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Brothers Eric and Alex Smith, founders of the Baltimore-based hospitality company Atlas Restaurant Group, have brought another elevated restaurant concept to Houston — and this one speaks with a decidedly Greek accent.
The name Ouzo Bay doesn’t reflect an actual place in the Mediterranean. Instead, it evokes the bracing Greek liqueur ouzo as well as the fresh seafood abundant in the region.
River Oaks District is Ouzo Bay’s third location in the United States, with open and airy interiors created by Washington, D.C.-based interior designer Olivia Demetriou. At the entry, pearl-colored iridescent tiles lie underfoot and shimmer on the walls behind a behemoth bar. Cool Aegean-blue fabric lines the banquettes, while lighting shades overhead conjure octopus tentacles.
Executive chef Thomas Laczynski oversees lunch, dinner and brunch service, while sommelier Evan Turner generously guides those unfamiliar with the wines grown on the isles and mainland of Greece.
Kalamata olive-studded bread is brought to the table with a shallow pool of Greek olive oil, its flavor deepened with oregano, rosemary, and other herbs. Order a house spread such as tirokafteri, a rich blend of roasted red peppers and feta cheese ($7), or tzatziki, a cool cucumber, onion, and Greek yogurt dip ($7), paired with a glass of crisp, clean Alexakis Assyrtiko white wine from Crete ($16). As for the seafood mezedes, don’t miss the grilled Portuguese octopus, tossed with sweet onions and red peppers, dressed in a simple red wine and caper vinaigrette ($24).
And, what’s a meal in Greece without lamb. For those of us who adore a good steak tartar, the chef’s take on it here is Australian lamb tartare drizzled with harissa-spiked yogurt and crispy capers, and served with tiny squares of lavash ($18). Then there’s the lamb-chops entrée, also culled from Down Under, grilled and glazed with balsamic and cucumber raita and sprinkled with fresh herbs and pistachios ($42).
As you might expect from a country where its citizens’ enviable longevity is linked to the Blue Zone diet, fish dominate the menu. The Fish Market section of the carte features a dozen selections, from bronzino to sea bass, kampachi to Dover sole, each flown in daily from its native waters.
My royal dorado (or Tsipoura, a gilt-head bream) was fished from the Mediterranean and served whole, dressed simply with ladolemono, a mix of fresh lemon juice, saffron-infused olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and capers ($34 pound).
End your meal with a Greek-style dessert such as baklava, built with layers of phyllo, chopped walnuts, and a copious amount of honey, showered with cinnamon and served with pistachio gelato, or the fresko, a fresh berry plate with strawberry yogurt sorbet and tiny raspberry meringues ($12 each).
Ouzo Bay, River Oaks District, 4444 Westheimer Road, 832.430.6610.
By Laurann Claridge | July 30, 2019 Photography: Kirsten Gilliam