Nearly a year after watching Evelyn Garcia dazzle viewers on the 19th season of Bravo’s Top Chef, the rising talent is gearing up to open her first ever full-service restaurant, Jūn, in the Heights. On Tuesday, February 7, Garcia and chef Henry Lu, will celebrate the opening night of their joint collaboration, a restaurant that will serve “new Asian American food” all while exploring the stories of the chefs’ diverse upbringings.
Lu, a classically-trained chef who hails from the Bronx in New York City, is a worthy match for Garcia, who also previously competed in Food Network’s Chopped, and won. Born to Mexican and El Salvadorian parents, she was raised in Houston and specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, she furthered her education with real-life experience traveling through India and Thailand.
This is not the first venture for the power duo. Lu and Garcia are co-owners of Kin HTX, a catering and event company, which has hosted pop-ups in various locales around the city in the past year, and that also produces Southeast Asian condiments for sale at farmers markets and local grocers like Henderson & Kane and Burger Bodega. With Jūn, they can finally invite guests into their very own space.
Jūn’s name serves as a dedication to family. The moniker, pronounced “June”, is a nod to the month during which people near and dear to Garcia and Lu were born, and who they attribute the reason for the restaurant coming to fruition. It also doubles as Garcia’s birth month.
Lu and Garcia’s play on “new Asian American” food is evidenced in Jūn’s imaginative offerings. Starters range from simple items like peanuts spiced with kaffir lime leaf, garlic, and chili flakes to oysters with fermented mango, pickled butter, and mignonette, and sweet potato with labneh, walnuts, and dill. Entree plates sound just as intriguing. In addition to whole fish and lamb curry, the menu features fried chicken with shrimp paste, ginger, and Thai chili. Those looking for a meatless meal likely won’t be disappointed with choices like squash eggplant with chili lime and black rice, and cauliflower with kombo coconut and soubise sauce.
For now, guests can secure reservations for dinner at Jūn Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m., or try their luck without one — the restaurant has limited seating at its counter and bar for walk-ins. Weekend brunch is anticipated to begin in a few weeks.