If what goes up must come down, then maybe Up Restaurant's fate was sealed from the day it got its name. The stylish Highland Village restaurant owned by local real estate developer Haidar Barbouti closed last week.
A sign on the door informs customers that the restaurant has closed for remodeling, according to a report in the Houston Business Journal. Its Facebook page has been removed (but its website is still online). Barbouti has yet to respond to an email about his reasons for closing the restaurant or what the future holds for the space.
When it opened in 2011, Barbouti has a vision for the restaurant as a kind of antidote to both chef driven restaurants and high-end places that only focus on cuisine from one country. "I see so much food that doesn’t even look like food," he told CultureMap in 2012. "It’s a disgrace and a fraud they have to decorate the plate and there’s only three ounces of fish on it. If people are spending good money to eat out they should get real portions of real food.”
Such an old-school approach only works if the food is consistent, but visits to Up could vary widely in quality. A series of chef and management changes over the years meant that the restaurant could struggle to deliver from meal to meal.
While the menu may not have won critical raves, the stylish space certainly had its admirers. The dramatic crystal chandelier, wood-paneled walls, and the expansive views that came with its third-story space all made it a perfect date night or happy hour option, especially compared to the chain restaurants that occupy other spaces in Highland Village. It most recently was featured in an episode of the reality series Married to Medicine Houston.
With nearby restaurants in River Oaks District booming, the opportunity certainly exists for a smart operator to come in with some fresh ideas that would match the quality of the food to the quality of the decor. If that happens, Up will be on the rise once again.