Flavors of the world meet on the plates at Mastrantos restaurant, much like the lives of owners Xavier Godoy of Spain and Marisol Chacon of Venezuela.
The couple first met when Godoy, a tennis coach in Venezuela at the time, became Chacon’s instructor. While opportunity in the United States separated the two for a time, they found themselves reunited in Houston.
During the period Godoy was completing his degree in electrical engineering at Prairie View A&M, Chacon was at Houston Baptist University completing a dual degree in business management and Spanish. They got married, started a family and entered the corporate world after graduation, having three children and taking jobs that took them to Chile, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and back to Houston.
Then they invested in a restaurant project started by Godoy’s brother, who eventually gave it up. The couple took over operations and in the process created their own concept, which became Mastrantos.
“One thing we said was if we do something, it’s going to be something we love, not just like,” Godoy said. “Food has always been around our house, around our culture.”
Realizing Mastrantos was a three-year journey for the couple, with construction being completed in November. The restaurant is now open in the Heights at 927 Studewood St. Ste. 100. Godoy and Chacon operate on three pillars — transparency, global taste and balance.
They achieve the first pillar with an open kitchen, where former executive chef of Tiny Boxwoods, Tony Castillo, leads. The prep area, dough lab and wine bar are open concepts as well.
Not only does the space showcase their transparency, but the management style they’ve chosen to adapt does, too. They want to be seen as regular people who come into the restaurant with their kids and customers can see who they are.
“As long as you’re coming here to enjoy dinner through conversations with friends and family, that’s all we ask for,” Godoy said.
Global tastes are found in Mastrantos’ menu, which serves one of the country’s most diverse cities. Every dish is meant to be complemented by a flavor that’s found in another region of the world. Their salmon, a more America dish, features Middle Eastern and Peruvian flavors.
The menu and wine list will rotate every quarter to give exposure to flavors of the world they hadn’t yet featured, with input from customers. They also import items from their country of origin because through Godoy and Chacon’s travels they’ve realized that food tastes most authentic coming from the country where it’s originally made.
“We’ve lived in six different countries, we have completely different backgrounds, we’ve been in the U.S. 18 years one way or another,” Godoy said. “So bottom line, we have to bring that to a melting pot of some kind.”
Mastrantos executes balance with its interior, using wood, steel and leather to provide a blend of rural and industrial features.
Every dish on the menu includes balanced flavors, and Mastrantos also has balance in terms of the meals it serves. Along with dinner, the restaurant offers an over-the-counter breakfast that features fruit- and Nutella-filled croissants, Venezuelan-style kolaches and arepas, breakfast tacos and yogurt bowls with fruit and nuts.
While their breakfast is more casual, the Mastrantos duo also want to make it known that dinner may feature more elevated food. But it’s not meant to be a fine-dining experience.
“Come in shorts,” Godoy said. “You’re more than welcome.”
Conversation and community is so important to Godoy and Chacon that they even discussed implementing 5 percent-off dinner tickets to people who put their phones in a basket. Though it’s mostly a joke within the restaurant, the owners aren’t opposed to doing it.
Godoy and Chacon said their main goal with Mastrantos isn’t to get rich, but to find the potential in all they do, including the people who work for them. They want to be able to see the dish washer one day become general manager, for example, and in that they would feel like they’ve truly made a difference.
The name Mastrantos comes from an aromatic leaf in the mint family. It’s the signature plant in a particular part of Venezuela.
“It’s a plant that when we were very little, like my kids age, we used to go out into the woods and you hit that plant when you’re walking around and you’re like, ‘Whoa,’” Godoy said. “It reminds you of where you come from.”
The plant is so well-known in Venezuela that Godoy said it’s like the bluebonnet of Texas.
One of the images in the restaurant is a Spanish bull with a mastranto on its back, because it shows where Godoy and Chacon come from.
Mastrantos is open from 7-11 a.m. and 5-10 p.m. Tuesday–Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday.