It's been said that the culinary craft is an ever-evolving study and that chefs should always be looking toward the future. That might be why Jason Liao, the chef and owner at Sugar Land's upcoming restaurant Preview, says he's making his restaurant debut rather than looking back at his impressive track record. Houston-raised Liao entered the business at 20 years old, right after his mother suffered a coma and he decided against pursuing the field of engineering. He eventually became the chef at Austin's Umi Sushi Bar and Nanami Sushi Bar, where his work garnered much attention from local press. He was even a nominee for our sister site Eater Austin's Hottest Chefs of 2012.
Some will likely compare Liao's Preview to out-of-the-Loop sushi spot, MF Sushi, but Liao assures us that his concept won't be defined by any one cuisine. "I'm purposely not making it Japanese," Liao tells Eater. "I see all these sushi bars opening up all over — in Houston, Austin and Dallas — and no matter how far they try to take it, people always think California rolls. No matter how high-end the [place], all of the menus are the same."
Liao says he wants to "break cultural trappings when it comes to cuisine and work with really fresh seafood items from all over but presented differently and with different flavor profiles." He plans to impress and surprise with his well-documented knife skills and knack for sourcing fresh, exotic seafood. It seems to sound a lot like Cove, the famous raw bar within Haven. That location does well with adventurous Inner Loopers seeking lionfish and other unique seafood items. So why Sugar Land? Liao says it's because it fit into his budget, is a high-end area and he "saw what was happening with Underbelly, Uchi and Oxheart opening in uptown, midtown and [central] areas" but wanted to take a different route. "I'm not trying to do volume or turn tables," Liao says. "I can afford that small space in that area, and can have people who appreciate what we do [want to] go out there and eat. It wasn't about being safe — no balls, no glory; if no one else is going to do it, I'll do it."
Once open, Preview's menu will change weekly, depending on seasonal seafood and organic vegetables. He wants to offer an extensive variety of a la carte items so that locals can try several different dishes every time they go in. Inspections and permits allowing, he hopes to be open by mid-November with some soft opening previews before then. Liao says he's open to starting new, different concepts in other Houston areas down the line.
· Preview [Official Site]
· All Other Opening Reports [-EHOU-]
· All Other Fall Tracking [-EHOU-]
Chef Jason Liao [Austin 360 ]