Press Ouzo Bay Houston

At River Oaks District, Two Must-Try, See-and-Be-Seen Spots

A THREE-MINUTE WALK FROM MAD THERE’S OUZO BAY, a fancy newcomer to both ROD and Houston, offering a menu of Greek-inspired cuisine, from Baltimore-based Atlas Restaurant Group. Atlas also owns Loch Bar, the East Coast–style whiskey and shellfish spot next door where, on a recent weekend evening, I was able to snag a bar stool and have a premium Tuthilltown rye whiskey before heading over to Ouzo Bay.

Ouzo Bay is always busy, teeming with servers and managers—I counted at least four snappily dressed folks on the floor checking on tables during the course of one night—along with crowds of people eating, drinking, and chatting beneath the striking coral-like installation hanging from the ceiling. The bar, with its shimmering gold backdrop, is never less than stuffed. Diners want to be there, and if they’re sent to a more private space toward the back of the restaurant, they’ll ask to move—I witnessed three separate parties do this over the course of a single visit.

Servers are sweet here, although one took his helpfulness a bit far, going over the entire menu with our table twice. In his favor, he offered my companion two tastes from the restaurant’s robust list of Greek wines to determine what would pair well with her dinner. He was putting his best foot forward, just like everyone else at ROD.

The fish is the thing to get at Ouzo Bay. The rotating selection usually includes branzino from the Mediterranean, red snapper from the Gulf, dover sole from Holland, and yellowtail from Hawaii, known as Kona Kampachi—my favorite. Tender and buttery, it’s served deboned, fileted, and topped with olive oil, oregano, and capers.

If you prefer to stay on land, Ouzo Bay offers a handful of steaks and chops. The perfectly medium rare, 14-ounce bison short rib—glazed with black garlic sauce and served with smoky yogurt and herbaceous gremolata—is outstanding.

Traditional Greek items shine. There are several spreads served with warm pita—the hummus is smooth and fine, and I love the date-and-goat-cheese dip with thyme and garam masala. And the Portuguese octopus, grilled to a slight char and served with snappy-sweet onions and peppers over hummus, is tremendous.

Other Greek dishes are tweaked in unusual but successful fashion. The grape leaves are brilliant, stuffed with juicy, chopped Snake River Farms wagyu filet and rice, and served with pistachio pesto, tzatziki, and a handful of chunky pistachios. Lasagna-like pastitsio is presented as a tightly packed, hearty spring roll served with a honey harissa sauce, a cute substitute for duck sauce.

MAD and Ouzo Bay both offer an embarrassment of riches in cuisine and decor—with price tags to match, of course—and you can’t help but get lost in the scene. Dress accordingly, all you fit, sexy Houstonians.

By Timothy Malcolm