Sitting on the patio as the sun sets over the palm trees on Westheimer, it's easy to see the appeal of the new Up Restaurant. It's a beautiful view in a city where any view at all is rare. Between the Highland Village trees, the rows of luxury convertibles valet parked below and the preppy, well dressed diners, ascending to the third-floor Up is almost like leaving Houston altogether and finding yourself in Beverly Hills. The look isn't dated or retro or vintage, just a last hurrah of what Audi commercials have dubbed "old luxury," with wood paneling at the entry, recessed seating, a wall-mounted fireplace and a large white marble bar. That's not to say it isn't lovely, particularly when the glare of the sun has abated and the staff draw back the linen shades to display 180 degree views of Highland Village.
The menu, too, seems stuck in the ladies-who-lunch mode, vaguely New American with some Italian thrown in, it offers a quartet of salads, a few types of pizza and ravioli and a list of entrees that could have come from a focus group, with redfish, jumbo lump crab cakes, ribeye, veal osso buco, salmon, and lamb chops among them. For the crowd that Up is courting — River Oaks types who want comfortable surroundings and familiar food served a certain way — this place could be everything they want and more. It won't do much for the culinarily curious, but with that breezy patio and the purple sunset over the palm trees, a bottle of wine and some cheese ravioli at Up doesn't seem like such a bad idea.
During nice weather, the patio is the hot draw, although the inside tables next to the view over Westheimer are another favorite. But for duos, one prime location that can be overlooked are the small tables directly in front of the bar, which offer a sweeping view of the entire restaurant.