Not far from the glass-and-steel skyscrapers of downtown Houston lies a modest neighborhood called the Heights. Its residential streets are narrow, the yards often lack curbs, and the occasional aging warehouse looms over slightly seedy bungalows. In short, the Heights is the ideal place to find that obscure hole-in-the-wall where a fanatical chef executes his culinary vision for a cadre of food-obsessed followers.
Five nights a week, that chef—self-described control freak Scott Tycer—can be found at his newest restaurant, Textile, happily agonizing over every dish as it leaves the kitchen. In the quiet, convivial dining room, customers ooh and aah with the arrival of the picture-perfect plates. The tiny, 32-seat space, once part of a fabric mill, feels like an urban loft. Its vintage brick walls are painted white, and assorted beige and tan textiles cover lamps and banquettes.
Here, Tycer is doing things his way, in his own subtle, contemporary French-American idiom. His flavors pop without exploding. His pairings surprise without startling. One of the best is a gorgeous salad of endive sided by a mountain of pearly lump crabmeat, a curl of crisp, baconlike pork belly, and velvety, lime-spritzed mashed avocado. Another starter, an utterly Gallic onion tart, is balanced by wilted bitter greens in balsamic vinaigrette accompanied by a twee poached quail egg.
Appetizers are so good it’s tempting to make a meal of them, but main courses shine too, like the tender braised veal breast lavished with a citrusy truffled hollandaise. And the desserts! Mad scientist/pastry chef Plinio Sandalio whips up sweets with names like Coffee and Milk—a metaphorical “breakfast” of sweet bread, bacon-scented streusel topping, a scoop of iced milk, and dabs of coffee foam.
Predictably, Textile has galvanized Tycer’s fan base, which had been in a funk since the closing three years ago of his first restaurant, Aries. Two other restaurants, Pic (now closed) and Gravitas (still open, though Tycer no longer cooks there), took up the slack. But Textile is what the faithful were waiting for. So, either reserve way ahead or go on a weekday. Order a nice bottle of wine and let Tycer take care of every minute detail. You’ll feel like you’re having dinner prepared by your own personal and, yes, rather fanatical, chef.
Textile 611 W. 22nd St., Houston (832-209-7177; textilerestaurant.com)