MOST IN-THE-KNOW WHISKEY PURVEYORS
Bourbon Stewards at Bayou & Bottle (1300 Lamar St., 713.276.4715) Chef Richard Sandoval’s concept at Four Seasons Hotel Houston hosts an extensive whiskey program complete with certified bourbon stewards. Belly up with your favorite pour—The Macallan 25-year, perhaps? You just might even learn something while you imbibe.
BEST MULTICOURSE TASTING MENU
Tony’s (3755 Richmond Ave., 713.622.6778) Tony Vallone’s 54-year-old eatery is Houston fine dining at its best. The famous Grand Chefs Tasting features add-ons like Tsar Nicoulai Russian Golden Osetra caviar—it’s no wonder the restaurant has served seven sitting presidents.
MOST INTRIGUING OPENING
Indigo (517 Berry Road, 832.582.6388) Since its opening last year, the 13-seater restaurant in North Houston remains a hot topic. Chef Jonny Rhodes’ (Caracol, Oxheart) neo-soul menu is said to be poking fun at stereotypes, serving items like Affirmation of a Stereotype (chilled watermelon with fresh flowers). We’re intrigued.
CHICEST POWER HOUR
Yauatcha (5045 Westheimer Road, 713.357.7588) Exotic cocktails, exquisite dim sum and over 30 types of tea keep this London transplant the city’s busiest—and most fashionable—business lunch. And dinner’s not bad either, just ask Grammy winner Camilla Cabello, who visited the teahouse two nights in a row last fall.
MOST ARTFUL VEGAN MENU
Vibrant (1931 Fairview St., 832.409.6423) Dishes like rainbow carrot-radish salad with housemade sunflower ricotta are almost too pretty to eat.
MOST BUZZWORTHY CHEF
Chris Shepherd Underbelly Hospitality’s frontman gets a lot of buzz. From his annually changing One Fifth restaurant (currently Mediterranean) and his hot new steakhouse, Georgia James, to his philanthropic efforts with the Southern Smoke Foundation—whose annual festival raised $425,000 for various causes this past fall—Shepherd’s well worth his hype.
MOST LUXURIOUS WINE LIST
Mastro’s (1650 West Loop S., 713.993.2500) The 30,000-bottle wine list, curated for high rollers, touts rare vintages and Champagnes stored in a designated tower.
MOST LUXURIOUS CHAMPAGNE LIST
a’Bouzy (2300 Westheimer Road, 713.722.6899) Named for the small village in Champagne, France, Shawn Virene’s River Oaks hot spot pours 1,000 labels from around the globe. Although there are hedonistic selections in the $120 to $900 range, including Grand Cru and small grower wines, the coveted bottle is the 1971 Dom Pérignon P3 Plentitude Blanc Transition ($2,689). P3 ages for up to 25 years. Pop the cork and it doesn’t taste or sparkle as aggressively as young Champagne because the elements are more integrated and complex, like a fine aged Burgundy. “One flavor layer flows into the next with baked apple, toasted nuts and nuanced minerality,” says in-house sommelier Seth Fair.
TOP JAPANESE TASTING MENU
Nobu (5115 Westheimer Road, Ste. C-3515, 832.987.2599) The Signature Five-Course Tasting menu ($125) sports Nobu’s highest-quality menu bites, like yellowtail tartare.
Steven McDonald, Pappas Bros. Steakhouse (5839 Westheimer Road, 713.780.7352) Wine director of the award-winning cellar, McDonald is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge and a gracious host.
BEST OVER-THE-TOP MENU SURPRISES
Xochi (1777 Walker St., Ste. A, 713.400.3330) Chef Hugo Ortega’s distinctive Oaxacan entrees, peppered with ingenious chocolate desserts by his brother Ruben, constantly wow.
INDULGENT WINE FLIGHTS
Emmaline (3210 W. Dallas St., 713.523.3210) Exceptional flights ($23 to $35) from the 1,500-bottle list include Time for a Napa featuring Bordeaux blends.
MOST ELEGANT DESSERT MENU
Bloom & Bee (1600 West Loop S., 346.227.5139) The restaurant at The Post Oak Hotel offers a dessert menu fit for any aesthete with a sweet tooth; it boasts pretty confections by executive pastry chef Oralia Perez, like the whimsical baked Alaska with mango ice cream and raspberry gel, topped with tiny chocolate bees.
BEST SOUTHERN COOKING
Eunice (3737 Buffalo Speedway, 832.491.1717) This buzzy Gin Braverman-designed eatery dishes out sophisticated twists on Cajun-Creole fare, courtesy of Louisiana native head chef Drake Leonards.
BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH
Ristorante Cavour at Hotel Granduca (1080 Uptown Park Blvd., 713.418.1104) The hotel’s Sunday brunch features an imaginative Italian feast of assorted salads, seafood, meats, pastas, desserts and traditional brunch favorites all courtesy of brand-new resident executive chef Maurizio Ferrarese—plus, there’s live jazz from a grand piano.