuna and fried lobster plus mango, avocado, and eel sauce. Chef Manabu Horiuchi, formerly of Kubo’s, reigns over the sushi bar. Bar. 3600 Kirby Dr (713-526-8858). Open Mon–Thur 11:30–11, Fri 11:30–midnight, Sat noon–midnight, Sun noon–10. Reservations accepted. $$–$$$ W+
Dallas Italian cuisine gets a shot of German efficiency at this slick-as-a-whistle, ultramodern spot tucked away in Mockingbird Station. Vapiano is a casual, partly self-serve European import—more than thirty locations worldwide—where you get a “credit card” upon arrival that’s used to tally your purchases at various pizza and pasta stations. The setup is all very expeditious, particularly for an enterprise that takes its name from the Italian va piano, meaning “go slowly.” And we did just that once we settled in amid the blond wood and butterscotch leather to enjoy what turned out to be quite satisfactory, unpretentious food: fusilli with a creamy fusion of limone e menta (lemon and mint) nestled in each crevice and a thin-crusted pizza, smoky and blistered, with arugula, Parmesan, and tomato sauce (pictured). A respectable vanilla bean panna cotta (topped with a sweet strawberry coulis) delivered a harmonious finale. Bar. Mockingbird Station, 5319 E. Mockingbird Ln (214-887-1557). Open Sun–Thur 11–10, Fri & Sat 11–midnight. $–$$ W+