Alex Au-Yeung didn’t start on the most obvious path to becoming a chef. Raised in Hong Kong by Malaysian parents, he came to the U.S. at 17 and attended the University of Houston, studying aviation technology and then opening an automotive shop that specialized in Japanese imports. But he eventually found a place in restaurants, first running an eight-seat Chinese restaurant before opening a more ambitious Malaysian spot that quickly gained a local following and became a regular on top-restaurant lists.
Today, Au-Yeung runs that restaurant, Phat Eatery, in Katy Asian Town, serving Malaysian street food inspired by the country’s vibrant hawker stalls, with dishes like laksa, nasi lemak, beef rendang and roti canai. His efforts led to a 2022 James Beard Awards Semifinalist nod for Best Chef: Texas, and fresh off that success, he’s opening a second Phat Eatery location in the Woodlands early next year.
When he’s not working, Au-Yeung finds time to sample the local cuisine in Houston and its surrounding suburbs. Naturally, he’s armed with lots of suggestions on where to eat around town. Below he shares some of his favorites, so now you know where to go for chef-approved breakfast pho and bourbon nightcaps.
“Since I arrive at Phat Eatery very early in the morning, I usually have breakfast there. My favorite is porridge/congee. I either whip one up real quick at the restaurant or get one from our neighbor Chung Wang BBQ, which has excellent congee. When I am picking up stuff in Chinatown in the morning, Pho Binh on Bellaire is a must-stop. My order is pho ga (chicken noodle soup) with dark meat only, no cilantro, no onion, less noodles and broth inside.”
“I rarely have lunch at Phat, as I like to explore as much as possible around Katy; there are always new places to try. When I have a chance to go inside the Loop, I love visiting one of the food halls. At Bravery Chef Hall, there’s Margaux’s Oyster Bar, The Blind Goat and Kokoro. I love the new POST, especially since parking is so easy. There, my go-tos are tonkotsu ramen from Ramen Moto, Texan tacos from Taco Fuego and cookie butter crepes from Whisk Crêpes Café.”
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“I don’t drink coffee, especially those with milk, but I love a honey green tea from The Teahouse.”
“I love Japanese cuisine, and Shun Japanese Kitchen is my favorite. Many restaurants are doing omakase now with a chef’s choice menu, but when I go to Shun, I always sit at the sushi bar and have Chef Naoki serve me food until I say stop. The Japanese souffle cheesecake is the bomb; Chef told me that he married his wife, [who is] the pastry chef at Shun, because of this cheesecake, and I believe him. It’s that good.”
“Permission Whiskey & Service Co. is my new favorite spot for drinks. It has a great vibe and excellent service. I try to have the barkeep recommend a new bourbon every time I go; the last one was Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Cornerstone. When I’m in Katy, Star Sports Bar & Grill is my spot to unwind. I’ve been going there since the build-out phase of Phat Eatery, and you can’t ask for a friendlier staff and owner. Chips and salsa are made to order, or pair an always perfectly cooked ribeye with beer and a round of shots.”
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