Attention, Houston: Claire Smith is back. Residents of the Bayou City became the young chef’s loyal followers during the six years that she owned the Daily Review Cafe and mourned when, in 2000, she decamped for Chicago. Happily, it didn’t take too long for her to come to her senses and make her way home. In December, in partnership with her husband, Russell Murrell, and chef Jeb Stuart (an alum of the Daily Review), Smith opened Shade in the city’s easygoing Heights area. Her innovative style shows up in dinner entrées like short ribs braised in a zingy, Thai-influenced red curry and moist halibut in a prosciutto wrapper. Even lunchtime dishes are imaginative: A spinach-and-frisée salad is dotted with crisp bacon lardons and topped by a poached quail egg “on a raft” (a round of toast), and a meaty grilled lamb sandwich is made with homemade flatbread and garnished with cucumber-mint raita. Equally up-to-the-minute, the tall rooms are done in cool pastels, with curvaceous blue chairs in the bar area. It’s so nice to have you back where you belong, Ms. Smith.
Try this recipe for Chocolate Cherry Croissant Bread Pudding from Shade, Houston.