In a bare-bones East End starter restaurant, co-chefs James Haywood and Ross Colman take guests on a big-hearted magic carpet ride that is one of the year's most surprising — and memorable — debuts. The duo doesn't have a serving staff, a liquor license or even a BYOB capability. But the two have bold palates, ideas to spare and a keen sense of how to play with Houston's multicultural culinary strains. Theirs is soul food for 21st-century Houston. Superbly crunchy house-made crawfish boudin balls come with an electric smoked-jalapeño remoulade. Oxtails come braised in Chinese black vinegar, with black-eyed pea fried rice and a tangle of slithery, shallot-laced long beans. Braised turkey necks? Why yes, to wrap in a frill of Bibb lettuce leaf and dunk into a supercharged nuoc mam dip. Pure genius.
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