Basketball icon opens restaurant number two
Yao Restaurant and Bar is located in the Houston Pavilions at 1201 Fannin Street in downtown. Yao offers a fine dining experience at a moderate cost. Most entrees range from $10 to $15. The restaurant is an ideal place for a date.
While the environment of the restaurant is nice, the real reason to go is for the food, which contains no monosodium glutamate (MSG). The entrees are meticulously plated on rectangular dishes, with the option of white or brown rice placed in a circle on the right-hand side of the plate.
The food is perfectly cooked, but the particular part of the meal that really stands out is the freshness. This is not Chinese food that has been sitting in a buffet under a heat lamp for an hour. The food makes up for any of the other problems with the experience of the restaurant.
This is the second restaurant opened by Houston Rockets’ Yao Ming. The new location in downtown Houston offers some difficulties that should be added to the price when considering whether to go.
Mainly, finding and paying for parking at the Houston Pavilions is somewhat tricky. Many of the bottom-level spaces are reserved, so you have to keep driving until you find a parking place—sometimes pretty high in the garage.
Typical time for dining will cost you about $8 in parking, unless you linger longer than usual. However, paying for parking allows you to park inside the structure so that you have the added benefit of being able to take the walkway over Polk Street, instead of having to fight your way across that street in downtown traffic.
The restaurant itself is easy to locate inside the Pavilions.
Once inside, you are greeted by the hostess and taken to your seat relatively promptly. The seating itself offers booths that run along the outside walls and tables that are tightly packed inside. The closeness of the other patrons is probably the main problem with the restaurant. That closeness is compounded by the noise of talking and the bad acoustics that carries throughout the restaurant.
An additional problem is the booth closest to the wait station, which has the equipment that runs the wait computer intruding into it. Try to avoid that booth at all costs.
These problems, however, are all to be expected in a restaurant of this size, which is so small. Yao’s offers a kind and professional wait staff, more than willing to show you through the menu and answer questions about the food. The menu itself is very comprehensive and offers a wide variety of sushi made fresh at the sushi bar, in addition to traditional Chinese dishes such as the delicious sesame chicken.
The restaurant has no dress code, but if your dress is too casual, you will feel out of place in the midst of those shopping at the Pavilions and those on a business lunch.