Austin | Dallas | Houston
Food for Thought

The best restaurant tables in Houston: When top chefs get wild and Martha Stewart creative

Enlarge
Slideshow
Marene, Philippe, Thai Chicken Salad
There are some lovely food presentations, like the large wooden bowls that the French Cowboy, aka Philippe Schmit, uses to serve his Thai chicken salad for the table at his Philippe Restaurant + Lounge.  Photo by Karl Heim
Marene, Sparrow, Beaker, rolls
And over at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop, chef/owner Monica Pope worked with Heights-based Installations Antiques not only on the more prominent interior design elements but also on distinctive tabletop elements, like beakers used for water containers and test tubes with black stoppers that are repurposed for salt and pepper. Photo by Debora Smail/RealityPhotography
Marene, flowers, salt, pepper
I do appreciate the little touches, like the three red carnations in the tiny bottle on the tables at Giacomo’s cibo e vino. Photo by Marene Gustin
Marene, Royal Sonesta, Knives in bowl
Peter Laufer at TableOne in the Royal Sonesta Hotel created a unique and functional centerpiece utilizing a gleaming stainless steel pan filled with uncooked black beans pierced with a dozen varied steak knives of origins ranging from Germany to France. Photo by Karl Heim
Marene, Philippe, Thai Chicken Salad
Marene, Sparrow, Beaker, rolls
Marene, flowers, salt, pepper
Marene, Royal Sonesta, Knives in bowl
News_Marene Gustin_columnist_mug_head shot

OK, I can cook, but I’m not Martha Stewart.

What I mean by that is that the food will taste fine, but the table won’t look like a photo spread from Bon Appetit.

When it comes to tablescapes I’m pretty basic. Christmas Day dinner featured a table set with mistletoe place mats and a fancy candle that was supposed to smell like toasted marshmallows. It didn’t.

As much as I eat out, and source recipes for home use, I am less impressed by centerpieces than by the food presentation and the taste.

Although I do appreciate the little touches, like the three red carnations in the tiny bottle on the tables at Giacomo’s cibo e vino. I like fresh flowers on a table, even at home. Yes, I can put flowers in a vase. But that’s about it.

 I’ve seen water served in Patrón bottles, an idea that had me saving tequila bottles for years before I realized I never used them. 

And I can get behind the salt and pepper shakers made from Topo Chico bottles at Tex-Mex eateries. Kinda cool and creative.

But there are some creative table designs at Houston restaurants that would make even Martha sigh in awe.

Over at the Royal Sonesta Hotel the chef’s table — known as TableOne — presentation can be just as fabulous as the food.

At a recent TableOne chef’s table dinner featuring a multi-course steak feast of 44 Farms Black Angus from Cameron, Texas, the hotel’s Peter Laufer created a unique and functional centerpiece utilizing a gleaming stainless steel pan filled with uncooked black beans pierced with a dozen varied steak knives of origins ranging from Germany to France. The clever presentation served as a conversation starter.

And a great way to hold the steak knives.

“I always like to use a centerpiece that reflects what I am serving, and at TableOne, I never want to lose the feel of the kitchen in the presentation," Laufer says. "If I was at home cooking for a smaller group I might have used a butcher block, but in this case, the larger party and the special occasion necessitated that I do something a little differently.

"And in a centerpiece like this elements are reusable — the beans could later be cooked.”

What a simple and fun idea that you can use at home for a steak dinner party.

And over at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop, chef/owner Monica Pope worked with Heights-based Installations Antiques not only on the more prominent interior design elements but also on smaller curatorial details that give the restaurant and bar its unique flavor.

Among the distinctive tabletop elements are beakers used for water and test tubes with black stoppers that were repurposed for salt and pepper.

“Our goal was to interject some unexpected elements and surprises by repurposing objects, as well as creating some unique vignettes that guests might discover or explore on successive visits,” Pope says. “There is sort of an oddities feel about it with these things you might find in a curiosity shop or lab.”

 There are some creative table designs at Houston restaurants that would make even Martha Stewart sigh in awe.    

Or at a cool restaurant.

And then there are some lovely food presentations, like the large wooden bowls that the French Cowboy, aka Philippe Schmit, uses to serve his Thai chicken salad for the table at his Philippe Restaurant + Lounge

I’ve seen water served in Patrón bottles, an idea that had me saving tequila bottles for years before I realized I never used them and finally threw them out. Again, not exactly Martha Stewart. But I can dream.

Dream of creating fun and creative tablescapes and center pieces and gather ideas from restaurants that do live up to the Martha standard.

And next Christmas maybe the table will be set with more than just a candle.

Maybe I’ll have a gravy boat made from a Santa sleigh with eight tiny reindeer made from match sticks and tinsel.

Yeah, right.

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Houston news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address