After locally known restaurateur Benjy Levit’s self-titled restaurant fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, he introduced modern French bistro Eau Tour in the same space as what he called a reinterpretation of the former eatery’s values.

“The guiding principles have been the same, which are super high-quality ingredients in a casual atmosphere with a lighter touch,” Levit said. “Eau Tour is an expansion of our footprint within the building.”

Main course

The culinary program at Eau Tour is seafood-focused. The restaurant’s name translated from French means “water journey,” Levit said. The kitchen’s Josper Oven washes each dish with distinctive flavors from wood and charcoal.

Levit underlined the grilled snapper in a light Parmesan broth and a vegetarian ravioles du Dauphiné dish as standouts from the community bistro’s seasonal menu.

“Typically you'll see ravioli that are cut into individual ravioli, but we make it by hand,” Levit said. “It's a whole sheet of ravioli that we alternate with ricotta and mushroom, so it presents like a checkerboard sheet of ravioli. That one has a really unique and beautiful presentation. It's something we put a lot of love and care into.”

What’s special about it?

Benjy’s had been around for 25 years before closing in 2020. The new American eatery showcased Levit’s influence from years studying the industry in New York and Los Angeles, he said. When it closed, Levit still owned the more than 70-year-old building in which it was located.

He decided to transform the space into three separate venues to create a diverse environment that he said caters to the needs of Rice Village residents. Levit has established restaurants Local Foods and Local Food Market, as well as the speakeasy-style wine venue Lees Den, within the last 12 years.

“So I kind of started off with one concept, and it's grown within the building,” Levit said. “I like the opportunity for someone to make a date night by going to Lees Den and then to Eau Tour or vice versa. I enjoy that synergy and energy.”

Why it matters

Forming this collective within the Rice Village community was especially significant to Levit because he grew up here, he said. Levit graduated from Bellaire High School, 5 miles away from the site of Eau Tour.

Growing up the youngest of six kids, Levit said he found that good food was a way to stand out and to make people happy. This continues to be his driving motivation with his restaurants today.

“When everything works the way that we plan it, it takes people away from their everyday life stresses, even if it's briefly,” Levit said. “Great restaurants help provide an escape to our lives, which are busy and stressful.”

Though the one-year anniversary of Eau Tour approaches in late-March, Levit said his vision is more long-term, to establish Eau Tour as a “neighborhood spot.”

“I’m thinking more about what to do for the 10- or 20-year [anniversary],” he said. “We plan on being a part of the neighborhood for a long time.”