Treadsack opened its latest restaurant concept, Foreign Correspondents, with Executive Chef PJ Stoops serving up farm-to-table Thai fare in the Houston Heights neighborhood.
With a menu focused on Northern and Northeastern Thai dishes, Chef Stoops takes advantage of Houston’s similar climate, sourcing nearly all of his Thai ingredients from the Gulf Coast, providing both an authentic experience for Thai aficionados and an exploratory journey for those new to the cuisine.
Stoops is well-known in Houston culinary circles and beyond for his most recent stint as the city’s premier fishmonger and bycatch disciple [fellow Houston chef Chris Shepherd credits him as “the man who introduced me to the endless possibilities of Gulf seafood”], so naturally he will also be showcasing local seafood, with a penchant for highlighting lesser-known species.
“I’m basically getting to be the chef I always wanted to sell to as a fishmonger,” says Stoops, who is particularly excited about the fact that, due to the nature of the cuisine, he will be able to use all the fish that he was never able to sell to anyone else.
Stoops fell in love with Thai food while living and working as a chef and teacher in northern Thailand. He is quick to note that he’s cooking food outside his culture, so the restaurant name—Foreign Correspondents—encapsulates that idea of “reporting back to the public” and telling a story to the masses with the knowing nod of an informed outsider. Stoops’ wife Apple also plays a critical role for the Foreign Correspondents team as prep chef in the kitchen. Apple, born and raised in Udon Thani, Thailand, lends her Thai cuisine expertise to ensure that all of the needed ingredients are meticulously prepped and ready to go.
Guests are encouraged to share at the restaurant with a family-style dinner menu. For daytime diners, an à la carte menu structure is aimed at getting busy professionals back to work during weekday lunch service, while guests are invited to linger and try a bevy of dishes during weekend brunch.
The dinner menu includes Snacks such as Stuffed Sticky Rice [Khao Bai], coconut sticky rice stuffed with lightly salted and grilled mackerel, caramelized shallots, and fresh cucumber; Pounded Salads/Cold Dishes like Spicy Fruit Salad [Tam Phonlamay] with mixed seasonal fruit and shredded vegetables; Chopped Salads such as Isaan Duck Laap [Laap Bpet Isaan], minced duck cooked with shallots, chilis, toasted rice powder, and herbs; Soups and Curries like Lemongrass and Tamarind Fish Soup [Tom Saep], chunks of white fish and gulf shrimp in an aromatic broth made with lemongrass, ginger, galangal, makrut lime leaf, and tamarind; and Meats & Seafood like Frogs Fried with Lemongrass [Gop Tawd Samynphrai], featuring whole Louisiana frogs battered and deep-fried with lemongrass and makrut lime leaf.
Desserts pay homage to the cosmopolitan nature of Thai food and the ease with which new ingredients are casually integrated into the cuisine. The menu expresses this idea with simple offerings such as Coconut Ice Cream [Aith Teem Maprao] with the traditional Thai toppings of sweetened condensed milk, peanuts, and white bread.; Makrut Lime Soda Float [Nam Makrut] featuring a house-made makrut lime soda with a scoop of coconut milk ice cream; and Fresh Fruit [Phanlomay], a traditional way to end a Thai meal.
Treadsack beverage director Travis Hinkle developed a strong wine program for the concept, with an emphasis on Rieslings. Diners are also treated to a variety of beautifully presented cocktails from Treadsack bar director Leslie Ross. Leslie has seamlessly integrated Thai flavors into the program, with standouts like the Thai Cream Soda with vodka, hibiscus syrup, soda, and cream.
Located in The Heights Place, a revitalized strip mall on North Main Street in the Heights neighborhood, Foreign Correspondents has a fairly minimalist design with simple wood tables and chairs contrasted by bright pops of color throughout the 4,500-square-foot space. Numerous plants are placed both inside and out of the space, with one of the large walls featuring an original sci-fi mural created by local Houston artist Jon Read. There are 105 indoor seats available to diners, with an additional 40 seats on the covered outdoor patio.