Monthly Archives: February 2007

The Oceanaire Seafood Room

We dropped by one Thursday evening, without a reservation, and were a little surprised to find a wait.  You never know how a national chain located in the Galleria (formerly the Lord & Taylor space) will fare.   The bar is very pleasant and the bartenderess couldn’t have been more accomodating, letting us sample the wine.  You can eat at the bar, which sits right next to the oyster bar.

The restaurant’s decor and menu style reminds you of a steakhouse focusing on seafood.  There isn’t much of a nautical theme, just white tableclothes and a sleak wood and brass motif.  There are a couple retro touches — oyster crackers on the table and a gratis relish tray with celery, carrots, peppers, and pickled herring.

The menu has alot of choices, with everything ordered separately.  The menu appears to be printed daily, with the available fresh fish and seafood noted at the top.  We started with the calamari (of course), which we had heard was wonderful.  It lives up to to its billing — crispy with a tasty crust, tossed with peppers.  We liked the remoulade sauce much better than the pickapeppa goo.

After the calamari, we didn’t have room for entrees.  So, we tried a selection of oysters and the tuna tartare tower.  Not being oyster afficianados, particularly of the Northeast variety, we can’t recall all we tried, but they were very good and fresh, particularly the ones from Nova Scotia.  The tuna tartare was also very fresh, with a nice spicy flavor, in a healthy portion.  As a side order, we couldn’t resist the truffled mac and cheese — just as decadent as it soundsThe service was quite accomodating, from the hostesses to the busboy.  Our water glasses were filled regularly.

This isn’t a place for casual dining.  The prices are comparable to other upscale restaurants.  And don’t expect a hip crowd or pulsating dance music.  At least on a weeknight, there was a business crowd.   But we could actually hear ourselves talk.  And there were a number of items we’d like to try, so we’ll be back.

5061 Westheimer Road
832/487-8862
http://www.theoceanaire.com/ 

Mark’s American Cuisine

UPDATED REVIEW:  FEBRUARY 2007 —

We are no different than many Houstonians in considering Mark’s to be a destination restaurant for special occasions.  And you can’t beat that Zagat recently listed it as one of the top ten restaurants in the U.S.  This time it was a birthday, and we splurged with the eight-course tasting menu.

No course disappointed, each was accompanied by a wonderful sauce and side, and some were particular highlights.  And the portions were quite large for a tasting menu.  In order, we dined on: a sea scallop/fried Ipswich clam combo; sauteed skate; smoked duck breast (moist and crispy, but not fatty); pineapple sorbet; a lamb chop/venison combo; a wonderfully pungent Spanish goat cheese; a dessert trio; and a selection of homemade candies and jellies.

As usual the service was very good, although perhaps a bit condescending.  Be sure to make reservations well in advance, particularly for a weekend evening.  Our request made at the time of the reservation for a table in the main room was not initially honored, but they did quickly find us the requested table.  Of note, the popularity of Mark’s means the tables are very close together.  We had to move our table to avoid being continually bumped by the waitstaff.
    

FIRST REVIEWED:  JUNE 2006 —

Expectations run high when you dine at the restaurant that Houstonians (including us) rated #1 in both the Most Popular and Top Food categories in Zagat’s most recent poll.  Mark’s lived up to the ratings.

For a Tuesday evening prior to a holiday weekend, the restaurant was hopping.  The noise level was somewhat higher than usual, probably enhanced by our sitting in the balcony next to a group of rowdy businessmen drinking flaming shots of Sambuca.   The lack of a waitress with glasses on her belt and the incredible food reminded us we weren’t at the Cadillac Bar.  We’ll get the only other gripe out of the way quickly — the service was not as attentive or cordial as usual.  Our harried waiter was spending a lot of time with the businessmen.

Now for the food — it was as good or better than ever.  There were four in our group, and we started with two appetizers —  fried oysters topped with softshell crab and fresh crab (a little pricey at $22) and a quail/foie gras combination.  Both were excellent, with clean plates all around.  Our main courses were equally as delicious.  The grilled Ahi tuna was declared the “best I’ve ever had” from someone who has spent quite a bit of time in Hawaii.  We’ve never seen such large lamb chops as those that appeared in a rack of lamb/duck breast combination, and the taste wasn’t compromised by the size; the accompanying foie gras only further improved a great dish.  The soft shell crab reappeared as an entrĂ©e, served over yummy artichoke risotto.  And the seared tenderloin of beef medallions disappeared quickly.  For dessert, we enjoyed the coffee toffee tart (try saying that after a few glasses of wine) and the peanut butter sundae (yes, it actually had ice cream, unlike the “sundaes” at Pic). 

Once again, a great dining experience.  We highly recommend you visit.  (If you’re going for quiet conversation or romance, which is not a bad idea as the former church is a lovely setting, you may want to ask for a table in the side room.)

http://www.marks1658.com/
1658 Westheimer
713 / 523-3800