Chris Shepherd's new restaurant gets off to a strong start on opening night

HOUSTON, Texas -- While most Houstonians had their attention focused on the Rockets on Tuesday, May 8, Chris Shepherd quietly threw open the doors to his new restaurant, UB Preserv. Considered to be an evolution of his award-winning restaurant Underbelly, UB Preserv represents a fresh start for the chef and his team.

Thankfully, all traces of the space's former life as Jimmy Chew's Asian Kitchen have been obliterated by the renovation. Working with designer Jim Herd, Shepherd and his business partner Kevin Floyd have preserved much of Underbelly's farmhouse-inspired look and feel. Details including the wood paneling on the walls, the tables, and the chairs all made the short trip down Westheimer to UB Preserv. These elements help the restaurant look and feel like Underbelly, even if what's going on in the kitchen is pretty different.

UB Preserv offers a fresh perspective on what it means to tell "the story of Houston food." Underbelly signature items like the Korean goat and dumplings, crispy farmers market vegetables, and vinegar pie aren't available here, although they live on at Hay Merchant. Shepherd and his crew - led by Underbelly Hospitality culinary director Nick Fine and UB Preserv chef de cuisine Nick Wong - dropped some of Underbelly's self-imposed restrictions on only using whole animals and only sourcing from with a couple hundred miles of the restaurant, which means the new restaurant can serve dishes like grilled octopus with tahini or avocado toast without being called out for breaking its own rules.

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