Sit down at a table in any of these restaurants, and you can expect what we like to call a “big-deal meal”—and, in some cases, a real adventure. Across Texas, chefs are serving up thrilling combinations, from beef-tongue tamales to fish-mousse dumplings. To the brave among you: The Flora Street Café’s bone-marrow custard shimmers; Otoko’s jellyfish crunches. Less courageous diners, do not fear. You can appreciate the celery-seed crackers from afar as you feast on more traditional fare. We’ve culled these restaurants from the past three years of my “Where to Eat Now” lists. Whether the venue is minimalist, casual, or hung with ruffled petticoats, you can expect only the highest quality at any of these top spots.

Austin

Intero

Italian is spoken with a modern accent at Intero. No statues of Roman fauns or candles in Chianti bottles here. Instead, you’re ushered into simple white rooms with angular wooden chairs and mysterious, roiling abstract art. In this setting, talented chef and co-owner Ian Thurwachter has reimagined risotto with French and German touches; the mellow rice is swirled with Brie and bolstered with dry-aged beef sausage and a bit of cabbage. His quail, pink of flesh and deeply scored by the grill, comes with fat, sweet squares of butternut squash in a rich mostarda. At the end of the meal, a wee cup of deep, dark sipping chocolate is all the dessert you need. Keeping it in the family, chocolatier Krystal Craig is Thurwachter’s wife.

Opened January 23, 2018.
2612 E. Cesar Chavez.
(512-599-4052).
D Tue–Sun. B Sun.

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

What’ll it be? Smoked brisket on ramen? Sticky rice, chorizo, and beef tongue tamales? Tokyo-style grilled corn with yuzu pepper aioli? From the day Kemuri Tatsu-Ya opened, thrill-seeking diners and national food writers have been beating a path to its funky front door. The East Austin hot spot, which is the brainstorm of chef-owners Tatsu Aikawa, age 36, and Takuya “Tako” Matsumoto, age 39, combines two of their favorite institutions: the Texas barbecue joint and the Japanese izakaya (basically a neighborhood brewpub that sells sake and snacks). That “kemuri” is Japanese for “smoke” makes it just perfect.

Opened January 5, 2017.
2713 E. 2nd.
(512-893-5561).
D Thurs-Sun.

L’Oca d’Oro

In a glass-enclosed space with a convivial counter up front and a deafening dining room at the back, chef and co-owner Fiore Tedesco makes a lasagna like no other. Instead of noodles, tomato sauce, and meat, his revelatory, more northerly version uses delectably crisped pasta sheets to embrace a trove of cheeses and a forest’s worth of mushrooms. The finishing touch is not red sauce but green-onion puree. The tradition tweaking doesn’t stop there. He takes a pork cutlet and snuggles it into the puffiest of fried-batter coats to make an updated milanese that Texans might call Italian chicken-fried steak. He spritzes roasted butternut squash slices with orange juice and then combines them with smoky pecan halves to create a salad that coolly echoes classic prosciutto and melon. Tedesco—who cooked at Manhattan’s Gramercy Tavern—may have come from a restaurant family in upstate New York, but this is not his papa’s trattoria.

Opened June 15, 2016. 
1900 Simond Ave.
(737-212-1876).
D Wed–Sun.

Otoko

Four days a week, a dozen or so lucky souls wend their way to an aerie above South Congress Avenue. Awaiting their arrival are young sushi chef Yoshi Okai and his merry band, ready and eager to slice the best fish in the city. Nothing has been left to chance, not the intimate room with its stunning backlit black and white stripes, not the sense of drama, not the engaging music (well, Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” might not be everybody’s cup of green tea). Two menus are offered: on Wednesdays, globally sourced sushi and sashimi; other nights a mix of fish and meat. You might start with a mini-salad of fried shiitakes paired with the otherworldly crunch of jellyfish. For contrast, Okai offers rare duck, its fatty skin lightly singed and crispy. Twenty bite-size courses—chef’s choice—will run you $150 to $200 a person, not including gratuity or beverage. When’s your birthday?

Opened March 2, 2016.
1603 S. Congress Ave.
(512-920-6405).
D Wed–Sat.

Pitchfork Pretty

True, the name Pitchfork Pretty is at odds with the restaurant’s polished modern architecture, where dark wooden beams span an airy, angular space and white paper lanterns seem to float overhead. But nobody is thinking about the name once they’ve started eating the highly original and delicious food of 37-year-old chef Max Snyder. He updates fried chicken by using habanero brine on plump pieces and deep-frying them in fluffy chickpea-flour batter. He grills pears for dessert (above). And his teensy quail egg shooter, perched on a bed of frizzy fried leeks, might just be the year’s best single bite.

Opened June 14, 2017.
2708 E. Cesar Chavez.
(512-494-4593).
D Tue–Sat. B Sun.

Red Ash Italia

Question: Given that there was barely enough room to shoehorn yet another steakhouse into downtown Austin, does anything make Red Ash stand out from the pack? Answer: an Italian accent. And judging by the orders of pappardelle with wild-boar Bolognese flying out of the kitchen, the idea is working very well. It also doesn’t hurt that the decor cleverly combines class (towers of flowers) and sass (a graffiti mural). Executive chef and owner John Carver knows, though, that his customers are first and foremost carnivorous. He keeps them happy with the likes of rosy wood-grilled lamb steaks and red snapper Livornese decked out with kalamata olives, capers, and roasted tomatoes. But what will doubtless prove to be his signature dish is the heavily mushroomed bruschetta with roasted bistecca drippings—a slab of rustic bread glistening under rivulets of steak gravy. The resemblance to Texas toast is neither coincidental nor unwelcome.

Opened October 15, 2016.  
303 Colorado.
(512-379-2906).
D 7 days.

Suerte

Obsession is not a bad thing at year-old Mexican restaurant Suerte. Compulsively experimenting with humble corn masa is what keeps owner Sam Hellman-Mass and executive chef Fermín Núñez excited. With local heirloom kernels as their starting point, they fashion not just cushy tortillas and pillowy tamales but also bite-size molotes (a little like hush puppies) and other edibles not often seen this side of the border. What goes with these tidbits? Cabrito ribs, for one thing, rubbed with epazote and mint and bolstered by a small herd of condiments like creamy queso fresco and piquant salsa hidalguense. Royal red prawns and avocado for another, aswim in a tart cascabel chile broth. Suerte’s light, bright dining room, with its pink and gray fabric, hardly looks like the kind of Mexican restaurant you’d normally find in Texas. But I suspect that’s the point.

Opened March 22, 2018.
1800 E. Sixth.
(512-953-0092).
D 7 days. B Sat & Sun.

The dining room at Bullion in Dallas.

Photograph by Trevor Paulhus

Dallas

Bullion

Quick! Which Texas city is home to a gleaming, golden-hued restaurant named Bullion? It’s Dallas, of course. Every design detail is perfect, from the deep-blue velvet banquettes to the Makassar ebony tables. And what does one eat in such a place? The refined contemporary French cuisine of 51-year-old chef Bruno Davaillon. He’s stupendous with seafood offerings, like ethereal fish-mousse dumplings and silken seared scallops in an Ibérico ham broth. But because the mood is surprisingly low-key and the music hypnotic, the room feels less like a gourmet palace than a cozy supper club.

Opened November 17, 2017.
400 S. Record.
(972-698-4250).
L Mon–Fri. D Mon–Sat.

Flora Street Cafe

Welcome to Stephan Pyles’s own private Texas. The force behind half a dozen major restaurants, the Dallas chef has walked an unusual tightrope over a three-decade career, honoring his West Texas roots while embracing complex modernist cuisine. The meeting ground between high style and homespun has reached its peak at Flora Street Cafe, a glittering jewel box of a space in the Dallas Arts District. “Every dish has a Texas element,” Pyles says, “even if it’s only a chile or a hint of smoke.” Some of those connections are straightforward, like the ribeye with a shimmering bone-marrow custard. Others are a culinary riddle, like the pozole, in which a handful of hominy and an alabaster filet of citrus-marinated black cod bask in a dusky broth brightened by shishito peppers. Pyles began in the eighties as one of the three Texas architects of Southwestern cuisine. His genius then was taking Texas, Mexican, and Southern ideas to places they’d never been before. With Flora Street Cafe, that genius continues.

Opened May 31, 2016.
2330 Flora.

(214-580-7000).
L Mon–Fri. D Mon–Sat. B Sun.

Macellaio

We all have dreams: travel the world, meet our soul mate, achieve world peace. Chef David Uygur dreams of being up to his elbows in a vat of ground meat. He attained this goal last year with the opening of Macellaio, a Mediterranean restaurant with a serious side gig doing charcuterie. Located in Dallas’s Oak Cliff neighborhood, it’s the younger sibling of tiny Lucia, an Italian venue also owned by Uygur and his wife (and Italian wine expert), Jennifer. Pronounced “Ma-che-lie-oh” and meaning “butcher,” the new spot puts cured meats front and center: slices of deep-red coppa, for instance, punched up with spicy green peppercorns. But there’s lots more to try, like Uygur’s novel take on the southern French dish aligot. Watch as he raises a pan of melted Gruyère and pours cascades of molten cheese over teeny pickled creamer peas. Tell him it makes you think of queso, and he’ll just smile.

Opened June 5, 2018.
287 N. Bishop Ave.
(972-685-9150).
D Tue–Sun.

Montlake Cut

“I always wanted to do a little restaurant that cures my homesickness,” says chef-owner Nick Badovinus, who has spent 25 years in Dallas but still pines for Seattle. That mission is accomplished at Montlake Cut, a place where white tablecloths peacefully coexist with nautical tchotchkes galore. The name of the restaurant refers to the waterway between Puget Sound and Lake Washington, and, appropriately, seafood is what’s on the menu. Are you in the mood for something raw? There’s a changing roster of oysters, ceviches, and crudos, one standout being the platter of gorgeous yellowtail complemented by a copper-toned ponzu-dashi broth. For something fried—but still light—there’s the Parmesan-crusted sole lavished with lemon and capers. Carnivorous types will be pleased by the grilled New York strip crowned with garlic butter. It feels welcoming here whatever you’re in the mood to eat—and whether you’re homesick or not.

Opened December 16, 2015.  
8220 Westchester Dr.
(214-739-8220).
L Mon–Fri. D Mon–Sat.

Petra and the Beast

By the time I had inhaled a cinnamon-jazzed mojito and worked my way through a throng of dishes on Petra’s Saturday night tasting menu, I had bonded with the strangers at our shared table. I suspect that happens a lot with solo diners here. The humble East Dallas restaurant has become a beacon for aficionados of foraging, fermenting, and whole-animal cookery. Its genial host is chef-owner Misti Norris, formerly of Small Brewpub, who offers a counter-order regular menu and those special Saturday dinners ($125, by reservation). What stood out? Excellent charcuterie, for one, especially that smashing spreadable sausage ’nduja on a celery-seed cracker. Along the way we also nibbled on crispy bits of smoke-dried beef tongue atop a rice “sauce” garnished with popped sorghum. And we finished with variations on the tangerine: marshmallow fluff, custard, and fresh fruit. Petra is casual, idiosyncratic (the decor includes bundles of dried herbs and baskets of bleached bones), and completely original.

Opened March 10, 2018.
601 N. Haskell Ave.
(318-935-09
06).
L Wed–Fri & Sun. D Wed–Sun.

Sachet

Think small. That’s the motto at Sachet, where superlative snacks set a casual tone. The Mediterranean-style menu of 48-year-old chef-owner Stephen Rogers produces such delights as field peas with grilled scallions, punched up with a hazelnut-spice mix, and grilled baby carrots set off by pumpkin seeds and a spunky parsley-and-cilantro toss. But when serious hunger strikes, the kitchen is ready with lamb chops cooked in the wood-burning oven and crispy pork with porcini mushrooms on bouncy farrotto. With its open wood shelving and aqua-and-white floor tiles in the bar area, Sachet would fit right in at a seaside resort.

Opened September 20, 2017.
4270 Oak Lawn Ave.
(214-613-6425).
L Tue–Sat. D Tue–Sun.

Sprezza

Before opening his modern trattoria Sprezza, Dallas chef and restaurateur Julian Barsotti took a Roman holiday. Actually, he took three of them. “I went to explore Roman street food,” he says. “Everyday fare.” He came away with a liberating truth. “I realized I couldn’t really replicate the food”—because the basic ingredients are so different—“but I could be true to its spirit.” As a result, Sprezza’s menu, under the direction of executive chef Ryan Ferguson, is rustic, spicy, and comforting. The house-made fior di latte mozzarella retains the freshness of the milk it was a few hours earlier. Lamb meatballs—lightened with currants and pine nuts and zapped with a tzatziki-like yogurt sauce—have an Eastern Mediterranean accent. And while the pizza may not be made with real Italian flour, it’s still Roman to the core: rectangular, crisp, and light on the cheese.

Opened April 28, 2016.
4010 Maple Ave.
(972-807-9388).
D 7 days.    

Tulum

“Theatrical” hardly does the decor justice. You walk through the bar and into acres of jungle-print wallpaper. Then you notice—what are those? Ruffled petticoats on the ceiling? Gigantic paper flowers? The dining room isn’t quite as much fun, although it’s equally attractive. But once executive chef Nico Sanchez’s modern Mexican dishes start coming, you forget everything to concentrate on appetizers like charred octopus, a sinuous butter-tender tentacle under a piquant achiote-ginger-orange sauce. Seafood is obviously a strength; witness all-but-quivering diver scallops on a mild smoked-potato puree cozied up to a teeny cross section of baked butternut squash. Sybaritic desserts include a floozy of a piloncillo chocolate cake that you won’t soon forget.

Opened October 25, 2018.
4216 Oak Lawn Ave.
(9
72-677-9747).
D Mon–Sat.

Fort Worth

Piattello Italian Kitchen

I’m shocked—shocked—that the arancini here have not been designated a controlled substance. You can tell by looking at people’s faces that these oozy fontina-filled risotto balls are addictive. Why, I saw whole families openly indulging, right there in the spacious dining room and on the deck out front. What is the world coming to? All kidding aside, Piattello’s chef and owner, Marcus Paslay, age 35, obviously knows what people like. His menu ranges from jet-black squid-ink bucatini crowned with lightly sautéed Gulf shrimp (for the pasta snobs) to Roman-style pizzas, their crusts toasty from the wood oven (for everybody).

Opened January 14, 2017.
5924 Convair Dr.
(817-349-0484).
D 7 days. B Sun.

A dessert at Nancy’s Hustle in Houston.

Photograph by John Davidson

Houston

Indigo

Your seat is a perch at the thirteen-place concrete counter in a modest former storefront in Lindale Park. There, chef Jonny Rhodes and his wife, Chana (the sommelier and general manager), are giving soul food a sophisticated spin. Settle in and wait for round one of your five-course tasting menu to appear. After a few minutes, Jonny steps out to talk about what you’re about to eat and its place in African American foodways. His words are a revelation. So what’s behind his watermelon “Kool-Aid” soup with startlingly salty-sweet pickled blueberries and mint? “There is a pervasive stereotype,” he says, “about black people liking watermelon and Kool-Aid. We wanted to attack that story head-on and show our love” for those ingredients by turning them into something special. And so it goes, through things like local fish with a delicious preserved-ramp ranch dressing, aged pastrami with sorghum-stewed beets, and magnolia-blossom ice cream. Some of Rhodes’s spiels are literal, others are lyrical. All are insightful. Menus $79 and $125; reservations required.


Opened July 25, 2018.
517 Berry Rd.
(832-582-6388).
D Thur–Sun.

Killen’s STQ

“STQ” stands for “steak and barbecue,” but 51-year-old Ronnie Killen’s Le Cordon Bleu training is the key to understanding the breadth of this small white-tablecloth space tricked out with weathered lumber and walls of wine. Ribeyes come flawlessly grilled, their tenderness a tribute to their wagyu heritage. A fabulous crab cake, adrift in lemon butter, flakes into alabaster pearls of pure crabmeat. When your server lifts the glass dome over your chocolate cake, which sits on a slab of oak and is served with maraschino and port-simmered cherries, clouds of fragrant wood smoke waft into the room. P. T. Barnum would be impressed.

Opened December 5, 2016.
2231 S. Voss Rd
(713-586-0223).
L Tue–Fri. D Mon–Sat.

Nancy’s Hustle

With uncanny intuition, Nancy’s Hustle delivers just what today’s urban diners want in a restaurant. It’s easygoing (the narrow space offers little beyond concrete floors, plain blond-wood tables, and the occasional potted plant). It’s agreeable (the fun starts with a creative cocktail menu and trendy, minimally processed natural wines). It’s also a little eccentric (what’s with the reel-to-reel tape machine up front?). But most importantly, thanks to executive chef Jason Vaughan, it knows what customers want to eat. That understanding takes the form of openers like a fabulous corn-porridge sourdough bread, the moist loaf begging to be spread with cultured chèvre butter. More substantially, it translates into lamb tartare with Castelvetrano olives and Marcona almonds, sided by crusty, pita-like flatbread. No wonder the restaurant has been getting national attention from the likes of Bon Appétit, Esquire, and Thrillist.

Opened November 28, 2017.
2704 Polk.
(346-571-7931).
D Tue–Sun.

Pepper Twins

Some like it hot, and they’re in luck at this well-designed strip mall cafe decked out in red and black. As the name implies, you get peppers in two guises: as a multitude of fire-breathing Chinese chiles and also in the form of Sichuan peppercorns. They work in tandem, the chiles supplying heat and earthy flavor, the peppercorns causing your tongue and lips to tingle while making other flavors glow. Check out the full effects in Mountain City Noodle, a dark broth aswim with bok choy and topped with a ton of peanuts and scallions. Those who like it mild needn’t fret, though. Golden Egg and Sweet Corn, with a shower of salty preserved duck egg, is pure comfort. Owner Yunan Yang’s little cafe joins other pioneering restaurants that have brought the clear, intense flavors of Bellaire Boulevard—Houston’s far-flung Asian thoroughfare—to an eager audience in the heart of the city.

Opened September 23, 2016.
1915 W. Gray.
(346-204-5644).
L & D Tue–Sun.

Poitín

The global menu at Poitín checks off so many countries you wonder if the next stop is the moon. At this contemporary space, with its dark woods and spacious taupe booths, a meal might start with thin-sliced Peruvian ceviche marinated in a killer blend of lime juice, garlic, and chiles. Executive chef Dominick Lee might then send you to the Mediterranean to have crostini loaded with oyster mushrooms, creamy ricotta, and fat curls of Parmesan. Argentina gets its due with rosy-pink flank steak accessorized with an intense parsley-oregano chimichurri. The proper nightcap? A shot of the namesake poitín (“put-cheen”), a traditional Irish tipple. Owner Ian Tucker is from the Emerald Isle. It figures.

Opened May 14, 2018.
2313 Edwards.
(713-470-6686).
D 7 days. B Sat & Sun.

Riel

The number of Texas chefs from Winnipeg, Canada, can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand, and Ryan Lachaine is one of them. At Riel, he offers updated versions of the homey borscht and pierogi cooked by his Ukrainian grandmother and mother. But the casual, contemporary restaurant is not just an homage to the 42-year-old’s childhood. It’s also a tribute to his globe-trotting ways, which include touchdowns in and working visits to New Orleans, San Francisco, Charleston, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. Somehow Lachaine brings everything together in dishes like mangrove snapper submerged in a dusky ham broth with black-eyed peas, as well as a trio of heads-on shrimp sided by a hot sauce kicked up with palm sugar and rice wine vinegar.

Opened January 3, 2017.
1927 Fairview.
(832-831-9109).
D Mon–Sat.

Ritual

The statue of a flying pig next to my chair did not bode well for a serious dining experience, nor did the wall of sound courtesy of a DJ prowling around on a catwalk high above the cavernous warehouse. But after a couple of bites into the mountain of food we had ordered, I was won over. Despite all odds, Ritual’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach works. My red beans and rice was a heroic bowl of legumes in deep-flavored ham-hock broth, tricked out with Texas Gouda risotto and adorned by finger-size house-smoked kielbasa sausages. On top there were molasses-glazed baby carrots and, on the side, a golden round of cornbread. Who’s responsible for this winning take on Texas and Southern classics? Credit the fevered brain of restaurateur Ken Bridge and his willingness to twice change chefs. At press time, Crash Hethcox was in place. Hope for his sake the third time’s the charm.

Opened June 14, 2016.
602 Studewood.
(832-203-5180).
L & D 7 days.

Theodore Rex

After running the super-serious, critically acclaimed Oxheart for exactly five years, chef Justin Yu was ready to lighten up. So he turned it into Theodore Rex, an eclectic spot named for (1) his young nephew and (2) the dinosaur. Banquettes in bright quilted fabric soften the little old commercial building. The accessible, changing menu may include a velvety breast of guinea hen in a creamy, brothy sauce and feathery-edged pavé potatoes (a.k.a. scalloped potatoes from heaven). A starter of tomato toast—fine-grained bread crowned with petite tomato halves and garlicky tomato fondant—has become a must-have. The 33-year-old chef’s food is as innovative as ever, and a lot more approachable.

Opened October 6, 2017.
1302 Nance.
(832-830-8592).
D Thur–Mon.

UB PreservOne Fifth Mediterranean, and Georgia James

There are very good years. Frank Sinatra knew a thing or two about those. And then there are great years. Chris Shepherd just had one of those—and how. In less than six months, the James Beard Award–winning Houston chef opened not one, not two, but three restaurants. First came a convivial Asian/Mexican nook for nibbling and tippling. Then he debuted a modern Mediterranean venue in a gracious old church. The third to make its appearance was a streamlined steakhouse with a creative streak. And did I mention that each one is a smashing success? Walk into little UB Preserv, the name a quirky homage to Shepherd’s sadly defunct Underbelly, and you’ll be carried along on waves of laughter and chatter as youthful bons vivants quaff Braggarts (mezcal, orange, amaro, bubbles) and scrape up the last grains of spectacular crispy rice covered in heaps of cilantro, jalapeño, and cucumber with a serrano vinaigrette. (UB’s chef de cuisine, Nick Wong, obviously learned a thing or two working in New York at Momofuku Ssäm Bar.) Less than a block down the street is Shepherd’s second love child of the year, One Fifth Mediterranean. Here, the kitchen plies customers with kibbeh nayeh, the tartare of the Middle East, and mutabal, a lusty roasted eggplant dip swirled with tahini and brightened with parsley. Rounding out the trio is Georgia James, a fittingly personal restaurant named for the hospitable chef’s mom and dad. Shepherd is fond of saying, “If you came to my house for a steak, I’d cook it on a cast-iron skillet,” and that is exactly what he does here. Under the direction of chef de cuisine Greg Peters, the beef emerges appropriately lush, with a seductive smoky char. But it’s the unexpected starters and sides—like uni panna cotta with a Fresno-chile gastrique—that will turn your head. Now that he’s completed his banner year, Shepherd could be forgiven for resting on his laurels. But come July 31, One Fifth Mediterranean is slated to be shuttered to make way for the fourth of the five concepts that he’s promised to open in that space over five years. Will he actually close it? I wonder. When you’ve just created one of the best restaurants of your career, it would be crazy to mess with success.

UB Preserv
Opened May 8, 2018.
1609 Westheimer Rd.
(346-406-5923).
D Tue–Sat. B Sun.

One Fifth Mediterranean
Opened September 1, 2018.
1658 Westheimer Rd.
(713-955-1024).
D 7 days.

Georgia James
Opened October 14, 2018.
1100 Westheimer Rd.
(832-241-5088).
D 7 days.

Xochi

You must have the flying ants. Yes, really. Don’t freak. The crispy critters, judiciously folded into a bright, pungent mole de chicatana, are actually quite mild. But more to the point, edible insects are a signature of chef Hugo Ortega’s Xochi, the most fascinating restaurant to have opened in Texas in 2017. The menu takes its inspiration from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, widely regarded for its culinary sophistication. Here you can feast on traditional dishes like cabrito, a tidy rectangle of crispy goat meat in a svelte, deep-brown chilhuacle pepper mole. Or you can go modern with scallop-and-cucumber crudo, a vision in pink and green. You can also go a little crazy with a fabulous faux cacao pod (above). Set in a smart, new Houston hotel and brightened with whimsical folk art, Xochi is yet another milestone in the career of 53-year-old Ortega. Last year, when the James Beard Foundation named him Best Chef in the Southwest, his jubilant fans had only one question: Why did it take so long?

Opened January 27, 2017.
1777 Walker.
(713-400-3330).
L 7 days. D 7 days. B Sat & Sun.

 

Miso Baked Black Cod at Range.

Photograph by Wynn Myers

San Antonio

Clementine

With its small, casual dining room and travel poster–type art, Clementine looks like a comfy place where you’d meet friends after yoga or a movie. And it’s perfect for that. But that is by no means the whole story. In the hands of executive chef and co-owner John Russ, the sensibility is Mediterranean and Southern and the technique is expert. Moist duck-leg confit arrives in a puddle of Emmentaler cheese and a meaty sauce Robert. A strong Italian inclination shows up in the pasta choices, including casarecce, short twirls of noodle cozied up to strips of scandalously fatty (and delicious) braised veal. Alongside are dark, pleasingly bitter greens, which you can use to assuage your conscience. You’ll want to do that because you’re going to challenge it again with dessert, one fine example being co-owner (and pastry chef) Elise Russ’s passion fruit crème brûlée, silky and sharp at the same time, like key lime pie with a French twist.

Opened January 17, 2018.
2195 NW Military Hwy.
(210-503-5121).
L Tue–Fri. D Tue–Sat.

Range

Leather-clad menus and stark photographs celebrate the cattle drive, so fine steaks are obligatory. But what you might not expect at Range is a dish like wagyu shabu-shabu, thin-sliced beef that you cook yourself in a bubbling soy broth and then roll up in napa cabbage leaves. Likewise, you might be surprised to see a superb classic from the nineties, miso-marinated baked black cod. At some point, the restaurant’s hallmark blueberry muffins with pink-peppercorn butter will appear on your table, and at the end of the meal, everybody gets cotton candy. Forty-one-year-old chef Jason Dady wants you to remember this place.

Opened September 22, 2017.
125 E. Houston.
(210-227-4455).
L & D 7 days.

Signature

When chef-owner Andrew Weissman closed Le Rêve, in 2009, gourmands across Texas mourned. For eleven years the tiny place had been the most accomplished French restaurant in Texas, hailed by Gourmet and the New York Times. Then the economy dealt it a deathblow. Weissman did other concepts, an upscale osteria and a fine fish house, and even opened a falafel joint and a quick-food place in repurposed shipping containers. Now he’s back with his most luxurious effort yet. The spectacular interior suggests a lodge in the south of France. Signature’s elaborate presentations are so fabulous that diners stare as if they’ve just seen Botticelli’s Venus, or Beyoncé. The restaurant was mere weeks old when I visited and still refining its menu, but sublime sauces—such as the wine-and-mushroom-rich reduction on the sweetbreads—were already superb. The initial offerings dazzle with the likes of butter-poached lobster and duck foie gras torchon, and Weissman promises the best is yet to come—please oh please oh please.

Opened November 21, 2016.
16401 La Cantera Pkwy.
(210-247-0176).
D Tues–Sun. B Sun.