Award-Winning Chefs Transform Space into Mexican Omakase Restaurant
Rico Torres and Diego Galicia, of San Antonio hotspot Mixtli, are serving tacos, tostadas, memelas, and more dishes inspired by their “Mexican pantry.”
Diego Galicia, chef and co-owner of Mixtli in San Antonio, has never had long hair. Even so, Galicia says his new restaurant, a Mexican omakase-style spot called Kumo, captures that cathartic feeling of taking down a ponytail after a long day. “For seven years, Mixtli was a push,” Galicia said. “Kumo is our way of taking a big deep breath.”
Galicia’s co-chef and co-owner, Rico Torres—who actually has had long hair—agrees that Kumo is a step away from the confines of Mixtli, where the duo would get locked into months of cooking the same menu. With Kumo, Galicia and Torres, who were Food & Wine Best New Chefs in 2017, have freedom. They change the menu daily, based on whatever their farmers have available. It’s this consistent opportunity to be creative that keeps them going.
“We owe it to ourselves,” Galicia said. “We’ve been sprinting for seven years. Now we get to find a comfortable jogging pace and have a lot of fun with it.”
Galicia and Torres are utilizing what they call their Mexican pantry—ingredients like cacao and achiote—to cook an array of handheld dishes (think tacos, tostadas, and memelas) served omakase style. The idea for Kumo, which opened earlier this month, came out of a trip Galicia took to Tokyo with another fellow Best New Chef, Kevin Fink of Emmer & Rye in Austin. Galicia loved the carefree nature of omakase, where the diner lets go, relinquishes expectations, and allows the chef to take control.
Within the kitchen, the kind of freedom granted by omakase is what Galicia calls “a lifeline.”
“In restaurants we cook the same thing every single day. You get bored,” he said. But with Kumo, the menu is a list of ever-changing ingredients, and Galicia and Torres get to be inspired by something new every day.
Kumo has taken over the Mixtli space, a converted boxcar that seats 12. Instead of one communal table, which was the set-up at Mixtli, Kumo has six two-tops. Mixtli is moving to a bigger location in San Antonio, a pre-pandemic decision that has been delayed by several months. And although Kumo as a concept has been in the works for a while, COVID-19 is what pushed Galicia and Torres to convert the space they already had.
“It’s kind of COVID-proof,” Galicia said. “People can spread out and feel more comfortable than at Mixtli, where people didn’t want to sit close to each other at the communal table.”
Kumo opened the day after Election Day. The restaurant was fully booked, the team was hyper-focused, and, according to Torres, there was a feeling of relief in the air even though the outcome of the election had yet to be called.
“The show has to move on,” Galicia said. “When guests are ready to come out, we’ll be waiting with the table set.”