In our My Top 5 series, we turn to the Houstonians who create and shape Houston’s character and ask them to share their own favorite things that make H-Town home. This week, we’re delighted to feature Jio Dingayan, pastry chef at Tobiuo Sushi & Bar as well as the Chef de Cuisine of 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 field trips, random hangouts and even a couple dates. The exhibits change from time to time, but the feeling never does—and that’s a good thing. It’s free admission on Thursday, so it’s ideal for a low-budget date idea. My favorite part of MFAH is the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building, where it’s a must to take lots of aesthetic pictures through the light tunnels. “Life imitates art more than art imitates life.” – Oscar Wilde
- Seiwa Market & Japan House – This market is super close to my home in Alief. There aren’t many Japanese markets in Houston, so I love going here for my favorite yuzu sparkling water and Japanese snacks. The stationery store next door, Japan House, has a bunch of anime-related merchandise, Japanese serveware and cosmetic stuff I like as well!
- Okome Don – My favorite poké bowl spot is so close to home that I’ve been a regular here since high school. The owner is so kind and friendly, which I really appreciate. Recently seeing so many new restaurants in our ever-growing Chinatown, this place has become nostalgic for me. I always have to stop by after grabbing boba or getting groceries at H Mart. Make sure to grab 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 top tier. I love grocery shopping, and I especially love when grocery stores have a vast variety of products to browse. The produce is so fresh, and if you ever need any seasonal fruits or vegetables, this is the place to get it. Inside, there is also a coffee/smoothie bar and a bunch of food kiosks for days you want to sit and chill after an intense grocery shopping session.
- La La Land Kind Café – Located at M-K-T in the Heights, this café literally boosts my serotonin output. They have a whole matcha drink line that I am slowly working my way through. I’m a sucker for pretty drinks that taste as good as they look, as well as cafés with a bright aesthetic and friendly vibe, so all my boxes are checked with this place. My favorites are the lavender bloom and strawberry fields matcha lattes. For coffee, I recommend the French toast latte and purple rain latte. And go oat milk; in my opinion, it’s the only acceptable choice.
About Jio Dingayan
At age twenty, Jiolo “Jio” Dingayan graduated from Culinary Institute Lenôtre; but by then, he was already building a stunning seasonal dessert program from scratch as Tobiuo Sushi & Bar’s first pastry chef. A year later, he is at work on plans for the menu of Money Cat, a new culinary project for which he’s been tapped as chef de cuisine alongside chef-owner Sherman Yeung.
Raised in the multicultural Houston neighborhood of Alief, Dingayan grew up enjoying his mother’s Filipino cooking as well as the traditional foods of his many Vietnamese friends and countless pan-Asian delights in Houston’s Chinatown. Thanks to his lifelong immersion, he considers himself an “Asian chef” more than a Filipino one and draws inspiration for new dishes from everyday experiences as a first-generation Asian American. Like many of his generation, he’s both passionate about creating excellent food and improving his industry, including by making space for marginalized communities and emphasizing staff wellness as a key to success.