Ouzo Bay’s diver scallops with spinach risotto, ramps, crispy leeks and lemon
1. Ouzo Bay
ELEVATOR PITCH This stylish Mediterranean import shoring in on the River Oaks District serves fresh fish flown in daily from the Mediterranean, presented on a lavish seafood display in the center of the open restaurant.
WINE LIST Sommelier Evan Turner, Houston’s Greek wine expert, has created a masterful Greek wine list. Wine aficionados can request tours of the enclosed glass wine cellar and can sample wines inside.
TABLESIDE SHOW Flaming saganaki, a pan-fried kefalograviera cheese, is flambéed tableside with brandy.
THE COCKTAIL Phanes’ Poison is made with Belvedere Citron vodka, honey syrup, muddled basil and lime, with a honey rim and fresh sprig of basil. ouzobay.com
During happy hour, Eunice oysters are 75 cents.
THE TABLE From the circular bar to the chef’s table adjacent to the kitchen, everyone is part of the action.
TRAVELING TOQUE Chef Drake Leonards was an apprentice at Manhattan’s Café Boulud, spent two years cooking in Europe and was executive sous-chef at nationally acclaimed restaurant August in New Orleans.
GUMBO YA YA A balance of ultrafresh seafood (nothing frozen here), an expertly crafted roux and peppery spice makes the gumbo sing. Due to chef’s German and Louisiana heritage, a dollop of potato salad is mandatory.
SIGNATURE COCKTAIL The Teal Season, named for the chef’s favorite time of year, is made with Balcones Distilling whiskey, Baby Blue and mildly bitter amaro from Italy. 832.491.1717, eunicerestaurant.com
Sheesh Mahal, or Palace of Mirrors, one of the dining areas of new Musaafer. It was built entirely by craftsmen in India, then disassembled and shipped to Houston to be reassembled.
THE ELEVATOR PITCH Dubai-based The Spice Route Company chose Houston for the first location of its new restaurant, which will introduce a mesmerizing picture of the markets, palaces and hidden street foods of India, when it opens in the fall.
THE SPACE Palatial furnishings and decor in the soaring restaurant are sourced from India. The high-energy bar and lounge serving artisanal cocktails is a highlight, and the multimirrored Sheesh Mahal room may soon be an Instagram sensation.
THE CHEFS Owners Shammi and Mithu Malik sent two chefs on a 100-day journey to traverse India and recreate the story-based menu, which features obsessively sourced Indian cuisine. musaaferhouston.com
Fancy veggies with your farm-to-table steak? Try Georgia James’ salt and citrus roasted beets. Opposite page: MAD’s in-progress wood-roasted Bomba rice with calamari, clams and shishito peppers.
4. Georgia James
THE CROWD Buzzy and bustling with a throw-caution-to-the-wind attitude
WHAT THE CHEFS EAT Chef-owner Chris Shepherd likes the uni panna cotta; chef de cuisine Greg Peters likes the Tejas Heritage chicken with lima bean Hoppin’ John, and sous-chef Matt Coburn favors the Slab Salad.
WHY WE LIKE IT It’s everything you never knew you wanted in a steakhouse, from the handsome Southern ambiance to the modern menu.
MENU SURPRISE The shrimp crackers are made from dehydrated shrimp sheets that fry up like chicharones and are used as a vessel for the beef tartare. Sneaky delicious! 832.241.5088, georgiajamessteak.com
Squable is housed in the former Southern Goods space on 19th Street in the Heights.
GOOD REPUTATION Better Luck Tomorrow’s James Beard Award-winning Justin Yu, bar magnet Bobby Heugel and partner Steve Flippo, are part of the talent behind this newcomer.
THE NAME Heugel chose the moniker to associate his spot with fun and lightening up—they purposely misspelled it.
MUST GET Chef partners Mark Clayton (Oxheart) and Drew Gimma craft plates like the savory-sweet Baby Dutch, and a steaklike French burger made with Augustus Ranch beef and oozing with raclette.
THE DRINK A few bold-flavored natural wines (plus classic options), curated by sommelier Justin Vann, match the vigorous fare.
RUNNING LATE The staff welcomes late-night dining—even walk-ins at 11pm. 832.834.7362, squabletime.com
MAD’s cigala tio pepe
HOMETOWN PRIDE MAD’n cheese, pan de cristal or “glass bread,” chicharron marino, cucurucho de foie, olivas liquidas, and empanadillas de cochinillo are on the menu at this hot spot named for the Madrid airport code.
WHAT TO DRINK Earl Grey gin and tonic is a riff on the popular G & T at the group’s original resto, BCN Taste & Tradition.
BEST SEAT Table 11 is next to the wine cellar and open-flame grill where a variety of paellas are fired. It feels slightly private while offering a bird’s-eye view of the restaurant.
THE WINO Marc Sucarrats, with his extensive sommelier experience in Spain, will steer you toward a lively wine from the same country.
DREAMY DeCOR All of the furnishings were custom made in Spain, so expect the real deal. 281.888.2770, madhouston.com
Grilled prawns on a two-prong skewer, part of the Institutionalized dish at Indigo.
THE VIBE Intimate incubator for food exploration with counter seating for 13 and tasting menus. Prepare to learn about African American history with every course chef-owner Jonny Rhodes personally serves.
WHAT CHEF LIKES Banana Republics of America is an avocado parfait dessert shaped like a whole avocado, with dark chocolate and strawberry preserves, that segues into a conversation about economic inequality among Third World countries and African American communities.
FAST FACT Rhodes honed his cooking skills while stationed in the desert as a Marine. Everyone assumed the Texan was a barbecue master, so he was often stuck in the pit.
WHEN TO BOOK Reservations are required; most guests book about three weeks out. 832.582.6388, htxindigo.com
TRIBUTE’s buffalo bayou mud cake made with scratch chocolate butter cake, marshmallow and peanut butter ice cream, topped with fudge sauce
8. TRIBUTE at the Houstonian
THE TABLE Table 66 is the little enclave set off the main dining room near the private wine lockers and the kitchen. It offers a prime view of the gorgeous grounds of The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa.
HOLY TRINITY The three chefs hail from culinary regions emphasized on TRIBUTE’s menu—Mexican flavors come from sous-chef Juan Tuch, Louisiana touches from chef de cuisine Jeff Boudreaux and Texas influences are courtesy of exec chef Neal Cox.
FOR OENOPHILES Let sommelier Vanessa Trevino Boyd design a wine and food tasting experience to savor in the intimate new private wine room.
TEXAS SIZE If you like tender short ribs, split the monster smoked wagyu short rib with the table; it's delivered with creamed corn and pickled vegetables, including jalapenos, of course. 713.685.6713, houstonian.com
La Villa’s pretty raspberry and chocolate dessert
9. La Villa
ASK FOR Executive chef Kevin d’Andréa, a Top Chef France finalist. In between cooking in the kitchen, he’s often visiting with guests in the dining room.
MUST-GET Spice-rubbed roasted duck breast.
OFF-THE-MENU Always ask if shaved truffles can be added to your dish.
DATE NIGHT The upstairs patio (shaded by a large oak tree) creates the setting for a romantic dinner. Book the small indoor private dining room for ultimate privacy.
THE DRINK French 75 is a popular classic and the signature cocktail is the Pink Lady, with vodka, cherry, raspberry, lemon and sparkling rosé.
THE BOTTLE The most coveted of wines is the 2012 Chateau Lynch-Bages, a complex red blend with aromas of black fruits, violet and pepper from Bordeaux ($250). 713.524.0070, lavillahtx.com
While dining at EaDo’s cozy Nancy’s Hustle, you feel like you're in on a delicious secret.
10. Nancy's Hustle
SNAGGING A TABLE Reserve one month ahead. If you don’t score a reservation, show up the night you want to dine and the staff will text you if a table becomes available.
MUST-GET More than 75 orders of Nancy Cakes fly out of the kitchen nightly. Chef Jason Vaughan has a gift for pasta, so try the tagliatelle with pistachios, crisp Brussels sprouts and burrata.
ASK FOR Pastry chef Julia Doran. The savory Parmesan cheesecake with black pepper honey is the brainchild of her and Vaughan.
FAST FACT Chef-owner Jason Vaughan met chef Martin Stayer of Nobie’s in 2010 when they worked together in Chicago at L20 and Gilt Bar.
CHEF’S RÉSUMÉ Vaughn also worked at Michael Mina in San Francisco and other concepts owned by Chicago’s Hogsalt Hospitality. 346.571.7931, nancyshustle.com
Photography by: 1. courtesy of Atlas Restaurants; 2. by Duc Hoang; 3. courtesy of Chromed; 4. by JUlie Soefer; 5. by Jenn Duncan; 6. by julie soefer; 7. by Candace Moore; 8. by Julie Soefer; 9. by Shannon O'Hara; 10. by Candace Moore