It’s been a major year for Chef Justin Yu. In addition to taking home the 2016 James Beard Award for Best Chef, Southwest and the Eater Award for Restaurant of the Year, he’s gotten plenty of credit for helping put Houston’s culinary scene on the global dining map. Now, it appears as if Yu is headed in a completely different direction.
A tweet from Houston Chronicle critic Alison Cook says that Yu will shutter his much-beloved restaurant Oxheart early next year. Details are sparse as of this moment, but Cook says that Yu will replace the award-winning eatery with a new restaurant that will focus on an a la carte menu.
Scope out Cook’s tweet below:
Big news: James Beard Best Chef SW @tetsujustin will close @OxheartHouston in March; reopen May as new a la carte restaurant. Deets TK.— Alison Cook (@alisoncook) December 2, 2016
Perhaps Yu is getting bored with his shrine to vegetables, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t keeping busy. Perhaps we should find clues for the new concept in LUNCH, the pop-up hosted at Oxheart earlier this summer. He’s also already hard at work on a “neighborhood business” with Bobby Heugel that will open in the Heights.
Eater Houston has reached out to Yu for more details on the closure and the concept that will replace it. Stay tuned for any updates.
UPDATE: In a blog post, Yu has outlined his reasoning for closing Oxheart. The restaurant will serve its last meal on March 15, 2017, the restaurant’s 5th birthday.
Check out this excerpt from Yu’s statement below:
I want to make an even better restaurant.
I remember someone describing Karen and I cobbling together Oxheart as if we were outfitting our first college dorm room. I still can’t believe we pulled it together, strung on not much more than a wing and a prayer. But, I’d like for us to refine our edges. I want to make our kitchen less awkward to work in, our dining room more comfortable and beautiful, and our food more indicative of our personality. I know at times, regardless of what I convinced myself, I cooked food out of the ordinary for the sake of being out of the ordinary. The food at Oxheart has changed dramatically since we opened and a lot of it doesn’t necessarily fit in a tasting menu.
Most importantly, I’d like to finally get over myself and trust someone else to run the kitchen.
Jason White has been with our kitchen on and off for about four of the almost five years we’ve been open. He’s talented, hilarious, a great leader, a great cook, and will be the Chef de Cuisine of the new restaurant. While you’ll still see me over at Nance Street on a regular basis, I’m very excited to see how he’ll direct our staff to new and higher heights.
I’ll be sad to close this chapter of our lives, but I’m excited to share with you another experience. It’ll be filled with fun, with excitement.