Yelo, the collaborative restaurant from Phat Eatery owner Alex Au-yeung and chef Cuc Lam, is now open in Katy Asian Town center at 23119 Colonial Parkway. The brick-and-mortar restaurant was first announced in March 2020, but Houstonians inside the 610 Loop got an all-too-brief taste of the new restaurant from a short-lived ghost kitchen in Blodgett Food Hall.
That was long enough, however, for Houston Chronicle restaurant critic Alison Cook to add Yelo’s char siu xiu mai banh mi to her 10 Best Dishes list of 2020. “My heritage is Chinese and Vietnamese, and my mom has cooked this xiu mai for us my entire life,” said Lam via a press release. “No other Vietnamese places serve it this way, but it’s because in her version, she serves it with a Chinese barbecue marinade. It’s a dish close to my heart because it reminds me of my family.”
Located directly next door to Phat Eatery, Yelo is now serving lunch and dinner. Until now, Lam was best known as the opening chef at SING in the Heights, an endeavor helmed by Jerry Lasco of Lasco Enterprises that lasted just over a year. She’s also long held pop-up dinners at local bars and in her own home via Chefsfeed. In those settings, she perfected her version of crab rangoon and elevated the Chinese-American snacks into an appetizer to be taken seriously. Those are now part of Yelo’s menu.
To accent and elevate the banh mi, Lam’s condiments include housemade paté and garlic aioli, and eschewed traditional pickled daikon and carrot in favor of carrot and papaya (also crafted in-house). For local produce and fresh herb garnishes, Lam is sourcing from the woman-owned Happy Farms of Texas, which, like Yelo, is in Katy.
Besides Cook’s favored char siu xiu mai banh mi, other banh mi offerings include the Pho-rench Dip, a riff on a French dip sandwich stuffed with spiced brisket and accompanied by pho broth for dipping and another banh mi filled with Phat Eatery’s very popular Beef Rendang. Another flavor inspiration derived from Au-yeung’s popular Malaysian eatery is the Mango Papaya Shrimp Spring Rolls. There are banh mi meals for kids, too. Each comes with a half-sandwich, drink and housemade prawn chips.
Yelo’s other menu items include a variety of bowls filled with rice, vermicelli or salad — each with a choice of protein — and Vietnamese egg rolls.
Both Lam and Au-yeung became intensely interested in also making Yelo into a spot for specialty coffee drinks and five different freshly pressed juices, too (and Au-yeung has made a significant investment in the equipment needed for each). Those looking for unique caffeine fixes will find Vietnamese iced coffee made with the famous Café Du Monde brand from New Orleans, ube and pandan lattes and the Avocado Wake-up Shake. Other espresso drinks are being made with beans from Double Barrel Coffee Roaster, a boutique purveyor in Missouri City.
Yelo’s opening announcement was made just as the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold, and as such, some design changes were made to reduce seating and optimize grab-and-go service. The small-ish, 1,150-square-food restaurant features seating for only 12 (four tables that seat two each and four counter seats). In addition, there are three café tables in front for al fresco dining.
True to its name, Yelo’s color scheme is bright and evokes both pure sunshine and pop culture. A neon yellow sign proclaims the name in the window. Inside, the signature yellow adds fashionable, colorblocked pops of color, while the “floating”, wall-mounted dining tables lend modernity.
Yelo’s hours are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Yelo currently serves lunch and dinner Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Online ordering is available, as is curbside pickup and delivery.
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