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More details on Textile

In case you missed it, Cleverley has a great post today about the specifics of the concept Scott Tycer is developing with Textile.

Textile is a much more ambitious project than I anticipated, focusing on multi-course tastings and progressive cooking techniques. A sort of a transposed version of the Jose Andres’ minibar in Washington (minibar serves 30+ dishes to 6 people, Textile will serve 7 dishes to 30 people).

The main attraction at Textile will be the tasting menu, offered every night. The tasting menu will consist of five or seven courses. Approximate charge for the five course will be $75 and the seven course will be $95. There will be a very small a la carte menu with only three appetizers, three entrées and three desserts.
This is a continuation of Aries. I’m going back into the kitchen to cook the way I really, really want to cook. I won’t repeat any dishes from Aries but I’ll put a little science into the food at Textile, a la Ferran Adrià, like with different types of heated caviars, like wasabi caviar. We’ll explore some of the mysteries of food, but not too much, because I don’t think that’s what food is really about. We’ll hit the basics really hard with clean flavors and precise textures. And we’ll have a lot fun doing it.

More details in the original post.

The big question is whether Houston is ready for an uncompromising restaurant like Textile. Scott Tycer is taking a risk, but I have a feeling it just might work. I ordered a tasting menu at Soma several weeks after it opened and looking around the room it seemed like many tables were doing the same – and that’s without Robert Gadsby humping his Iron Chef pedigree.

Same story seems to have played in the opening weeks at Voice; Michael Kramer mentioned that he was surprised by the number of degustation orders he received early on. So who knows? Maybe a technique forward restaurant focused on a tasting menu is exactly what Houston needs right now.

Elsewhere in the country people are buckling under the weight of rising gas prices, slowing economy and the unwinding real estate bubble. In Houston, rising gas prices actually help create jobs (unemployment rate is lower now than it was in 2000), businesses are growing and real estate prices are holding steady. People pre-ordering all those luxury high rise apartments have to eat somewhere.

So, maybe we’ll see a mini explosion of restaurants focused on progressive cuisine over the next few years. Houston is the new Chicago, after all.

My wish list for Textile:

  1. Diners really should have a choice whether to order the tasting or a la carte menu. The requirement that the entire table order a tasting menu seems entirely unnecessary.
  2. Vegetable-centric dishes are given serious treatment as at Manresa and Ubuntu. It’s time to put the notion that only vegetarians care about vegetables to rest.
  3. Speaking of vegetarians, it would be great if they were allowed on premises. And served some sort of food.
  4. I hope techniques used at Textile go a little further than caviars and tapioca pearls. I think Scott Tycer is on the right track by not turning his dishes into a science experiment, but when a technique is widely used by also-rans on Top Chef and at the rather conservative French Laundry (below), it’s ok to push the envelope just a little further. I am sure Randy would be more than happy to come in and play technical consultant.

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