PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston November 2023

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The New Balboa Surf Club I t's been a little more than a year since Robert Quick and Matt Gottlieb of Dallas-based Western Addition restaurant group brought their Dallas Italian concept il Bracco to Houston. Now they've made quite the splash with the opening of the stunning seafood-centered Balboa Surf Club on Post Oak Boulevard. The new restaurant — which is rumored to have cost around $7 million — is situated in the 7,200-square-foot former home of Masraff's, within sight of its sister eatery. Balboa was inspired by the laid-back, coastal culture of Southern California, where roots run deep for Western Addition president CEO Quick and COO Gottleib, both in their mid-30s. Quick, an SMU grad who attended the Culinary Institute of America at its Napa Valley campus, worked in the restaurant industry as a chef at Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc and Bouchon eateries then The Hillstone Restaurant Group, where Gottlieb managed nine of their locations across the country for a dozen years. The pair — in collaboration with Michael Hsu Office of Architecture and in-house designer Mary Lucille Quick of MMaison — have accomplished what many couldn't: They've created space that will make you forget you're bordering one of Houston's busiest thoroughfares. Enter through a shaded court clad in verdant green hand-glazed tiles and rich walnut beams that soar to a height of 25 feet — a cool Zen-like space to wait for a table or the rest of your dining party. Inside, you'll find a large center bar clad in tambour walnut wood, a lower dining area flooded with natural light, and a decidedly moodier upper dining room. I chose the latter and marveled at the walls cloaked in solid fluted walnut panels, the cozy banquettes u p h o l s t e r e d i n channeled hunter- green leather along the perimeter, and the layers of soft, flattering light. Over the sushi bar is a trompe l'oeil of sorts: a brutalist-inspired c u s t o m c a n o p y made of concrete that reminds one of an elegant curtain. T h e m e n u , while approachable, elevates the quotidian with prime-grade meats and seafood — a mix of wild-caught (Nantucket scallops and Hawaiian tuna) and farm-raised — with meats butchered in- house, along with desserts and bread made on site in the expansive open kitchen. The bar menu includes seven signature house cocktails ($16 each), including the Rum Dum (a blend of Mount Gay rums, lemon, and frothed egg white) and the Gold Rush (a bourbon-based tincture with local honey and fresh lemon). Beer and sake are available, as well as an edited wine list of names you might recognize and a few you might not. The starters are playful twists on the familiar, such as the made-to-order guacamole with fresh mint ($13) and Pacific halibut tostada, its hand-cut raw fish tossed with minced radish and cucumber in an herbal citrus dressing ($16). The Southern tradition of crispy fried oysters is tweaked here with layers of multidimensional flavor, the plump mollusks lightly coated in a cornmeal crust, then perched on a dollop of garlic aioli and topped with a vinaigrette studded with piquant Calabrian chilis, shallots, and capers ($24). The Baja-style seafood cocktail is reminiscent of the much- beloved campechana with jumbo lump crabmeat, shrimp, and avocado enrobed in a citrus-spiked cocktail sauce. ($22) The selection of sushi begins and ends with seasoned sushi rice, reportedly made every 45 minutes to ensure freshness. For the Alaskan king crab handroll, the crab is poached in melted butter then wrapped in seasoned rice and crisp nori ($17). Entrée- size salads include The Moroccan with rotisserie chicken, Medjool dates, roasted By Laurann Claridge Catch of the Day (Continued) 78

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