Wednesday, June 01, 2005

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.

Houston's Restaurant
(949) 833-0977
2991 Michelson Dr
Irvine, CA 92612


At 9:07 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Houstons is dependable, consistent and has good food. The only reason I don't like it is because I don't like chains. But if you have to go to a chain, they do a great job. I like their Terriyaki Steak!

At 8:19 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Yup. The teriyaki rib eye! That's what I had!

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

THE BEST Danish pork ribs I've had anywhere, bar none! You don't need to "rip" the meat away with your teeth; touch it with a fork, and it falls off the bone. And I happened to love the cole slaw. Yes, it's different...even a little fragrant...but in my mouth, absolutely delicious. The food is consistently good, as is the service. Well worth a visit.

At 3:36 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Thanks for your post Anon. Houston's is also one of my favorite restaurants in Orange County, corporate chain or not.

At 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had really BAD grilled salmon that gave me food poisoning - will not go back there again!

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I first came across Houston's back in 1996 in San Francisco and since then I've dined at several locations. The Irvine location is by far one of the most consistent and exquisite dining establishments in Los Angeles based upon their consistency, service, and most importantly taste.

At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Houstons serves a good chicken sandwich and a pretty tasty cheeseburger, too if you're looking for something lighter than a full dinner entree.

They can be a bit heavy-handed with salt in the don't hesitate to hold it, and salt your own. I've done this with fries, burgers and fish entrees with good results.

My biggest complaint about Houstons (and Gulfstream- their sister restaurant) is the fact that the servers will clear things off your table that THEY feel you don't want anymore. They don't ask if you're finished with something...they just take it.

I've lost side plates of French fries, my salad...even my drink was snatched away from me before I was finished with it. It's so annoying.

At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its not terriyaki steak, its not a Japanese restaurant, its the Hawaiin Ribeye.

At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Japanese restaurants don't have a monopoly on "teriyaki" steak.

At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've dined at 3 different Houston's and they were all magnificent! My favorite one is placed directly on the Country Club Plaza in KC. Somebody complained about there drinks being snatched away - that's the drill at Houston's. They won't let your drink get below half-full and they bring you another fresh drink. I love the precise service. I've never found it anywhere else. The must have drill instructors in the kitchens!

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three items I can vouch for the Hawaian rib eye, the prime rib and the smoked salmon appetizer just great.
Ask for the lunch cut prime rib plenty to eat and priced right.

At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best part about Houston's... NO CORKAGE FEE!!! That goes for the rest of the Hillstone Group too. Bandera & Gulfstream.

Oh.. and Houston's smoked salmon is to die for.


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