In Texas, the name Killen is synonymous with great tasting food.
Award-winning Executive Chef and restauranteur Ronnie Killen has made a name for himself in the Houston area over the past several years by opening one restaurant after another – all successful and all memorable in their own right. Killen’s latest venture, Killen’s TMX, is a foray into regional Mexican cuisine, a first for the on-fire culinary star.
There is something to be said for walking into a restaurant and being greeted by authentic charm. The tiles, the artwork, the finishes and even the waiter’s uniforms at TMX are all from Mexico and picked out by Killen himself. “I had a hand in picking out every dish and glass in the restaurant… Even the carpet is from Mexico,” said Killen. “I wanted everything to be as authentic as possible.”
My first taste of authenticity at TMX was, of course, the salsa. The test of Mexican restaurants everywhere is the salsa served alongside the customary basket of chips. Two bowls were set out, one green and one red, and I have to say that the green salsa won over my taste buds. Very mild, perfectly cooked, not too thick, but thick enough to hold onto a chip – it was exemplary. Next up was a cocktail. I chose the Getaway Car, a frozen drink served with pineapple juice, rum, ancho liqueur and with a Tajin-salted rim. It was delicious and very potent – it went down so smoothly that, halfway through my meal, I could definitely still feel its effect.
Killen’s goal of having a genuine experience at TMX can be seen in just about everything, including the corn tortillas. Used for tacos and tostadas, the corn is ground inhouse on a traditional corn grinder brought in from Guadalajara. That is definitely not something seen in a typical Mexican restaurant in Houston and the taste and texture it adds to the corn tortillas is evident.
“I spent a lot of time in Mexico kitchens learning how to prepare these dishes and I want to educate our guests on the different types of Mexican food and how it is cooked in a traditional way,” said Killen. “I spent a lot of time in Cabo because it’s proximity to the coast in Mexico is very similar to Houston’s and I wanted to learn about authentic Mexican seafood.”
Seafood is a staple in every part of the TMX menu from the appetizers to the entrees, and there is even a seafood enchilada made with Baja shrimp. The fried shrimp tacos on the lunch menu are exceptional – served with avocado crema, the shrimp are large, well battered and tasty. The black beans are another winner and luckily for most guests they are served with just about every entree and combination plate. Killen has not left his love for cooking a good piece of meat off this menu; brisket, barbacoa, short ribs and Wagyu and ribeye fajitas are just a small sample of the delicious pieces of meat that can be found in many of the dishes.
You might be tempted to fill up before dessert, but I encourage you to leave room for some of pastry chef Samantha Mendoza’s sweet treats. The churros are delicious and served with a side of chocolate sauce and dulce de leche ice cream – perfect for dipping. Tres Leches Bread Pudding: Yes, friends, it is a thing and you must try it. The textures and flavors of this dish complete any meal at TMX (or any restaurant, really).
Ronnie Killen is a busy guy, opening up two new restaurants in the very near future; one in the Heights and one in The Woodlands. If his attention to detail at TMX is any indication, Houstonians everywhere are in for some mouthwatering eats.
Cover: Acapulco-style Campechana. Photo Kimberly Park
Gabi De la Rosa lives in Houston with her husband and three children. You can usually find her at a great local restaurant or out exploring HTX with her family. Visit her on Instagram @gabioftheroses_htx