Houston's - Irvine
Dining in Houston's feels like spending time in an exclusive cigar lounge in upper-class urban America, where I imagine monocled rich white men with starched collars would congregate and speak in low tones, curvy pipes in hand. Almost stuffy, but not inaccessible, it's one of a few restaurants in Irvine where one can break away from the "Olive Garden crowd". Modern touches like spot lighting accent dark burnished woods and soft leather booths to create a luxuriously seductive dining room.
The service matches the decor; precise and professional. It's clear that the waitstaff have their game on. Six different orders of Coke; 2 Cherry Cokes, 2 diets, and 2 plain were served correctly in front of the person who ordered it, with nary a mention of "Okay, who had the diet? Who had the cherry?" The entrees also came out in choreographed unison.
The food is top notch, with more hits than misses. The grilled rib eye was cooked exactly to how I take it; pink but not bloody. The crust on the beef had a glaze with a dark and sticky sheen, imparting a deep candy-like sweetness and teriyaki zing to each hunk of cow I cut off and shoved into my watering mouth. The meat was well-marbled and as tender as I've ever had. I felt bad that I actually finished the whole inch-thick slab, a feat I rarely accomplish.
But even after polishing off the carbo-bomb that is Houston's fat baked potato loaded with bacon, sour cream, scallions, cheese, and a golf-ball-sized chunk of butter, I still couldn't resist stealing a few "knife and fork" ribs from an adjacent plate.
These baby backs were glazed and roasted to a dark perfection. The meat on each rib ripped easily off the bone with a gentle tug of my teeth. A stack of stark white bones was the only sign of our conquest.
And the fries! Oh the fries! Thin and looking more like potato sticks than your typical french fry, these must have been fried with a little beef fat to come out this good.
Less successful was the night's "special" of grilled ono. The fish, ordered by us with a knowing disregard to Anthony Bourdain's rule of not ordering fish on Mondays, was tasteless and dry. No amount of lemon drizzling could summon any life into this plain and abnormally tough piece of fish. The side dish of asparagus was overcooked beyond squishiness. The slaw which had accompanied the "Knife and Fork" ribs had a strange, overly fragrant herb appropriate for cologne but odiferously off-putting in food.
2991 Michelson Dr
Irvine, CA 92612