Houston guide: One fifth

In Houston, we have a number of chefs which are celebrities (which is different from celebrity chefs). These chefs are known to foodlovers in town because they successfully run restaurant(s).

One of them is Chris Shepherd. He is the owner and executive chef at Underbelly, established 2012, featured in the NY Times in 2013, winner of the James Beard award for Best Chef of Southwest in 2014, and a genius, according to me!
Last summer Chris Shepherd opened another restaurant, named One Fifth, one that would change concept every year, for the next five years. One Fifth started as a steakhouse, which felt like a no-nonsense choice, this being Texas.

When you arrive, you are provided with the mandatory ice water and also with hot towels, which I consider very elegant.
Your waiter then arrives to introduce himself, to give you the menus and to inform you that what you mistook for your table candle is in fact rendered beef fat, scented with rosemary and God knows what else. The waiter then proceeds to remove the wick and to leave you to your bread. Delicious.

The first time we visited, some time in mid april, our waiter Jackie suggested one of the house signature cocktails, the Provençal Collins ($13), a twist on the traditional Tom Collins with French dry gin, lemon, lime and herbes de Provence. I am usually skeptic and diffident towards restaurant-invented cocktails, but in this case luckily I trusted Jackie! The cocktail is amazing, it is like drinking French perfume, and I know that maybe this does not sound exactly a compliment, but believe me, it is.

It is so good that I ordered it even on the second visit. Meanwhile, the husband ordered a Manhattan (with rye whisky) and an Old Fashioned, and also the classics were perfect (both $14).
Now, for the starters. On our first visit we shared a beef tartare ($14), very well done.

On the second visit, we ordered the Wagyu short ribs ($18) and the 18 month country ham ($14). The ribs came with small green peppers like pimientos de Padron, peaches and peanut in a mix that never really bonded together.

The ham (a lot of it) came with caramelized slices of cheddar and with a fierce mustard: the ham in itself was a little disappointing to a prosciutto-knowing Italian palate, but the dish worked well together.

As mains, on our first visit we ordered a lamb wellington ($42, totally disappointing, Gordon Ramsay would have made a massacre in the kitchen: each and every mistake that can be done while doing a wellington had been done) and a 100 day hanger steak ($35, not bad, but not tender either).

On our second visit we remember that the place is a steakhouse after all, and, after consulting with our waiter Shawn, we opted for sharing a long bone ribeye ($115, deserved every penny). I have no doubt that it was the best steak I ever had. Ever.

In both visits we also had the courage to order sides, and they were brilliant.
A very interesting salad ($12) with carrots done 3 ways (raw, pan fried and roasted) that made a funny contrast of texture and flavour. Roasted eggplant ($14), stuffed with feta cheese, almond wedges and a decided orange flavour: I will actually try to recreate it at home, very soon!

Having already had the cocktail, we dined with Orval beer, but the wine list is extensive and well tended, as it is at Underbelly.

Finally, the service. Outstanding: quick, discreet and attentive. The general manager, Jeff Buhrer, is always in the room, and he finds the way to speak with every table. He broke my heart though, when he told me that in the next phase, the Provençal Collins won’t be on the menu anymore…
So hurry, you just have 41 days, because the first year is ending and the steakhouse phase is nearly gone!
The restaurant will close on July 31st to reopen on September 1st as a French/Spanish/Italian restaurant.
Guess what two Italians will be the first to visit?

One Fifth
1658 Westheimer Rd (Montrose)
Every day, 5 to 11 PM
http://www.onefifthhouston.com



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