An attorney representing international hotel and restaurant designer Tony Chi has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the owners of the Fish and the Knife, complaining that the recently opened Houston sushi restaurant and nightclub has “repeatedly and intentionally” claimed that Chi was responsible for the restaurant’s design. “As you most certainly know,” the letter reads, “Tony Chi had no role whatsoever in connection with the Fish & The Knife and most certainly is not answerable for its operation, particularly its delayed opening.”
A Facebook post published by the restaurant shortly before its February 13th opening claimed that Tony Chi had designed the interior — and implied that his involvement bore some responsibility for the restaurant’s notably delayed debut: “The owner commissioned Tony Chi, famed architect and interior designer, to fit the restaurant into his relentless schedule,” reads the post (which may also have been issued as a press release) in a sentence that directly follows a reference to repeated postponements of the restaurant’s opening. It then goes on to name-drop several of Chi’s former clients: “Based in New York City, Chi owns and operates a global design powerhouse that has an unrivalled reputation in the hospitality industry. Some of Chi’s designs include restaurants for Wolfgang Puck, Alain Ducasse and Michael Mina. In addition to restaurants, he designed many Ritz-Carlton, Park Hyatt, Intercontinental and Mandarin Oriental hotels around the world.” But Chi’s designs do not appear to include Fish and the Knife.
Following the Facebook post and other restaurant publicity efforts including a pre-opening “friends and family” event, several local publications — including Eater Houston, the Houston Press, and Culturemap — stated in their reports that Chi was Fish and the Knife’s designer. [Note: The report on Fish and the Knife in the Press's Eating Our Words blog has since been deleted] In reporting that the restaurant had finally opened after more than 3 years of construction, Swamplot quoted from and paraphrased the Facebook post claiming Chi’s involvement; that story has now been updated and corrected.
Chi’s attorney is working to have all references to his client removed from reports on Fish and the Knife. “All statements that Tony Chi participated in design of Fish and Knife are patently false and all statements that Tony Chi is responsible for the delayed opening are defamatory and actionable,” the cease-and-desist letter warns the restaurant’s owners. “The single legal conclusion to be drawn from the false statements is that the Fish & The Knife seeks to ‘palm off’ Mr. Chi’s impeccable reputation, not only to obtain undeserved publicity but also to increase the establishment’s profits.” It closes by mentioning that “Tony Chi is prepared to commence formal proceedings” against the restaurant.
The restaurant’s Facebook post also refers to Chi as an architect; Chi is not. So who were the designers of the 13,000-sq.-ft. standalone restaurant at 7801 Westheimer Rd.? That would be Ostap Rudakevych and the team at Clouds Architecture Office, a separate New York firm. Fish and the Knife is the only completed restaurant commission listed on that young firm’s website. Fortunately for all others involved in the multi-year project — who might not otherwise be attributed proper credit by their client — the description also lists the entire project team.
The letter was dated March 12th; as of this morning, Fish and the Knife’s post crediting Chi with the design is still up and uncorrected on the restaurant’s Facebook page. For reference, we’ve quoted it in its entirety below:
The long anticipated waited is now over. Fish and the Knife will finally be opening its door to the public on Thursday, February 13th. Houstonians spent these past few years speculating the cause in the delay, but there was never one. The owner commissioned Tony Chi, famed architect and interior designer, to fit the restaurant into his relentless schedule. Based in New York City, Chi owns and operates a global design powerhouse that has an unrivalled reputation in the hospitality industry. Some of Chi’s designs include restaurants for Wolfgang Puck, Alain Ducasse and Michael Mina. In addition to restaurants, he designed many Ritz-Carlton, Park Hyatt, Intercontinental and Mandarin Oriental hotels around the world.
Just over 13,000 sq ft in size, Fish and the Knife is meticulous in design and order. Gorgeous compositions of wood, metal, stone and glass are layered throughout the restaurant. The neutral tones allow the interior to glisten without being glitzy. Red doors are used to separate the lounge area from the dining restaurant and also to create a warm and inviting ambience. The vaulted and sky light ceilings brings an open, airy feeling. From the custom wooden tables to the handmade Bernaud dinnerware, no detail is to be left unnoticed.
Along with a famed architect and interior designer, the restaurant’s head chef is Iron Chef America’s very own Bob Iacovone. Iacovone won the James Beard Foundation Award in 2006 and is considered one of the best chefs in America. He served as an Executive Chef at Cuvee for 9 years and highly acclaimed for his continental Creole cooking. Cuvee was recognized as one of New Orlean’s best restaurants during Iacovone’s tenure. He also co-owned Rambla , a tapas restaurant known for their use of fresh local seasonal ingredients for 3 years. Although Iacovone took a hiatus from the culinary world to focus on being a father, he spent this past year carefully planning and preparing the menu for Fish and the Knife.
Tonight’s private tasting held exclusively for family, friends and colleagues is to celebrate the long awaited opening of Fish and the Knife and Bob Iacavone’s entrance back into the culinary world. Iacovone will be preparing some dishes for sampling and sharing. He hopes that with each bite, the memory of it will linger on long after the taste has left.
- Fish and the Knife [Clouds Architecture Office]
- Previously on Swamplot: Your Long Wait for a Sushi Restaurant and Nightclub on Westheimer Is Over: Fish and the Knife Opens Today!, Houston’s Most Anticipated Restaurant Will Open When It Feels Like It, Phew! Fish and the Knife Is Back to Its Usual ‘Opening Soon’ Status, Is Fish and the Knife Cutting Bait?, Fish and Knife: Beached Sushi on Westheimer
Photos: Swamplot inbox