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D uring the height of the scorching summer, G r a n t C o o p e r and chef Charles Clark of Clark Cooper Concepts (Brasserie 19, The Dunlavy, Coppa Osteria) quietly opened Gratify in the space of their shuttered concept Punk's Simple Southern Food, next door to their thriving Italian place, Coppa Osteria in Rice Village. Gratify is dubbed a neighborhood bistro — but, frankly, it feels far too glamorous and buzzy for that. First of all, as fans of Brasserie 19 in River Oaks migrate over, reservations are quite limited, so securing a two- or four-top might be a challenge. I also don't know many neighborhood joints that have a caviar program. But these veterans of the restaurant business know how to get a cool new concept off the ground. After all, they made tapas a thing in Houston more than 20 years ago at their former eatery Ibiza (in a fortunate pre-pandemic move, they elected not to renew that lease in February 2020). The name Gratify connotes the duo's gratitude for the friends, fans, and colleagues who helped them weather the pandemic. Over the years, Clark and Cooper have hired myriad talented designers to fashion the interiors of their concepts, but this time they took on the decorating task themselves, pulling together finds ranging from vintage china and cutlery to oil paintings that might have hung in Meemaw's house, culled from frequent Round Top trips. The high-ceilinged space gleams with bright brass and mirrored accents, while each white-clothed table is illuminated with clusters of globe lights overhead. Behind the expansive Carrara marble- topped bar, patrons perch on cane-back chairs, looking at a wild wallpaper that channels Las Vegas with its feathers, masks, and show girls' lips. When pressed about the cuisine, the lovely manager told us that the fare borrows from France and the Mediterranean, but it feels very Continental to me. What with oysters Rockefeller ($16/$29), smoked trout rillettes ($18), shrimp cocktail ($26), crab Louie ($30), and steak au poivre ($55), it appears this able team has stylishly reinvented the moniker. Don't miss the lamb meatballs — four spicy, tender orbs cooled by a Greek yogurt tzatziki and herb salad ($17) — or their version of ceviche with snapper, Gulf shrimp, and octopus cooked in a mango habanero marinade studded with avocado, cucumbers and onion ($24). I recommend splitting the mighty portion of short ribs, which fall off the mammoth bone into a creamy mound of buttery garlic mashed potatoes, sided by fresh spinach sautéed until it wilts ($36). And don't forget dessert — especially the unctuous pot de crème topped with salted caramel and crème fraîche ($11). Meanwhile, the cocktail list features old and modern classics, as well as The Traveler's List" — dupes of drinks that Cooper and Clark have tried elsewhere, each locale footnoted for fact checking, while the worldly wine list offers every selection by the bottle and the glass. Open for dinner only, Tuesday through Saturday, as we go to press. Gratify, Rice Village, 5212 Morningside, 713.524.7865, GRATIFYING By Laurann Claridge. Photography Kirsten Gilliam. Caviar service at Gratify. 122

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