PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston September 2023

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Page 105 of 115

Interiors Photography Jenn Duncan. Food and Portrait Photography Brian Kennedy. By Laurann Claridge Chow Down Benny Chows is Ben Berg's newest concept and may be his most jaw-dropping boîte yet. R estaurateur Ben Berg of Berg Hospitality G r o u p ( Tr a t t o r i a Sofia, The Annie, B&B Butchers & Restaurant, B&B Italia Bistro & Bar, B.B. Lemon, Turner's, Emilia's Havana) has debuted the Chinese American eatery Benny Chows on Washington Avenue, next door to his first restaurant, B&B Butchers. A native New Yorker — Ben was known as Benny in his youth — grew up savoring Chinese- American cuisine at such places as Chin Chin, Pig Heaven, and occasionally Shun Lee Palace, considered one of the best Chinese-style restaurants on the Eastern seaboard. Not surprisingly, he developed a taste for cold sesame noodles, Moo shu pork, and other dishes that inspired him to replicate those flavors here in Houston. While Berg knows the world of prime- cut steakhouses inside and out, for this endeavor Berg Hospitality's VP of culinary, Brian Sutton, enlisted the help of culinary consultant Doron Wong (Rivers and Hills Fall Feasting Four New Restaurants Changing the Scene Hospitality Group) to create a Cantonese- style menu, and secured Chinese-born top toque Shirong Mei as Benny Chows' exec chef. (Eagle-eyed readers might recall that in 2017, Mei relocated to Houston to take the helm at Yauatcha, the now-shuttered dim sum teahouse in the Galleria that opened to rave reviews.) Sam Governale, Berg's VP of design and experience, collaborated with architect Issac Preminger and designer Gail McCleese of Sensitori to create the sophisticated space inside and out. A pair of imposing Foo Dogs guards the entrance. Inside, walls are covered in a de Gournay interpretation of a historic Chinese landscape, executed in royal red and gold. Floral designer John Friedman's massive sphere of hundreds of golden flower blossoms centers the room. Floor-to-ceiling black-lacquered shelves showcase Chinese artifacts and architectural antiques, while lanterns in gilded cages cast a warm glow. There are two intimate private dining rooms, with more to be revealed by the holiday season. Eight can dine in The Cherry Blossom Room, where pink flowering branches are suspended above and the space is papered with wood bark. Or reserve The Peking Duck Room for up to 10, where those precious birds — an Imperial delicacy enjoyed for centuries — hang to dry in the kitchen window. When the weather cools, dine on the patio, in a setting inspired by a New York Chinatown-street scene with ornate lanterns and Chinese storefront signs bookended by a pair of fortress-like iron and wood doors believed to have been crafted in the late 1800s. Fare is created in the tradition of Cantonese cuisine. As revered cookbook author Eileen Yin-Fei Lo writes in The Chinese Kitchen (1999), "To a large extent, Cantonese is what people think when they think of Chinese food. It is the cooking, albeit altered by circumstance, of those men from southern China who migrated to the West to search for gold to build the transcontinental railroad … Overcooking Mala spiced chicken lollipops at Benny Chows Baby bok choy at Benny Chows 104

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