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Mastro’s seafood tower


Date Night

By Robin Barr Sussman

Photos courtesy of Mastro’s Steakhouse and Willie G’s


Tilman Fertitta makes a slam-dunk at his new Post Oak Hotel at Uptown with Mastro’s Steakhouse and Willie G’s.

Bentleys, beef and bass. It’s all here on the playground of visible wealth known as The Post Oak, a campus owned by Tilman Fertitta with a 38-floor, 250-room hotel tower, a two-story Rolls-Royce showroom, a spa and salon, and the first Texas outpost of Mastro’s Steakhouse. It’s a showplace that wows even the most seasoned and discerning
international traveler.

But Mastro’s isn’t just another steakhouse. More Sin City than Bayou City, the sprawling see-and-be-seen space is decked out with live music, three lounges—including a whiskey and sports bar—and several softly lit dining rooms dripping in amber crystal chandeliers. You might even spot restaurant giant and Houston Rockets owner Fertitta dining in one of the Hollywood-style chocolate leather booths surveying the scene. “I’ve always wanted to open Mastro’s, a one-of-a-kind, masterful high-end dining experience, in my hometown,” Fertitta says.

Well-trained servers armed with tiny flashlights for reading the menus and managers wearing official-looking earpieces making the rounds know how to make you feel pampered. Aside from the sexy music and cocktail-swilling scene, the food—classic steakhouse fare and modern dishes with Asian twists—means business. Carnivores can choose from 16 prime steak cuts, including jaw-dropping tomahawk chops and Japanese wagyu. Or try the impressive Australian rack of lamb, meltingly tender with a rosy-red center and exterior char. A la carte sides are many, but most guests can’t resist the signature lobster mashed potatoes. Who needs butter when you’ve got lobster?

Aiming to appeal to “Houston foodies and steak lovers alike,” exec-chef Michael Colbert turns out dishes exclusive to the Houston Mastro’s, including garlic-roasted bone marrow, shiso Jica-machi sashimi, and the must-try crispy shrimp and scallop bird nest dumplings. Splurgy 2-foot seafood towers and extravagant sushi displays also pepper the dining room and tables on the coveted patio with its sleek water wall backdrop.

No surprise: Desserts are over-the-top and the famous Mastro’s butter cake isn’t for the faint of heart. Giant, warm and crumbly, it arrives crowned with whipped cream, raspberry sauce and ice cream. Oh, and a side of whipped cream large enough to garnish 10 desserts. Bring all your pals and indulge.

To drink, you’ll have no problem finding a prime wine from the 20,000-bottle cellar, which is shared with neighboring Willie G’s.

A view of one of Mastro’s Steakhouse’s many dining rooms

Just as showstopping as Mastro’s, yet more approachable, is the rechristened Galleria-area seafood landmark, Willie G’s. A stunning raw bar glistening with fresh global seafood anchors the soaring space with oyster bar seating, a massive wood-fire grill for cooking whole fish like sea bass and branzino, and a shucking station. In fact, an entire menu section is devoted to oysters—roasted, raw and grilled.

The modern industrial decor with seating options and a posh semicovered patio sporting a retractable roof invites guests to come as they are—in shorts, jeans or dressed to the nines—for a New Orleans-style po’boy, fried seafood platters, sushi, Louisiana crawfish or steak and lobster. Like Mastro’s, the vibe is upbeat, with music and parties filling up the three private rooms on a nightly basis.

Regulars can still get the throwbacks like Oyster Bar Trash—shrimp and jumbo lump crabmeat covered in blackened Cajun seasoning, served with rice and lemon beurre blanc to quell the spice. But evolution is the name of Fertitta’s game, so expect newcomers like sea bass bites: a flavor bomb gussied up with wasabi aioli, avocado and pistachios, and tongue-tingling bang bang rock shrimp with shishito peppers. What sounds like simple hamachi crudo surprises with its delicious Vietnamese slant: thick buttery slices of spanking fresh fish dotted with Sriracha, lime, serranos and peanut sauce. Tuna poke also joins the seafood menu along with rolled (sushi), iced (raw) and towers from the raw bar.

Chef Jason Cole is dishing a fresh slate of salads, including the Chef’s Garden, a mountain of shaved vegetable crudités with zesty peppercorn Parmesan dressing, and the Green Goddess, a steakhouse riff on the iceberg wedge. “New-school” entrees, like thick seared wild Isle salmon perched over quinoa with a jumble of sweet potato, wilted kale and tzatziki aioli, might seem an unlikely pairing, but it works. Shellfish (lobster, Dungeness crab, Alaskan king crab) is now served with fried rice and cooked in your choice of styles from Cantonese and Korean barbecue to Southwest.

Weekday happy hour with drinks, sushi and bar bites is a useful way to experiment with the menu and bustling scene. For those choice weather days Houstonians love, the spacious patio beckons among The Post Oak’s lush oak trees and water fountains. Laissez les bons temps roulez!  

King crab legs at Willie G’s

1650 W. Loop S., 713.993.2500

PRICE Appetizers and small plates, $16-$27; soups and salads, $10-$15; entrees, $28-$79; desserts, $8-$14

HOURS Dinner, Mon.-Sat. 5-11pm, Sun. 5-10pm

1640 W. Loop S., 713.840.7190

PRICE Appetizers and small plates, $14-$20; soups and salads, $10-$15; entrees, $28-$59; desserts, $9-$13

HOURS Lunch and dinner daily 11am-10pm, brunch Sat.-Sun. 10am-3pm