This may be one of the harder reservations in Houston to obtain for a prime dining time, although that may change with summer upon us, and many of Up Restaurant’s target clientele headed to cooler climes. Located in Highland Village on the third floor of what many refer to as the Cole Haan building, this restaurant is quite an ambitious endeavor by its owner who also owns Highland Village. The restaurant is very lovely, with a warm, contemporary, upscale decor. Kudos to the designer as there’s not a bad table in the place, which has many booths and banquettes. There’s also a large terrace, facing west overlooking the rest of the shopping center.
On the Saturday evening we dined, the place was hopping. The beautiful people, of all ages, appear to be flocking. Both the dining and bar areas were filled to capacity. We’d read on-line reviews about bad service, but our service was great. We were warmly greeted when we emerged from the elevator. Our reservation time was promptly honored. And the drink and food orders came quickly. The food (more later) probably a little too quickly.
Upon arrival, we were presented with complimentary flatbread and hummus. It was a very good snack with our drinks and, to the restaurant’s credit, seconds and thirds were offered without asking. We shared the chopped tuna appetizer, which was a generously sized, nicely seasoned disc of fresh tasting tuna tartare served with flatbread. We aren’t pizza afficianados, but we’re enjoying sampling the fare from all the brick ovens opening for business in our city. The short rib and gorgonzola pizza was topped with a mound of fresh arugula, a kind of pizza salad. The crust was the very thin and crispy style; the short rib pieces were tender and the gorgonzola didn’t overwhelm.
For an entree, we shared the crab cakes with a side of roasted brussel sprouts. We received two large crab cakes, mostly lump meat, appropriately cooked and very enjoyable. The roasted brussel sprouts had good flavor and carmelization, but they were way undercooked, and a trip back to the kitchen didn’t help matters. The price point on the crab cakes was $38. The remainder of the entrees were similar priced, comparable to Brennan’s or Mark’s. Appetizers and pizzas were less pricey overall, in the low to mid teens. There’s no dessert menu and the waiter recited some of the usual suspects (cheesecake, creme brulee) that didn’t particularly entice us. But that’s not really a criticism as we don’t usually order dessert, and Up isn’t catering to the diner that judges a place based on the pedigree of the pastry chef.
Complimentary valet parking (carefully wedged into parking spaces along Westheimer; look for the orange cones) is available and, given the restaurant’s location, is almost required unless you want to park in the shopping center across Westheimer.
Would we go back with all the many great restaurants in Houston? Probably not soon. We’re more into the food than the decor and who is air kissing who. That being said, we had a lovely evening.