Welcome to Inside the Dishes, where Eater takes an in-depth look at the dishes that are defining hot restaurants around town.
March, the exclusive 28-seat restaurant that towers above the gritty bars, cafes, and coffee shops of lower Westheimer in Montrose, has garnered lots of media attention since opening in the spring of 2021. The vision behind the tasting menu-only spot, helmed by chef Felipe Riccio of Goodnight Hospitality (the group behind Rosie Cannonball and Montrose Cheese & Wine), is to explore the vast region of the Mediterranean by evolving its focus geographically over time.
So, how and when does it change? For five-to-six months out of the year, the restaurant concentrates on a single area, with its complete menu and beverage program dedicated to that region. It then closes for a brief time to regroup and re-open with its next focus. Along with incorporating seasonal bounty from local farms, the ingredients — down to the salt, pepper, and oils used to cook with — change with each iteration.
March’s culinary director, Amber Burling, and a collaborative culinary team have done their due diligence, educating themselves on the ingredients and foods of the Mediterranean, with Riccio exploring his own roots as a Mexican chef born to an Italian father and Spanish mother. A deep dive into the area’s various territories began with Maghreb in Northwest Africa when the restaurant first debuted, followed by the Southern Spanish regions of Andalusia and Murcia, and most recently the historic French region of Occitania.
In its current phase, which began in February and will conclude in mid-July, March explores Greece, with a menu inspired by the land and the sea and a wine list including some of the country’s most iconic wines and producers. “We have done legit research, reading books, restaurant menus from Greece, university papers, you name it,” says Riccio, who acknowledges his entire team, including service staff and sommeliers, as being equally invested in the groundwork.
“The dishes are very simple. We pulled ideas from street food and home cooking,” he says. “We knew olive oil had to be present in the forefront of the whole menu.” He cites the challenges of transforming dishes from their raw interpretations to showcasing something that is fun, exciting, and most importantly delicious, on a tasting menu. At this moment in time, with Greece in the spotlight, he and the March culinary team have managed to do just that.
Here is a deeper look at some of the dishes on the spring menu, courtesy of Eater photographer Annie Mulligan:
When considering the progression of a tasting menu, Riccio says it’s only natural to have the dishes flow in a certain way, with a light seafood dish or crudo to start. Octopus, a staple in Greek cuisine, was all but guaranteed to appear on the menu. The inspiration for the dish came from Burling, who drew from her experience eating octopus in Greece, drenched in olive oil, lemon juice, and herbs. Different preparations were explored, including char-grilling a large piece of tentacle and serving it warm, but eventually, the dish morphed into something different altogether. “We wanted a carpaccio texture, but without it being flat on the plate,” he says. Marinated and cooked overnight, neither too thin nor too thick ribbons of meat are complemented with creamy beluga lentils and subtle sweetness from slivers of red grape, in a sea of fragrant olive oil.
March’s menu has a way of showcasing a traditional dish deconstructed and reimagined in a way that is dynamic, while still being familiar. The moussaka is a prime example of this approach. Acknowledging lamb as a significant protein within the region, the dish combines seared lamb belly with kefalotyri, a salty sheep’s milk cheese, and a charred eggplant puree painted across the plate. “With our sister restaurant Rosie Cannonball right downstairs, we are able to throw eggplant on the grill and get this great, smokey flavor for the dish.” The spread is topped with pickled red onions, which Riccio says not only enhances the taste but also adds a striking visual element to the dish due to the onion’s deep hue. The pièce de résistance is a rice crisp, made with overcooked rice with onions, dehydrated overnight, fried, and dusted with eggplant ash — a mixture of charred whole eggplant and malt vinegar powder.
As one of the final savory courses on the menu, the souvlaki honors the simplicity of grilled meats found within Grecian street stalls. At March, the star is 2 ounces of A5 wagyu, seasoned only with salt and brushed with wagyu fat. Served with it are lemon potatoes that Riccio was adamant about having a punch of full flavor. “They had to taste like lemon potatoes. When you go to Niko Niko’s and you taste their lemon potatoes, they taste like it,” he says laughing. Baby potatoes are cooked in a made-from-scratch lemon butter with seaweed, which gives them rich umami flavor, and finished off with lots of lemon juice and lemon zest. A neat dollop of yogurt, made with ancient herbs like nepitella oil, and “more salt than you care to know about” completes the trifecta.