In our My Top 5 series, we look to the Houstonians who create and shape the character of Houston and ask them to share their own favorite things that make H-Town their home. This week, we are thrilled to introduce Jio Dingayan, Pastry Chef at Tobiuo Sushi & Bar as well as the Head Chef of the upcoming Culinary Project, Money Cat.
My top 5 things to do in Houston
by Jio Dingayan
- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – This place has been so sentimental to me throughout my life. I’ve visited this art museum on many school outings, random outings, and even a few dates. The exhibits change from time to time, but the sentiment never changes – and that’s a good thing. It’s free entry on Thursdays, so it’s great for a date idea on a budget. My favorite part of MFAH is the Nancy and Rich Kinder building, where lots of aesthetic photos through the tunnels of light are a must. “Life imitates art more than art imitates life.” –Oscar Wilde
- Seiwa Market & Japan House – This market is very close to my home in Alief. There aren’t many Japanese markets in Houston, so I love going there for my favorite yuzu sparkling water and Japanese snacks. The stationery store next door, Japan House, has a bunch of anime-related products, Japanese tableware and cosmetics which I love too!
- Okome Don – My favorite poké bowl spot is so close to my house that I’ve been a regular since high school. The owner is very nice and friendly, which I really appreciate. Seeing so many new restaurants in our growing Chinatown recently has made this place feel nostalgic for me. I always have to stop after grabbing boba or grocery shopping at H Mart. Be sure to pick up a spam musubi during happy hour with your poké!
- Central Market – I tell people all the time that HEB is my happy place, but Central Market is number one. I love grocery shopping, and I especially love it when grocery stores have a wide variety of products to browse. The produce is so fresh, and if you ever need seasonal fruits or vegetables, this is the place to get them. Inside, there’s also a coffee/smoothie bar and a bunch of food kiosks for those days when you want to sit back and relax after a strenuous grocery shopping spree.
- La La Land Kind Cafe – Located at MKT in the Heights, this café literally boosts my serotonin production. They have a whole line of matcha drinks that I work slowly. I’m a sucker for pretty drinks that look as good as they look, as well as cafes with bright aesthetics and a friendly vibe, so all my boxes are checked with this place. My favorites are the matcha lattes with lavender flowers and strawberry fields. For coffee, I recommend the French toast latte and the purple rain latte. And go oat milk; in my opinion, this is the only acceptable choice.
About Jio Dingayan
At twenty, Jiolo “Jio” Dingayan graduated from the Institut Culinaire Lenôtre; but by then he was already building a superb seasonal dessert program from the ground up as the first pastry chef of Tobiuo Sushi & Bar. A year later, he is working on the menu plans for Money Cat, a new culinary project for which he has been hired as head chef alongside chef-owner Sherman Yeung.
Raised in Houston’s multicultural Alief neighborhood, Dingayan grew up enjoying his mother’s Filipino cuisine as well as the traditional dishes of his many Vietnamese friends and countless pan-Asian delights in Houston’s Chinatown. Thanks to his lifelong immersion, he considers himself more of an “Asian chef” than a Filipino, and draws inspiration for new dishes from the daily experiences of a first-generation Asian American. Like many of his generation, he is both passionate about creating great food and improving his industry, including making space for marginalized communities and focusing on staff wellbeing. as the key to success.