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Navy Blue (2445 Times Boulevard) – a seafood concept by chef/owner Aaron Bludorn – is making its debut in Rice Village on Friday, November 18 with New York City transplant Jerrod Zifchak in the role of executive chef, a position he held most recently at the now-shuttered Café Boulud after being promoted from executive sous chef following the 2019 departure of Executive Chef Aaron Bludorn. After leaving New York for Houston with his wife Victoria to open his eponymous restaurant, Bludorn is coming full circle with Zifchak at Navy Blue in a kitchen collaboration opening in the space formerly occupied by Politan Row.
“With Bludorn, we found that the ultimate luxury was the ability to choose your own dining experience and we plan to emphasize that even more at Navy Blue,” said Bludorn in a statement. He added, “The ability to come in and enjoy the restaurant without feeling the need to dress up or to feel pressure to adhere to traditional standards of a fine dining restaurant is what we strived to achieve at the first concept and what we will strive to cultivate once Navy Blue launches.”
The restaurant name is not only a nod to the ocean but also a homage to Bludorn’s naval aviator father, whose call sign was “Blue.” The 7,100-square-foot space has been completely reimagined. Austin-based Föda Studios, worked in tandem with Courtney Hill Interiors and Gensler to create a design inspired by the idea of an ocean not yet touched by humanity. Upon arrival, guests enter through a covered patio lined with planters that serve as natural borders for the al fresco dining tables straddling both sides of the front entrance on Times Boulevard.
Once inside, guests will be greeted by an oversized, oyster-shaped wall built with sandy concrete breeze blocks and a hostess stand conceived as a proverbial pearl before entering into the 110-seat dining room. A series of long tables separated by white oak partitions – or “spines” – will give guests a further feeling of being transported to an oceanside hideaway while remaining in full view of the restaurant.
A flexible private dining room ensconced behind the bar can accommodate up to 40 guests, complete with A/V bells-and-whistles and a mural by Austin artist Emily Eisenhart or be used for overflow capacity when not in use.
Working with his wife Victoria and their partner Cherif Mbodji, Bludorn has enlisted a dream team of veteran hospitality professionals to uphold the same standards that made his first Houston restaurant a success. Mbodji will oversee the front-of-house operations led by General Manager Elizabeth Acosta. In the kitchen, Executive Chef Jerrod, who earned his culinary chops at the Michelin 3-starred restaurant Le Bernardin before working under Bludorn at Café Boulud, worked alongside Bludorn to create a menu that showcases the myriad ways seafood can be prepared.
The two chefs curated a menu highlighted by oceanic delicacies such as Swordfish Au Poivre with Green Peppercorn sauce; Blackened Red Snapper with Ahi Amarillo; and Whole Dover Sole prepared Almondine, Oscar, or Provencal. Seafood will continue to shine through pasta with modern twists on Linguini Vongole, Seafood Risotto, and Lobster Ravioli. Desserts created by executive pastry chef Marie Riddle are designed to complement the savory flavors.
“We wanted to create a menu with plenty of options and the same kind of approachability that guests love at Bludorn,” said Bludorn. He added, “What oysters are to Bludorn, which are done 3 ways – fried, baked, and raw – clams, shrimp, and Dover Sole are to Navy Blue. We’ll also have a running rotation of fresh fish with preparation suggestions, but guests can swap it out however they want. We are nothing if not flexible when it comes to putting our guests’ tastes first – that’s why we are here, and we love what we do.”
On the beverage front, Sommelier Molly Austad has put together a wine list of around 160 bottles featuring an array of sparkling options along with white wine selections ranging from lighted bodied to full bodied as well as lighter reds. Though it places a premium on French wines, the list includes some Greek varietals in addition to wines from Germany, Austria, Italy, and Spain as well as New World whites from America, Australia, and New Zealand.
Named after misheard lyrics and recipes, the cocktail program led by Darryl Chan focuses on spirits with a cleaner profile such as gin, vodka, and rum while aiming to demystify martinis by working with guests to find their perfect libations vis-à-vis the restaurant’s signature martini program. Tiki drinks and a Scotch list also grace the beverage menu.
Navy Blue will be open for dinner Monday thru Thursday from 5 pm to 10:00 pm, and Friday thru Saturday from 5:00 pm to 10:30 pm. Sunday dinner service will begin on December 4 from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Lunch and Sunday brunch service will follow in 2023.