With Raised Expectations, March May Be Raising Houston’s Fine-Dining Game

When I moved to Houston in the summer of 2018, Goodnight Hospitality’s Mediterranean fine-dining concept March was very much in the works. It was scheduled to open in 2019, and that became 2020, and because of Covid-19, that was delayed further.

But late last year, Goodnight opened March’s lounge in Montrose for holiday cheer and light bites. That savvy move to build intrigue and prepare everyone—diners and staff alike—for a real restaurant opening was followed three months later by the true opening of March. In fact, it opened in March. Cheeky!

In between me getting here and March opening, a whole lot has transpired at Goodnight Hospitality: Covid-19 closed Goodnight Charlie’s and its return is uncertain; the hospitality company hired Austin-based master sommelier June Rodil, bringing her to Houston as a partner; original Goodnight partner David Keck left Houston for New England, a move that put Rodil and chef-partner Felipe Riccio front and center; and their Rosie Cannonball and Montrose Cheese & Wine concepts opened to strong reviews.

But to start 2021, all eyes were on March. Their goal: To create an engrossing hospitality experience centered on the crossing of cultures along the Mediterranean. And there will be wine—oh there will be wine.

In all of those facets, March looks like it is succeeding with flying colors. 

I’m not a fine-dining person. I like shooting oysters and drinking a beer … okay, fine, a martini. But I like being outside and wearing a T-shirt and my Phillies hat. That’s my avatar. March likes you dressed in finer clothes, though this isn’t must-wear-jacket or Tom Ford stuff. Still, you want to look good. There is a small intimidation factor upon stepping into March—a downstairs lobby with stairs leading up to the restaurant, low lighting, sparse furniture, a second host at the top of the stairs, and a hallway leading you to the lounge. You know you’re in for a night. In fact, two well-heeled guests actually told me that I was in for a night. Well then.

But things chill out in the lounge, with art by the German Christoph Ruckhäberle and the Texas-raised Matt Kleberg, with subtle lighting and a calming, settling atmosphere. There are snacks—the North African potato cake maaqouda delicately holding a substantial dollop of kaluga caviar with kishmish raisin; the way foie gras just explodes in your mouth with plum and schmaltz; an abstract art piece of the fungus lion’s mane with phylo dough over labneh and caramelized onion—and cocktails, like a smooth martini made with two gins, coupled with a duck-fat-fried olive; and a separate, introductory drink, a pour of vermouth from a infuser stuffed with mint, strawberries, and flowers. 

You can have a six- or nine-course dinner at March. You may also add a wine pairing for two. If you do so, I suggest not drinking much at the lounge or maybe having more light bites beforehand—the food servings are a bit smaller and may not be enough to counterbalance the booze. 

As for the dinner itself, there are multiple highlights. Like the braised goat dumplings with parsnip and kohlrabi prepared into what looks like couscous and heated up at the table with a pour of lamb consommé, and there’s a curious and refreshing bite-sized crudo of amberjack with just a hint of warming spice. The slice of tender beef rib against beet pave is a winning contrast of salt and sweet, the kind of pairing I want to see more of in meaty entrées across Houston.

But shining brightest is the most perfectly prepared tuna I’ve ever eaten, a belly that’s seared a touch and plated against a Western Mediterranean rainbow of flavors: the custard sabayon made with a liquid created by roasting red peppers, a nod to interpretations of Spanish cuisine; Moroccan sweet krachel with an essence of anise and fried into migas; and mint, dill, and za’atar oregano. It’s an undeniable dish that carefully references multiple cultures, and it’s a definitive moment for Riccio, whose work exploring Mediterranean flavors has been both flavorful and intriguing, but never so much at the same time until now.

The wine pairings are exhilarating. I became a convert to Spanish reds with a glass of Vina Cubillo, and even American winemakers like Soter Vineyards get the opportunity to shine—and do—against a menu that literally spans the Mediterranean. 

After dinner there may be sweet treats and coffee, maybe even one last drink. But if you get this far you might just be blurred by the experience. It’s a good thing the restaurant tells you up front that six courses plus the wine pairing is $210; you know what you’re going to pay going in, and it is worth it.

March is off to a strong start; it’s where Riccio and Rodil can stretch out and let loose their most elaborate thoughts on food and hospitality. At this point, and after one meal, I trust them to see where this daring and dizzying concept takes them.

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