PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston December 2023

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Page 23 of 91

Clark's Oyster Bar O n those rare Houston winter afternoons when the weather more than cooperates, and when those in other states are struggling with blizzards, there's no better place to be than dining al fresco at Clark's Houston. The newly minted eatery is brought to us by Austin-based MML Hospitality, comprised of restaurateurs Larry McGuire, Tom Moorman, and hotelier Liz Lambert — collectively, proprietors of more than 15-plus Austin and Aspen eateries with, as well as Hotel Saint Vincent in New Orleans. This opening marks the high-profile group's first foray into Houston and the third iteration of their seafood-centered concept Clark's Oyster Bar (the second is in Aspen). Like the original, the Houston version — designed by Lambert McGuire Design, the architectural and design arm of the hospitality corporation — is built in a former automotive shop in the Montrose. The Houston location, however, is the largest of them all. Beneath the marigold yellow-and-white awning in the expansive outdoor space, crowds are seated on cushioned deck chairs like you might find on the QE2. Inside, a clean, crisp nautical theme takes hold, awash in white painted shiplap, porthole-shaped windows and mirrors, while navy-blue leather cushions line the generous banquettes. Photos of hobby fishermen posing with their best catch, as well as glamorous Hollywood beauties luxuriating seaside, decorate the walls of the intimate dining room, where wicker-shaded pendants defuse the light after dark. The dining room vibrates with high energy, care of exec chef Grant Harbart's open-style kitchen, while an adjacent marble-topped oyster bar features a 280-gallon Takashi Amano-inspired aquascape. Clark's is billed as a seafood house that serves up the classics from New England to San Francisco, with service throughout the By Laurann Claridge. Photography Justin Cook. day into night. You'll find oysters that formerly swam in the briny waters on the East and West coasts, as well as Gulf Coast-sourced seafood and seasonal catches bought in from elsewhere. Start with fresh oysters or clams with the traditional accompaniments ($4 each), or meander down the menu and don't miss the crudo plate dressed in a wasabi vinaigrette with minced red onions, chives, and capers strewn atop ($25). Clark's crab or shrimp Louis is a straightforward one served with either protein (in my case, a copious quantity of lump crabmeat) and crisp chopped iceberg lettuce, all beneath a layer of creamy Thousand Island dressing ($28). Although I proudly call myself a Texan, I was born on the East Coast and spent my formative years in New England, where I ate my fair share of the famed cream-laden New England clam chowder. Often made with quahog or cherrystone clams, it admittedly can be a rather heavy, bland-tasting soup. But here, the kitchen has transformed the hearty potato, celery, and clam soup studded with bacon to a richly flavored one, brought to the table with a fresh bouquet of chopped fine herbs and traditional oyster crackers, as well as a welcome zing of Tabasco sauce swirled atop ($15). The lobster roll — likely to be the menu's most Instagrammable dish — is built on a cushy buttered and toasted bun, the meat brushed with drawn butter, layered with bibb lettuce, accented with lemon aioli, and served with a pile of crisp, matchstick- thin French fries ($39). The catch of the day can include pan-seared Maine scallops ($44), wild-caught striped bass ($36), Texas Gulf redfish on the half-shell ($39), Florida tilefish ($46), and ahi tuna a la plancha ($48), all served with a variety of sauces such as roasted garlic and herb butter, smoked paprika vinaigrette, and red chimichurri. Desserts — the relatable, homespun sort — are made in-house by pastry chef Lindsay Garza. The salted butterscotch pot de crème is an unctuous pudding topped with whipped crème fraiche and two crisp macadamia nut lace cookies ($12). Get a jolt with Garza's take on affogato: Warm espresso served in a tiny pitcher is poured over scoops of brandied vanilla ice cream, with a crunchy chocolate shortbread cookie by its side ($10). Clark's Houston 3807 Montrose Blvd., A Beloved Austin Landmark Opens in Houston Lobster roll with matchstick fries at Clark's 22

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