Theodore Rex — Justin Yu’s highly acclaimed restaurant in the warehouse district — is taking a temporary hiatus. From now until February 12, the restaurant will be closed in preparation a three month pop-up called Littlefoot by Theodore Rex chef de cuisine Kaitlin Steets.
Littlefoot, named after the character in “The Land Before Time,” who comes of age during a world crisis, represents chef Kaitlin Steets’s solo debut and own coming of age of sorts. “I’ve worked with Justin for six years, so it’s foggy between who’s who,” Steets tells Eater. “We tend to lean on similar flavors, so this is a way for me to spend less time cooking his food and just making things much more personal.”
Her menu, described in a press release as “Classic French, but maybe not so classic,” will be focused on seasonally available ingredients like sorrel and fennel, which she will source from local farmers like Plant It Forward.
Diners will be able to choose between two five-course tasting menus — one with Texas vegetables, fish and meat; and one with just vegetables —- priced at $65 per person, with reservations via Resy.
Though the menu is not yet finalized at the time of this writing, it will be inspired by the what’s local and seasonally available. One dish she’s ready to talk about is her roasted quail. “It’s going to be a simple roasted quail, and right now we’re still working on mastering how to specifically cook it,” she says. To accompany the quail, “We’re going to braise some fennel and really bring out those flavors with a a rich sauce that we’ll finish with a chartreuse.”
On the vegetable side, there will be a farro verde with smoked vegetable fumet and onion brulee, and to highlight sorrel, there will be a sorrel and strawberry dessert.
For beverages, sommelier Justin Vann will offer classic and natural wine pairings. Brittany Turcotte of Larder Lover, who designed Nancy’s Hustle and Tiny Champions, will provide a light facelift to the space’s interior.
Steets has spent most of her culinary career in Houston. A Houston native, she attended Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart before getting a culinary degree at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa. After completing an externship at Underbelly, she took a position there straight out of culinary school, where she worked for a year before leaving to stage at Willows Inn in the Pacific Northwest under Blaine Wetzel. Steets spent the last six years working with Justin Yu, starting as a cook at Oxheart, and working her way up to chef de cuisine at Theodore Rex.
In terms of seating, Littlefoot will operate at roughly 50 percent capacity paying special attention the to six-foot social distancing rule. Steets says that the four-seat bar area will only be available for booking by one party each night. There are two new tables on the outdoor patio, and a table for up to eight people in the adjacent waiting area space. All told, the restaurant will seat about 30.
“I think the opportunity to go out to eat and have a night out is something that we’re all kind of missing,” says Steets. “I wanted to create a new place for people to come out and eat where the experience is the meal itself. My goal is that the food is kind of fun. I like food that feels a little nostalgic.”
Littlefoot’s first night of service will be Saturday, February 13, 2021. The restaurant will run for three months, with its last service in mid-April, with dinner service from Friday – Monday, 5:30 PM – 10:00 PM. Reservations can be made via Resy.