The Heights’ new destination for innovative Mexican cuisine will debut next week. Chivos will officially open on Thursday, October 28.
Located in the former Calle Onze space on 11th Street, Chivos is the latest concept from Night Moves Hospitality, the growing bar and restaurant group that has opened Space Cowboy at the Heights House Hotel and Trash Panda Drinking Club in the Near Northside. Night Moves partner Greg Perez has recruited chef Thomas Bille, best known locally for Belly of the Beast in Old Town Spring, to run the kitchen.
The duo describe the restaurant as Mexican-American, a style that stands out from both traditional Mexican cuisine and the locals’ favorite Tex-Mex. It’s grounded in basic Mexican cooking techniques – for example, Bille nixtamalizes corn to make tortillas – but also draws on the influences the chef absorbed growing up in Los Angeles and working in a range of gourmet restaurants, including Otium.
“We’re not traditional,” Perez says. “I love Xochi, the mole out there is amazing, but what’s going on in some of the major markets, I feel like Houston is missing that. What I love about Thomas is that he has the talent to do it.
“I grew up with two cultures,” adds Bille. “I am of the first generation. At home, 100 percent Mexican, I eat Mexican food and speak Spanish. Growing up in LA we eat Korean food, Japanese food. It is a crucible. I love the food so much. I don’t mean to say I’m just a Mexican restaurant.
Instead of chips and queso or barbacoa et al pastor, diners will find dishes like dry-aged duck with fig mole, hamachi tiradito, and flour tortillas with truffle butter and salmon roe. Roast chicken is inspired by Peruvian cuisine, while pozole dumplings are a Mexican twist on Sichuan-style chili wontons.
“I just don’t want to lock myself in,” Bille said. “The burrata is not Mexican, but I make fig jam, I treat it like chimoy, I roast grapes. I don’t want people to think Mexican food is just tortilla, meat, sauce, because it isn’t. It is very complex.
Likewise, bar manager Leesly Valdez, who has worked with Perez at Calle Onze, Monkey’s Tail and Space Cowboy, has developed cocktails inspired by Mexican food and sweets. Choices include West Tejas made with corn infused tequila and hominy syrup; Rutas Ganseras, a version of the Mexican dessert cake Gansitos; and the DF a Manhattan riff made from Mexican whiskey and tamarind bitters.
For now, Chivos will be open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. A late-night brunch and menu – including some of the tacos that have won Bille so much praise at Belly of the Beast – will be added in time.
“Chivos is Spanish for goats,” Perez said in a statement. “The name is a play on the acronym GOAT (Greatest of All Time) and embodies our concept and the philosophy of our group. We deeply admire all who aspire to be the best in their profession, so we strive to pursue the same greatness for our guests. “