PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston March 2021

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THAT'S A BRAND! W hat do you get when you cross a billionaire H o u s t o n restaurateur's latest concept with a storied Texas ranch whose famous cattle brand is branded on merchandise from rifle cases to a Ford SUV? Tilman Fertitta's new King Ranch Texas Kitchen. The restaurant, located in Fertitta's former Willie G's location on Post Oak, is inspired by the King Ranch, the largest ranch in the state of Texas. In fact, it's bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island. A working ranch for 170 years, today the ranch hands still run cattle drives; breed quarter horses; farm citrus, cotton, and grain; and host recreational hunting groups on more than 825,000 acres. Now the King makers are trying their hand at partnering in a test run of a restaurant concept we're guessing is the first of several locales. Inside, evidence of the ranch's history line the walls, from vintage black-and- white photos and framed land deeds to hand-forged metal drum lights over red tufted banquettes pulled up to heavy oak dining tables. Executive chef Carlos Rodriguez is a veteran of the Fertitta Family concepts (Brenner's on the Bayou, Landry's Signature Group); his last position was head toque at the downtown steakhouse, Vic & Anthony's. Rodriguez's considerable expertise in searing USDA prime NY strips ($48) and mighty tomahawk rib-eyes ($89) warrants this promotion, as he conjures what modern ranch-house cooking can look like in the era of beef sourced from small-scale, family-run ranches, sustainably sourced Gulf seafood, and local produce. Rodriguez's The Whole Beet salad is composed of roasted beets with shredded greens and pickled stems, served with a beet-juice crema, fresh goat cheese, and pistachios ($13). Coerced into bringing his beloved crab cakes over from his former stead, this 2.0 version is studded with chunks of lump crab, next to fried crab fingers to swirl through the shallow puddle of dijonaise ($22). Don't miss the King Ranch country-fried quail app: The deboned meat is dressed with a sweet dry rub before it's perfectly fried and served with piquant jalapeño ranch ($16). We recommend a specialty cocktail such as the grilled-pineapple margarita ($14) or ranch water ($12) to cool down the mild pepper's heat. Maybe your mom made some version of canned-soup-laden King Ranch casserole. Well, we can officially squash all rumors that the Junior League recipe originated at the King Ranch. It didn't — but why not have fun with it anyway. Here, its enchilada roots are played up by layering smoked chicken with tortillas in a cast-iron pan surrounded by creamy mushroom-studded velouté, with pico de gallo, red onions, and cotija cheese, and topped with fresh salsa verde ($20). Move on to the Stockyards area of the menu, and you'll find King Ranch nilgai, an antelope raised on the ranch plated in two three-ounce medallions, bathed in chile-lime marinade and seared to medium rare alongside grilled mushrooms (market price). Finally, don't leave before you try the buttery pineapple upside-down cake, served warm with vanilla ice cream ($10), then browse the signature offerings in the glass cabinets from the Saddle Shop at King Ranch Texas Kitchen. Open daily for lunch and dinner, brunch on weekends, with dining inside and out. King Ranch Texas Kitchen, 1605 Post Oak Blvd., 832.427.3049, BY LAURANN CLARIDGE MEETS TILMAN. A BILLION DOLLAR RANCH Wagyu Surf & Turf with Wagyu-X beef (TX) sirloin and grilled bacon- wrapped lobster-tail medallion King Ranch Texas Kitchen 84

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