Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd reopens One Fifth Romance Languages on September 8. The eatery will become five different restaurants over five years in the space, the former location of Houston fine-dining icon Mark's, and this is its second "concept."
After its initial run as One Fifth Steak, which opened in late January and closed on July 31, the restaurant has been renovated into an eatery that will draw influences from the regions of Italy, Spain and France. The dining room will still seat 140 guests, but now under the glow of a "softer palette of greens, blues and purples, with fabric draped across the ceiling," according to a press release, and with an awning over the eight-seat bar. Artist and designer Matthew Tabor has also added a translucent paint layer to several large serigraphs in the dining room, which will be painted over prior to the opening of every new One Fifth debut, so that the art installation changes over time.
According to a press release, Shepherd spent two weeks in Italy "learning as much about the culture as he could in that short time" and "anticipates at least one more research trip to Europe before Romance Languages closes next July." Sounds fun.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, chef de cuisine Nick Fine is cooking up the likes of carbonara with eggs from Yonder Way Farms and Knopp Branch, a bolognese with duck hearts, snail en croute, and a suckling pig presse.
“This dish is 100 percent technique-driven,” Fine said of the pig, “because it requires selecting the perfect size and age of pig to achieve the right bone-to-meat ratio. We tried this dish with at least five different pigs, and we determined 24- to 30-pound milk-fed pigs gave us the best yield and texture in the dish.”
One dish you'll be able to expect at every iteration of One Fifth is the restaurant's seafood tower, but now there is also a charcuterie tower with a variety of fresh terrines and rillettes, and a Pièce de Résistance, also called The Big Dog Tower, that combines both the seafood and the charcuterie.
The menu is divided into four sections with smaller portions than those served at One Fifth Steak, now meant to be coursed out.
Pastry director Victoria Dearmond has created a new dessert menu that includes a French-inspired tart featuring a combination of cherry and almond — marzipan — and an Italian-inspired budino featuring hazelnuts from a farm Shepherd reportedly discovered in Italy.
As for drinks, somm Matthew Pridgen has created a list that emphasizes Old World wines from France, Italy, Spain, Austria and Germany, though New World selections will still be available too.
American whiskey is still a focus when it comes to spirits, as One Fifth currently has five exclusive single barrel offerings via the Houston Bourbon Consortium, but bar manager Eli Beckmann has also worked in Romance influences as well, with a Spanish tonic and fino sherry featured in the gin tonic and more fun times with Italian grappa, Cognac and more booze.
Reservations are now available at onefifthhouston.com. Here's the full menu.
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One Fifth, 1658 Westheimer
Hours: Sunday to Monday, 5 to 10 p.m. and Tuesday to Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m.