- Lillo & Ella serves brunch every weekend from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. [Photo: Jodie Eisenhardt]
- Chinese Long Cooked Rice Porridge [Photo: Jodie Eisenhardt]
- Lychee & Asian Pear French Toast [Photo: Jodie Eisenhardt]
- Thai Muu Noodles [Photo: Jodie Eisenhardt]
- Korean Steak and Eggs [Photo: Jodie Eisenhardt]
- Fresh pastries. [Photo: Jodie Eisenhardt]
Chef Kevin Naderi opened Lillo & Ella last May in the former El Gran Malo space on Ella Blvd. Having opened his first restaurant - Roost - in late 2011 when he was just twenty-six years old, Naderi was ready to bring something unique to the Shady Acres area with his self-described "Pan-Asian street food". This week, Naderi did away with weekday lunch but launched brunch service on Saturday and Sunday. We sat down to get the scoop on the new menu and his feelings on the growth and associated challenges of the area's ever-evolving dining scene.
Eater Houston: What made you decide to close for lunch during the week and open for brunch on the weekends?
Kevin Naderi: We've seen steady increases in our lunch business but at the end of the day, it was just inconsistent. We wanted to do brunch from the beginning and it seemed like the time was right to put energy into creating a really cool brunch experience for the area. Great food and drinks, of course but also a fun/laid back vibe, good music ... people chilling on the patio with their dogs. The initial response has been really positive. Its part of an overall tweaking of our menu, doing away with valet and listening to feedback from customers in general since we opened.
Eater Houston: What are some of the brunch items you're most excited for people to try?
Naderi: The Chinese rice porridge - congee basically is something I think people will love. It comes you're your choice of protein - ground ginger pork, soft diced tofu and chiles, curried shrimp or bamboo/black bean chicken. We top it with shaved radish, pea shoots, herbs, scallions and a drizzle of chili oil. Also the Korean steak and eggs is awesome. Chad Fry who has worked with Kraftsman and Shade/Canopy developed some amazing fresh pastry doughs for us that we bake onsite so they're fresh and really good. The croissants are addictive.
Eater Houston: How do you want for people to perceive what you're doing with Lillo & Ella overall, eight months in?
Naderi: With my whole concept - not just brunch - I'm hoping to bring a new aspect of dining to the area. I want a fun and inviting environment for the whole family, with a staff that remembers your name, and puts a lot of care into what we are doing. We also use quality ingredients - it makes a difference. The menu isn't necessarily set in stone - we change things constantly, adding specials, rotating cocktails, and we're also adding fun events. We've listened to what people have said they wanted to see - like the kid's menu - and a mean margarita. All of our cocktails are seriously good. I believe the food you eat or the places you spend your time and money need to reflect what you are getting in return. We offer great value in an era of fast and cheap. Life's meant to be enjoyed, not raced through. We want for people to enjoy everything about their experience with us.
Eater Houston: What do you think about all of the growth - and plans for more growth in terms of restaurants in the Heights?
Naderi: I'm extremely excited for the growth in the Heights and my area of Shady Acres. That being said, there are always growing pains. It can be a lot to take in for certain people in the area - construction, traffic, gentrification and competition can be a huge ordeal or an obstacle. Everyone needs to know that we are here to make the area better, especially myself as a small business owner along with others who are trying to do the same. I've seen some great concepts coming up in this area which make things a lot more attractive than generic corporate giants coming in and wrecking the neighborhood. We don't want to lose the vibe that makes it special and I hope people will appreciate what we're working to bring to the table and support the locals.
Eater Houston: What's your favorite new place already open or coming up in the area?
Naderi: I'm impressed by what Lee (Ellis) and Lance (Feagan) have done with the menu at The El Cantina Superior. The tacos are seriously addictive. I also like Fat Cat Creamery and Downhouse a lot and I'm looking forward to everything those guys have coming up. It's an exciting time around here.
What else is on the menu? Check it out for yourself below: