© Mark C. Austin

These five new restaurants are worth a stop if you're in town for the game this weekend.

January 31, 2017

Nothing puts the spurs to progress like a hard deadline. With Super Bowl 2017 approaching, top Houston chefs have raced to open exciting new restaurants downtown near the George R. Brown Convention Center, as well as in the restaurant-packed Montrose and Upper Kirby areas. If you're coming to town for the game, here are the reservations to make right now.

One Fifth

 © Julie Soefer

James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly has set up his second restaurant in a former Lutheran cathedral built in 1927. The concept, which Shepherd plans to change once a year, is currently One Fifth Steak, or Shepherd's vision of a steakhouse. (In August, it will close for a month and reopen as One Fifth Romance Languages, which will feature French, Spanish and Italian food.) Under the current iteration, Shepherd is grilling and roasting traditional steaks as well as off-cuts like lamb neck and pork collar. Don't skip the gorgeous carrot salad, with its featured ingredient shaved, pureed and roasted all in one dish. 1658 Westheimer; onefifthhouston.com

Xochi

 © Chuck Cook Photography

Hugo Ortega and his wife, restaurateur Tracy Vaught, are introducing Houstonians to Oaxacan cuisine with Xochi, their fifth restaurant (and fourth in Houston). The menu revolves around mole, including a version made with ants served on the excellent Bistec con Mole de Chicatana, a black Angus rib-eye. Ortega's brother Ruben is the pastry chef, and his primary medium is chocolate—which he makes from cacao beans that he roasts and grinds in-house. Beverage director Sean Beck spotlights Mexico's burgeoning wine market and has developed an extensive mezcal list. 1777 Walker; xochihouston.com

Riel

After stints at Reef and Underbelly, chef Ryan LaChaine has opened a restaurant that's very much his own. Nodding to his Ukrainian ancestry and his upbringing in the Canadian province of Manitoba, LaChaine is cooking dishes like velvety borscht topped with grated horseradish, deep-fried nuggets of cauliflower with kimchi hot sauce, and thinly-sliced Montreal-smoked meat with pickled mustard seeds, rye bread, and the requisite French's mustard. The can't-miss dessert here is a sticky toffee pudding rendered surprisingly flavorful and seductive with pork blood-infused caramel sauce. For a drink pairing, you can trust beverage director Chris Fleischman (formerly of Pax Americana) with a wine selection or go for one of the excellent cocktails—we recommend the Trudeau (yes, named after Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau), made with Earl Grey cordial, gin, sloe gin, Cocchi Americano and bitters. 1927 Fairview; rielhtx.com

Killen's STQ

 © Phaedra Cook

Chef Ronnie Killen, known for his trio of meat-centric restaurants in nearby Pearland, Texas, has opened his first spot in Houston proper. Killen's STQ is a spectacular union of comfort food and fine dining. The beef rib features a flavor-deepening espresso rub, oak-smoked salt, and black pepper, while the creamed corn (a mainstay at Killen's Barbecue in Pearland) is topped with parmesan and baked in a stainless steel dish. The Bacon Tres Leches Bread Pudding is tremendously silky and rich. 2231 South Voss

Kiran's

 © Chuck Cook Photography

After losing the lease at her original restaurant, Chef Kiran Verma finally has a setting to equal the elegance of her Indian cooking. There's a massive bar, a tall wine room and a comfortable dining room, over which an impressive carved visage of Shiva presides. Order the trio of soups—tomato-saffron, corn-poblano and mulligatawny—then move on to the strikingly earthy lamb vindaloo. Verma keeps her spice levels in check, but any residual heat can be be soothed with gentle, silky saffron panna cotta. 2925 Richmond; kiranshouston.com