For a young Hugo Ortega, the beloved chef behind Hugo’s in Houston, days were spent herding 300 goats and celebrations sealed with crocks of smooth, deeply rich mole made by Ortega’s grandmother and her friends. This was life in Oaxaca, the vibrant culinary region in the basin of Mexico.
Now Ortega, along with his brother and pastry chef Ruben Ortega, sommelier Sean Beck and restaurateur Tracy Vaught, is giving locals a taste of his Oaxacan childhood with Xochi, his newest restaurant opening in January inside the new Marriot Marquis Houston.
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The restaurant, whose name is a riff on the Nahuatl word for Goddess of Flowers, zeroes in on Oaxacan ingredients like chicatanas—flying ants, which will appear in one of the restaurant's six to eight rotating moles.