Please allow 5–7 business days for your gift cards to arrive.
Ouzo Bay, the second of two snazzy, side-by-side restaurants that Baltimore-based Atlas Restaurant Group has brought to Houston, opened this week, about three weeks after its sister operation, Loch Bar, lit up River Oaks District.
Without even announcing an opening date, Ouzo Bay found itself mobbed with 170 walk-in the night it opened last week. That tells company founder Alex Smith that Houston is hungry not just for the seafood thrills Ouzo Bay is promising (Mediterranean dishes liberally laced with Greek flavors) but for an haute new playground with a sophisticated pedigree.
If the reception to the seafood tavern Loch Bar is any indication, Ouzo Bay will be turning them away. Loch Bar patrons, Smith said, are gobbling up oysters, lobsters and other raw bar selections with unbridled glee. In two weeks, Loch Bar went through 6,000 oysters. And in its first three weeks, Loch Bar sold more caviar in Houston than what the original restaurant in Baltimore sells in a year.
Ouzo Bay is likely to create a similar frenzy. Already, its bar, stocked with choice whiskey, top-shelf liquors and ouzo, the spirit water of Greece. With its winsome design (Agean blues and sun-bleached whites), live deejay music and a vibe that screams moneyed hedonism, Ouzo Bay makes a perfect fit in the money-is-no-object River Oaks District environs.
International fish and seafood selections are Ouzo Bay’s culinary currency as evidenced by the eye-popping raw bar display: Wild-caught Agean branzino, Mediterranean dorade, Atlantic black sea bass, West African salt prawns, Norwegian langoustines, giant red Spanish prawns, Australian lobster tail, wild-caught Pacific amberjack and live Maine lobster. Smith is especially proud of his true Dover sole, which like his other sea gems is flown in daily: “Fish only 48 hours out of the water,” he said. “There’s nobody doing that in Houston.”
It’s a big claim, but this is a company with giant ambitions. Atlas chose Houston as the first expansion of its upscale Ouzo Bay outside of Maryland where the company’s myriad brands flourish. In fact, Atlas finds Houston such an attractive market that it already is planning on bringing its Tagliata, a pasta and Italian chophouse concept, to River Oaks. The neighborhood, especially River Oaks District, is ravenous for new ideas, Smith said. The luxe shopping mecca now sports three new concepts – the Spanish MAD, Loch Bar and Ouzo Bay – that added to existing crowd pleasers (Steak 48, Le Colonial, Bisou and Toulouse) has created an exciting new restaurant row.
“This whole area is a hot spot,” Smith said. “It’s a resurgence and new buzz for the neighborhood.”
He adds that Houston, long known for its affection for meat, is proving that fresh seafood and international flavors are just as favored on the dining scene. And Ouzo Bay offers plenty of that.
Starters include dishes of Maine lobster ceviche; garlic Tiger shrimp with capers and garlic; grilled calamari with citrus vinaigrette; king salmon poke with ginger-lime vinaigrette; and grilled Portuguese octopus with red peppers and sweet onion. The owners’ Greek heritage is celebrated with dishes such as spanakopita, pastitsio spring rolls, flaming saganaki, shrimp saganaki, lamb meatballs with tomato sauce and feta, and avgolemono soup. Mediterranean spreads, all served with toasted pita, include hummus, tzatziki (Greek yogurt and cucumber), melitzanosalata (smoked eggplant and tahini flavored with sumac), skordalia (almond and garlic), tirokafteri (roasted red pepper and feta), and date and goat cheese.
In addition to the daily “fish market” selections, the menu also offers Australian lamb chops, lamb shank with toasted orzo, herb-crusted veal chop, bone-in short rib with smoked Greek yogurt and gremolata, Prime steaks, pasta with lobster in spiced tomato cream, and scallops with pistachio pesto. And what would any respectable Baltimore-born restaurant be without a signature Maryland crab cake?
The upscale menu plays out against a restaurant design that includes an overhead trellis of whitewashed grapevines (from Greece, naturally), sinuous, lattice-like room dividers, and a dramatic bar paneled in gleaming shells that glow gold at night.
“It definitely transports you,” Smith said of the design. “You don’t feel like you’re in Houston – maybe the South of France or a Greek island.”
Or right in your own sunny playground on Westheimer.
Ouzo Bay, 4444 Westheimer at River Oaks District, 832-430-6610; ouzobay.com/houston. Full menu available Sunday through Wednesday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight. Late-night food menu Sunday through Wednesday 10 p.m. to midnight, Thursday through Saturday midnight to 2 a.m. Bar open Sunday through Wednesday 11 a.m. to midnight, Thursday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
By Greg Morago | July 12, 2019