It is has been nearly a year since I posted a similar list about Galleria area restaurants (“The 10 most interesting restaurants in the Galleria area”), and in that time the local restaurant scene has changed somewhat, mostly for the better. There have been two notable openings among top restaurants in the Galleria area and one closing, Philippe, which is scheduled to re-open as Table in May.
This list is different from last year’s in that I am including steakhouses and expanding the definition of the Galleria area a little further to include the restaurants that are still quickly cab-accessible from the hotels near the Galleria.
The restaurant is striking and stylish, matching its well-attired crowd who seem to have aspirations for the Costa Smeralda. Their cuisine is mostly from the long-neglected Italian outpost of Sardinia that will be novel to most diners while being readily enjoyable. Excellent dishes such as sa fregula in asellas, a type of couscous with clams in saffron, and gnochetti sardi al cinghiale, Sardinian-style dumplings with a ragù of wild boar, aren’t readily found anywhere else in this country. Classic Italian restaurant preparations fill out the rest of the menu, which features freshly made pastas, beautiful fish flown in from the Mediterranean, and a wood-burning oven for turning out unique pizzas, chicken and an excellent steak. Arcodoro is a must for anyone who enjoys Italian food, and is one of the top Italian restaurants in the area, although it can be maddeningly inconsistent, at times, even more so since their longtime executive chef left earlier in the year.
5000 Westheimer, 77056, (713) 621-6888
From Chef Hugo Ortega and Tracy Vaught, the couple behind the well-loved Hugo’s and Backstreet Café, this new restaurant features upscale versions of Mexican seafood from both sides of that country’s lengthy coasts. The early results are terrific and the very attractive contemporary setting is a fine match for the food. It is probably not too rash to call this one of the top Mexican restaurants in the country already. Many of the dishes can easily be shared – such as excellent grilled oysters in a chipotle butter and mussels with chorizo in a green mole-like broth – so piece-meal is ordering is an option. With an expert and relatively light touch from the kitchen, this is actually cooking that calls out for wine, mostly white, and the intelligent wine list put together by beverage director Sean Beck aptly provides many suitable pairings. The cocktails are quite good here, too, and the lively bar and patio areas make fine spots for enjoying them. There is a separate oyster bar, well-suited for solo diners.
2200 Post Oak Boulevard, 77056, (713) 622-9996
This outpost of southern Brazil grilling has managed to impress the locals in a city awash in churrascarias. The wide array of meats, cooked exquisitely and presented dramatically, and the expansive and vibrant salad bar are arguably the best in Houston, contending with Fogo de Chau. With the all-you-can-eat-red-meat style, this is an especially good choice when the beltline and cardiologist are distant memories.
5865 Westheimer, 77057, (713) 244-9500
Opened in late 2012 and featuring a chef-restaurateur from Provence, this attractive restaurant offers Gallic classics from around the home country like escargots bourguignon, sole meunière, coq au vin, and cassoulet and more contemporary preparations including those from Italy and others with Asian ingredients. Etoile is widely regarded as the city’s top French restaurant.
1101 Uptown Park Boulevard, 77056, (832) 668-5808
Just east of Loop 610, this Indian fine-dining that is regarded among the top restaurants in the city and a favorite among Indian ex-pats. The lengthy menu provides plenty of choices, mostly familiar, with array refined preparations featuring seafood, chicken and lamb that are cooked and presented in a fashion well-moved from the typical Indian outpost. There are vegetarian and vegan preparations, too. The restaurant also has an extensive wine list to complement the cooking, a nice bar area and cigars that can be smoked on its veranda.
4100 Westheimer, 77027, (713) 960-8472
One of the most interesting restaurants in Houston began life serving contemporary Peruvian cuisine largely influenced from the multicultural Lima. It changed focus late last year a bit and is now offering the dishes and flavors from across the breadth of South America, though coastal Peru is still at its heart. Even for the most rabid and adventurous diners, friendly and inviting Latin Bites will assuredly offer flavors and preparations that will entice, as well as likely being novel. The often bold flavors are rendered with experience and a deft touch from the kitchen. The presentation and, occasionally, the complexity of the flavors might come as a surprise, especially since there are only two entrées over $30 and an average in lower $20s. With a friendly and inviting vibe, plus interesting cocktails, a visit is almost always enjoyable.
5709 Woodway (at Chimney Rock), 77057, (713) 229-8369
Known for its service, the cozy, modern décor featuring light earth tones with dark accents and a handsome contemporary bar area can both provide a nice setting for entertaining, as long as you don’t mind a background buzz, as it can get loud when the restaurant is well-attended. The menu is not old fashioned, but it will be easily understandable and accessible for most, at least for those who can afford the relatively steep menu prices at this upscale restaurant. Masraff's also sports a nice wine list with plenty of food-friendly French and Italian bottles.
1753 Post Oak Boulevard (just south of San Felipe), 77056, (713) 355-1975
Adjacent to Caracol, this summer 2013 newcomer features contemporary Americanized Italian food from one of the city’s top chefs, John Sheely, who also owns the well-regarded Mockingbird. The preparations are often twists on popular dishes and include items like a rich and delectable sweetbread stuffed ravioli served with plenty of browned butter. The restaurant is notable for its efficient service from the kitchen and their fantastic pizzas served in the bar, as well as amazing happy hour food and drink specials.
2200 Post Oak Boulevard, 77056, (713) 993-9898
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
The flagship of the Pappas restaurant empire and probably the steakhouse most preferred by locals, this is the great American steakhouse done in the properly boisterous, masculine style. Consistently excellent steaks, expectedly baroque sides and the city’s biggest wine list with a chance to pair your aged beef with wines made with a number of different varietals and styles, help ensure that the very steep bill is worth the tariff.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
5839 Westheimer, 77057, (713) 780-7352
RDG + Bar Annie
Robert Del Grande, who helped created Southwestern cuisine in the 1980s, closed his famed Café Annie in 2009 after nearly three decades. A few months later he opened this restaurant-in-a-restaurant-all-part-of-the-scene that expanded the casual aspect of the bar area of Café Annie while keeping and returning many of the classic dishes from Café Annie’s heydays. It has generated the kind of attention and excitement that had been absent from its predecessor for years. To splurge, there is the Grill side, the more formal section. The bar and lounge areas are great for people watching and a pre- and post-dinner drink elsewhere. The bar also has a creative cocktail program.
RDG + Bar Annie
1800 Post Oak Boulevard, 77056, (713) 840-1111