One of this summer’s most eagerly anticipated restaurants will make its debut Tuesday. After a week of invite-only previews, Steak 48 opens Tuesday in River Oaks District.
Certainly, the area near the Galleria does seem to be home to more than a sufficient number of steakhouses already — around a dozen if one starts at the Palm and moves east along Westheimer to Smith & Wollensky’s. Still, the smash success of B&B Butchers suggests that Houstonians still love steakhouses, and Steak 48 sets itself apart in some important ways.
First, the owners are veteran operators with almost two decades of experience. Jeffrey and Michael Mastro founded the original Mastro’s steakhouse chain back in 1998. The brothers sold both the steakhouse and its companion seafood restaurant Mastro’s Ocean Club to a private equity firm in 2007. After sitting out a non-compete, they established Dominick’s Steakhouse in Scottsdale, Arizona, which, like Mastro’s, is a traditional steakhouse.
However, they also sensed an opportunity for a restaurant that focused on steak but broke with some of the design conventions and menu items traditionally associated with the genre. Enter Steak 44, which they opened in Phoenix in 2014. Lured by Houston's reputation as a great city for dining and a prime location within River Oaks District, they chose to make this location their first expansion out of Arizona (Dallas will get one next year).
Steak 48’s design helps set it apart from its competition. Although the two-story restaurant covers almost 14,000 square feet, the space is divided into a series of separate rooms that give it a more intimate feeling. None of those are more unusual than the “dining suite,” a set of six booths that are separated from the kitchen by a glass wall and give diners a look at everything that’s happening on the cooking line. Other changes are more subtle.
“The colors we’ve chosen are lighter than your traditional place,” Jeff Mastro tells CultureMap. “It’s that much more comfortable. That’s why we use the phrase ‘warm-contemporary.’”
Similarly, the menu supplements the traditional steak, potato, and green vegetables in interesting ways. Appetizer choices include fried rock shrimp with a sweet Thai chile glaze ($11), braised pork belly served over sauteed spinach ($10), and fried deviled eggs ($8). Raw bar selections include shrimp cocktail ($8/each) that uses massive, quarter-pound shrimp and ultra-trendy Hawaiian poke. Standards like Caesar salad and a wedge are supplemented with a “superfood salad” of arugula, kale, and sunflower seeds.
“We still have mashed potatoes, but we added other things people really enjoy that are not your standard dishes,” Mastro says — before listing just a few of the 18 options. “We’ve got this double-baked truffle potato. We have king crab and rock shrimp mac and cheese. Instead of creamed corn, it’s corn creme brulee that’s got this glazed sugar over the top. It’s kind of like a dessert, but it’s a side dish.”
None of which is to suggest the steaks themselves are an afterthought. Steak 48 sources all of its USDA Prime beef from ranches in Wisconsin and Michigan. They’re wet-aged for 28 days and cut in house. “Small” and “large” portions mean that a diner can get a 12-ounce NY strip for only $39 or get a little more spendy on a bone-in, 22-ounce ribeye for $55. All steaks arrive at the table sizzling in clarified butter. Toppings include truffle butter, burrata cheese, and even foie gras.
Those not seeking steak can choose from either seafood entrees like scallops ($39) and an ahi tuna filet ($43) or meat options that include Colorado rack of lamb, bone-in veal chop ($49), and meatloaf ($29).
Before wrapping up, one other piece of Mastro’s corporate history merits mentioning. Houston-based Landry’s, Inc. acquired the Mastro’s chain from a private equity firm in 2013 and will open a Houston location at The Posk Oak development on the West Loop in 2017. Mastro says he isn’t concerned about going head to head with his former concept.
“We think, first of all, this market handles all sorts of restaurants and steakhouses. We’re very proud of our name and our brand. We wish them nothing but success when they open," Mastro says. "We’re a lot different than the Mastro’s steakhouse brand. I like the synergy of having them in the market with us. I think it’s going to be exciting.”
Steak 48 is open from 4 pm to 10 pm Sunday through Thursday and 4 pm to 11 pm Friday and Saturday.