Former Uchi Line cook opens ReikiNa in downtown with art gallery and rotating tasting menu


Three years ago, Houston-born Thomas Stacy left his position as Area Manager for Amazon in Seattle with an ambitious five-year plan: to move and open a restaurant. There was only one problem: Other than servers at college, while studying Supply Chain Management at the University of Houston, he had never worked in a kitchen before. .

Back in college, Stacy fell in love with cooking after recreating one of Guy Fieri’s Thanksgiving casseroles. He has no formal training. All of her culinary skills are “homemade” and self-taught.

Still, Stacy scored a cook gig in Uchi on Westheimer. In the spring of 2020, a burgeoning fine-dining establishment called upon him to create a new tasting menu experience in Montrose. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and like many professionals in the service industry, he faced an uncertain future.

To cope, Stacy turned to creative outlets and started making a lot of pizza. His friends noticed him and started pushing him for invitations. “I said, ‘I’m just going to cook for my friends, set up a website and see what happens,’ he recalls. An accidental business was born.

His concept of a pop-up dinner has spread like wildfire. Stacy assumes he hosted at least one party of eight to 10 guests each week in his 750-square-foot apartment between July 2020 and April 2021.

799, boul. Town and Country, suite 200


The intimate and unconventional setting struck a chord. Stacy, now 30, has become something of a one-man show: he cooked, played the piano, and traded records from his vinyl collection at every meal. A visual artist, Stacy’s original work framed the walls of the dining room.

“My medium is acrylic on canvas or abstract,” he says. “I like to paint on both sides and let it bleed.”

A chance meeting on New Year’s Eve changed everything. “A family member who owns CityCentre and Midway came to my house for dinner and offered me a space,” Stacy recalls. His five-year plan was coming to an end, although a little earlier than expected.

ReikiNa, which means “divine snacks” in Japanese, opened at the popular Memorial City mixed-use complex in mid-July. It hovers above Urban Outfitters, next to RA Sushi. A hand-painted finger pointing up directs customers from an open-air brick-walled staircase.

The hardest part of moving into a 3,500 square foot commercial space was painting the walls, says Stacy. Covering them up turned out to be an easier task – to replicate the aesthetic of his apartment, he created a rotating gallery showcasing talent from the Houston art scene. The works, priced from $ 800 to $ 7,000, are for sale and rotate every six weeks to coincide with ReikiNa’s eight-course tasting menu.

“It made sense. I knew I wanted to have art in there, ”says Stacy. “If the menu turns, why not art too? We have a huge wall and I thought it would be important to showcase the artists from Houston. “

Tall canvases connect the space between the restaurant’s lounge-style reception area with a more formal dining setup at the back. Neo-abstract artist Stephanie Gonzalez bases each layer of her paintings on a different life experience. Terry Suprean mixes his own paint with liquid polymers, crushed mica and synthetic ruby ​​to create a unique riff on the landscapes. Alex Larsen makes sculptures using materials from construction sites.

“We also got Alex to make tables for our cafe,” Stacy said, referring to an off-the-menu project slated for later this year. “These tables are reminiscent of a traditional French bistro but have a personal touch of the artist.”

As expected, Stacy has also been very active in terms of decorating. He constructed the bar counter and the unique dining table from reclaimed wood.

At maximum capacity, ReikiNa can currently accommodate 20 people. When the restaurant first opened four weeks ago, reservations were strong, but they have since fallen in correlation with the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

“Early last week (people) stopped coming and started canceling,” Stacy said. “With the delta variant, we’re going to make The Café at ReikiNa à la carte so that we don’t have to sit 20 people side by side in a communal style.”

Right now, eight-course tastings cost $ 150 per person; food and wine pairings are available for $ 89. Diners with a Texan-sized appetite can order a special post-dessert burger for an additional $ 7.95.

Each meal begins with a meditation and usually ends with Stacy at the piano or spinning a vinyl on her vintage record player. Although one of these days he hopes to end the night by ripping the art off the wall for a closed sale over dinner.

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