The Pelican Club's transformation is (mostly) complete. The former members' only supper club located behind Gaido's has shed its jacket-required dress code and opened its doors to the public, as CultureMap was first to report in March. Now that the renovations are complete, the restaurant has begun hosting media members to preview chef Ross Warhol's take on seasonally-driven, Gulf Coast cuisine.
Inside, only the carpet remains from the Pelican Club's previous incarnation. The new decor has a definite art decor theme, which harkens back to Galveston's boom in the 1920s. Scenes of historic Galveston adorn the walls, while diners can choose from banquettes or comfortable leather chairs.
The restaurant only has 11 tables and seats just 36 people at a time.That's Oxheart small and further the goal of providing an intimate dining experience that's unlike anything else currently available in Galveston.
The separate parking lot and entrance further enhance the feeling of being far from Gaido's more lively atmosphere.
The restaurant only has 11 tables and seats just 36 people at a time.
The bar has been expanded and stocked with a full cocktail menu created by beverage director Peter Clifton. The drinks feature a variety of liquors designed to complement the food, either as an aperitif or during the meal itself. Soon, a separate bar bites menu will attempt to lure a happy hour crowd.
The dinner menu is tightly edited: Just four appetizers, five entrees, two salads and three desserts. Although the roasted beet and chevre salad ($12) sounded tempting, my friend and I selected the house made gnocchi ($12) and Gulf shrimp "chorizo" ($14) to start. When the plates arrived, our up and down journey through the Pelican Club menu began.
The gnocchi had a soft texture, and the pasta's flavor paired well with the braised kale and shiitake mushrooms on the plate. We fought over who would get the last bite.
The chorizo was less successful. More of an appealing idea than a successful dish. It lacked the pork version's spiciness, but the shrimp flavor didn't come through.
The smoked trout salad ($21) was the day's best dish. The individual components, crispy green beans, egg, radishes, lettuce and two decent-sized pieces of trout, all came together, producing an appealing mix of textures and flavors.
Fresh (flown in the day before) Atlantic halibut ($38) showed Warhol's skill with seafood. Served over a polenta cake with crispy Brussels sprouts, it blended Gulf produce in an appealing, flavorful fish. Sadly, the Gulf red snapper ($42) was the day's biggest miss. Prepared sous vide, the fish had a flabby texture and a bland flavor. We both concentrated on the halibut and were happy to have some extra room for dessert.
To his credit, Warhol is his own pastry chef, and we enjoyed all three desserts. Served in a flower pot, the carrot cake has a whimsical presentation while still managing to deliver all of the classic flavors.
Service was polished and informative throughout. Both servers know every dish's components and how they're prepared. They offered opinions about which dishes they enjoyed. Small touches enhance the experience. For example, the menu is displayed tucked into a napkin and sealed with wax.
Prices, as noted above, are at the fine dining level. A couple could easily spend $200 on a meal with a bottle of wine or a couple of cocktails. That puts it at the same price point as Rudy & Paco's or recently opened steakhouse Number 13 in Galveston, but island residents would otherwise have to travel to Houston to get this kind of cuisine.
According to Warhol, feedback from diners has been positive, and he's been enjoying his time in Texas. Once he becomes as familiar with Gulf Coast seafood as he is with local produce, the Pelican Club will start to achieve owner Casey Gaido's aspirations for it.
For now, it's an intriguing, if uneven, work in progress.
Pelican Club is open for dinner Wednesdays through Sundays from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.