A chef who led one of the world’s best restaurants will soon return to Houston for a week-long tasting menu pop-up at one of the city’s most exclusive dining venues. Alex Bremont will collaborate with Neo, the innovative, omakase-style concept in Montrose, on a series of intimate dinners.
Held from September 26 through October 1, the dinners will see Bremont, who served as head chef at world-renown Mexico City restaurant Pujol for five years, working with Neo chefs Paolo Justo and Luis Mercado on a 14-course meal that blends Mexican ingredients with Japanese techniques. Expect a seafood-forward menu presented in the omakase style where most dishes are eaten by hand.
Pricing had yet to be finalized by press time, but the chefs expect the cost to exceed the $260 per person Neo typically charges. Instructions for securing a reservation are available by following Neo on Instagram
“I’ve always loved fine dining. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past 13, 14 years,” Bremont tells CultureMap. “Hooking up with these guys and putting something together with inspiration based on what I do, which is Mexican food that’s been influenced by Japan. I think it’s a perfect match.”
All three chefs credit the idea of collaborating to Matt Harris, a Houstonian who has visited both Pujol and Neo frequently (he is also a regular co-host on CultureMap’s “What’s Eric Eating” podcast). After Harris and Bremont dined together at Neo in July, he proposed the idea of all three chefs teaming up.
“I thought it made sense,” Harris says. “Sometimes you don’t have to think about things too hard. They just make sense.”
“Matt saying, ‘do you want to collaborate with someone you’ve looked up to for 10 years?’ F*ck yeah,” Mercado says. “For us, it’s an honor to share the same space with them.”
Neo has earned considerable praise, too, including a CultureMap Tastemaker Award for Best Pop-Up/Startup. Mercado and Justo, who worked together at Uchi prior to starting Neo, serve dishes such as seared A5 wagyu with fermented mushroom butter, smoked salmon nigiri with sour cream and onion powder, and chu-toro nigiri with fermented leeks, a dish that Nobie’s chef Martin Stayer told the Houston Chronicle reminded him of a Funyun.
Mercado cites Bremont as an influence on their approach to Neo’s food.  “He always resonates with what we’re trying to achieve with our cuisine: things that look very simple but have a lot of thought and process behind it,” he says. “It looks like a simple piece of fish, but there’s different preparations and techniques we use to enhance the ingredients.”
The dishes served at the collaboration dinners will be built around Neo’s signature dry-aged fish as well as traditional Mexican forms. For example, the chefs are planning to serve a tetela that’s stuffed with fermented edamame instead of the traditional black beans. Another dish will pair eggplant with recado negro, a paste made with burnt chiles and spices. 
“I’d say it’s a little of both Mexican and Japanese,” Justo adds. “It is very seafood forward. There’s no meat on the menu.”
“What I think is cool about an omakase format when it comes to Japanese food or back home when we did the taco omakase [at Pujol] is the progression of dishes,” Bremont adds. “You’ll always have a favorite. In the beginning, you’re hit with acidity and freshness then the dishes build.”
Bremont is working on opening his own restaurant in Mexico City, but the chef has ties to Houston, too. From 2004 to 2014, he worked at a number of local restaurants, including the Hyatt Regency downtown, South American restaurant Samba Grille, and Oxheart. The recent visits have sparked the possibility of a more permanent return.
“I have the option in my mind of one day opening something in Houston,” he acknowledges. “I spent 10 years of my life living in this great city. The way it’s evolving in terms of gastronomy and talented people is more exciting when it comes to thinking about what could be next.”
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