On the intimate mezzanine terrace decked with plush sofas, loungers and umbrellas, a Gatsby-worthy party is already underway by the office-cheating hour of 4:45pm. Revelers have breezed past the hostess and servers pouring Champagne from silver buckets to the three outdoor patios at Montrose foodie newcomer, Emmaline.
After a long, cold winter, Houstonians are embracing this fresh-as-spring restaurant and bar by Sam Governale, former operating partner of Fleming’s Steakhouse. A big draw for the buzz is the stunning interior design by Emmaline’s creative director, Ashley Putman. Formerly Teala’s Mexican Restaurant, the vintage building with soaring windows that frame the Downtown skyline has been reimagined with a mix of feminine and masculine elements, resulting in an elegantly timeless vibe. Think pink roses, secluded Hollywood booths, a romantic interplay of leather and wooden floors, dangling rattan lamps, pastel banquettes, a sunroom with woven bistro chairs and garden-inspired pillows.
“In Italy, the classic trattoria is the epitome of a neighborhood kitchen and serves as the cultural thread for the people in that township,” says tall, dark and handsome Governale, who named the concept after his great-aunt. “Similarly, we want to offer a home-away-from-home experience for guests to come as they are, whether from a run along Buffalo Bayou or for dinner and drinks before or after an event.” The contemporary American-European menu by chef Dimitri Voutsinas proffers upscale entrees and casual options meant for sharing, like rustic wood-grilled pizzas and Tunisian tuna crudo with apples and pistachios.
Voutsinas, with 20 years of cooking experience in France, Greece and his native New York, knows his way around a grill. A must-have starter is the smoky grilled asparagus with top-notch prosciutto, a poached egg and aged Parmesan shavings—its black garlic vinaigrette is the kicker. Also skillfully executed is the Oysters and Pearls dish: charbroiled mollusks gilded with robiola cheese and caviar. For something leafier, salads like First Place, featuring arugula, frisee, grilled pancetta, creamy goat cheese and walnuts, are thankfully spared heavy dressings.