The national blog Eater announced the winners of its annual Houston restaurant awards this past Monday. The awards honored restaurants and chefs in six categories: Restaurant of the Year, Chef of the Year, “So Hot Right Now” (recognizing restaurants with a high level of trendiness), Bartender of the Year, Saddest Closing and “Stone Cold Stunner,” recognizing restaurants with especially impressive decor. Nominees were selected by local food critics and the final winners determined by votes from the blog’s readers.
This year’s biggest winner was chef Ryan Pera. Pera won both Chef of the Year and Restaurant of the Year for his newly opened Italian/American restaurant, Coltivare. Though new this year on the Houston restaurant scene, Coltivare has already topped more than one “Best of Houston” list, named Houston’s top new restaurant by the blog Thrillist earlier this month. Pera, who opened Coltivare after serving as a partner at Revelry Market, specializes in pizza and locally-grown ingredients. The menu at Coltivare changes often but is known for its inventive use of fresh local ingredients, many of which are grown in Coltivare’s house garden.
Tout Suite won the “So Hot Right Now” award over Pax Americana, which failed to win any awards despite being nominated for three. Tout Suite, opened earlier this year, took advantage of the make-your-own-dish model popularized by chains like Chipotle to become one of downtown’s most popular spots. Especially popular among the health and price conscious, Tout Suite is known for its fresh custom salads, killer sandwiches priced as low as $6 and its outstandingly creative brunch menu.
Bartenders of the Year Leslie Ross and Sheddan Harvey seemed sure to win as soon as their plans for expanding Triniti’s bar into its own entity came to light. Their new bar, Sanctuari, which has been open separately from its parent restaurant, Triniti, for less than a month, has emerged far ahead of its time in its approach to cocktails. Ross and Harvey’s menu incorporates Campari ice filters, lemon pollen, Thai chilies, rose petals, fish sauce, real smoke and more into its drinks, which have been received as the most beautiful, inventive and delicious cocktails in Houston.
This year’s Saddest Closing was awarded to Van Loc. The owners of the beloved Vietnamese and vegetarian restaurant decided to retire and close Van Loc’s doors in mid-October. As news of the closing spread, patrons flocked to the Fourth Ward location in such large numbers that Van Loc was closed three days early after
running out of food.
The final award, “Stone Cold Stunner,” went to KUU restaurant. Helmed by chef Addison Lee, the elegant Japanese restaurant in Memorial City has had a remarkable year, winning accolades for its fresh sushi, notable wine list and delicate presentations, as well as its decor.