PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston November 2021

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T he adventurous new CityCentre restaurant ReikiNa seems to have evolved by happenstance. Chef Thomas Stacy, a former line cook at Uchi, didn't have grand plans of opening his own restaurant — certainly not during the COVID lockdown. A lifelong cooking enthusiast, the 29-year-old quit his high-paying gig in supply-chain management at Amazon in Seattle to follow his passion. That decision led him home to Houston and to Tyson Cole's Uchi, where he asked for his first kitchen job. Nine months later, in March 2020, as he prepped to move to a promising yet-to-open eatery, Houston shut down. Many of us started ordering curbside pickup; Stacy hosted pop-up dinners at his Montrose-area home. In late July 2020, he penned letters to his favorite houses in the Museum District and Boulevard Oaks, inviting them to gather for a 10-person BYOB dinner. Word spread, and people clamored for a coveted spot at the table (for $130 per person), where he served an eight-course tasting menu inspired by the ingredients of Asia mixed with Europe. A guest with CityCentre connections invited him to consider a vacant restaurant space on the second floor. Within months, ReikiNa was conceived. The name — "divine snacks" in Japanese — was partly inspired by Reiki, the Japanese form of alternative medicine centered around energy healing. The restaurant is opening in stages. Stacy's team — sous chef Jacob Larimore (Houston's MAD and BCN Taste & Tradition, The Garden Co. in Round Top), pastry chef Carla Briseno (Houston's MAD, BCN, Roka Akor, and Tout Suite), and director of operations Keaton Joyner — first invited 20 diners to reserve a seat via Resy at the communal table and countertop. They now take one seating of 20 diners nightly at 7:30 pm. Cafe@ ReikiNa (an à la carte experience for walk-ins serving shareable small plates) is open; the Lombok patio bar (Southeast Asian-inspired cocktails and elevated bar food) opens soon. Stacy worked with Cat Matthews of Found to create a comfortable interior vibe, with a vintage Chesterfield sofa and upholstered chairs, Turkish rugs, and an 11-foot farmhouse table made from reclaimed barn siding, created by Stacy himself. The meal commences after Stacy leads a gratitude meditation. Both vegetarian and omnivore prix fixe menus, which change every six weeks, are available ($150 per person). Our degustation began with a briny oyster AN EVOLUTION REIKINA, A SECOND-FLOOR, TUCKED-AWAY RESTAURANT, QUIETLY GATHERS STEAM. By Laurann Claridge. Photography Kat Ambrose. surrounded by s a k e c i t r u s mignonette and serrano oil. The second course was a beautiful e x a m p l e o f E a s t m e e t s West cuisine: two slices of y e l l o w t a i l sashimi served with pineapple vierge ("virgin" raw-style sauce) — a fine example of cuisine minceur, the cooking style developed in France circa 1970 by chef Michael Guérard. Here, Stacy blends pineapple with ginger, basil, and champagne vinegar to create a smooth, uncooked emulsion beneath the tuna. The veggie version of chicken liver mousse is served with rounds of toasted baguette and spring onion compound butter; kimchee replaces the traditional cornichon with a smooth purée of shiitake and oyster mushrooms creating an enticing chicken-liver dupe. Other courses included crab cake with miso orange brown butter emulsion and lettuce wrap, and eggplant with sesame honey and goat cheese. Cherry Cheeks is a fun dish, its bao bun filled with cherry compote and seared pork belly in a char siu glaze. Open for dinner only, Wednesday through Sunday. Reservations through Resy. ReikiNa at CityCentre, 799 Town & Country, ReikiNa at CityCentre ReikiNa's eight-course tasting menu Yellowtail sashimi with pineapple vierge and lemon drop melon Chef Thomas Stacy 110

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