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Can a new Houston restaurant in one of the city's most competitive dining areas succeed with a

First Bite: "World Traveler" Restaurant in Montrose Has a Careful Path to Tread - Houston Food Finder

As someone who has seen firsthand the often herculean efforts it takes to open a new establishment and keep it running — the maxed-out personal credit cards, the 20-hour work days, the struggles to balance ever-increasing operating costs with diners’ expectations about prices and quality, the seemingly endless maintenance — I want to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, a long grace period and the opportunity to succeed. Shortly after it opened, I walked into the sparse main dining room that thankfully avoided the clichéd, exploitative trappings one might expect in this setting: statues of Buddha and Ganesha, black-and-white photos of indigenous people, Olmec pottery or colorful prayer flags. The friendly hostess led me to a booth and I slid onto one of the muted green benches with vertical swaths of cloth that seem to be tastefully inspired by textile patterns from East Asia and Africa. Traveler’s Table’s stated philosophy sounds appealing, too: “Here, we believe that food can serve as a gateway for learning about other cultures, for fostering understanding, and for breaking down the barriers that divide us as citizens of the world.” Traveler’s Table’s claim that it will make dishes from such a wide variety of cuisines “more flavorful” than the “traditional recipes,” whatever those might be, is not only a tall order, but vaguely insulting and arrogant, especially in a city that has excellent restaurants such as Mala Sichuan , Shri Balaji Bhavan , Hugo’s , Pho Binh By Night , The Original’s Ninfa’s , The Pit Room , Reggae Hut , Kata Robata , Giacomo’s and Cedar’s Bakery — a list that just scratches the surface of the many good restaurants in Houston that are serving food from many of the world’s culinary traditions. Just down Westheimer at UB Preserv , chef Nick Wong has been thoughtfully applying his extensive culinary knowledge to dishes inspired by the many international cuisines that have found a home in the Greater Houston area. Owner Matthew Mitchell and his team — especially his general manager Austin Moreno , who has 13 years of international experience and was professionally orchestrating the floor the night I was there — seem poised to face these challenges. The rich, creamy nuanced soup weaves fragrant toasted spices with an impeccable level of heat and is threaded with tender chicken and poignant mustard greens that are topped with perfectly crisp noodles and fried shallots, adding crunch to every bite. In Houston, where a single strip center on Richmond might be home to a Middle Eastern restaurant, a Vietnamese eatery, a Colombian bakery, and a taco truck, that line, at times can be very blurry. We rely on our readers and sponsors to cover expenses each month, such as writer and social media fees, administrative costs, web development, software, online services, website hosting and more.

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