Cheers! River Oaks restaurant opens with more than 250 bottles of bubbly
The most eagerly anticipated restaurant to arrive in River Oaks since State of Grace makes its debut on Wednesday, and there will be a lot of champagne to celebrate.
Owner Shawn Virene announced that his new restaurantA’Bouzy opens this week. The restaurant, which occupies the former 60 Degrees Mastercrafted/Harwood Grill space on Westheimer near Kirby, seems well-designed to perpetuate Virene’s reputation as the ultimate master of ceremonies for the city’s social set.
The restaurant’s wine list is the first step in building that reputation. In keeping with the restaurant’s namesake, a town in France’s Champagne region, A’Bouzy features 250 champagnes and sparkling wines on its drink list. That sort of depth ensures a strong selections of well-known labels as well as plenty of space for more obscure wines.
Of course, Virene, who left his position as Brasserie 19’s general manager last December to launch his own restaurant, has made sure that A’Bouzy’s bubbles are just as inexpensively priced to pop as they were at his old one. Non-vintage staples like Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, Delamotte, and Ruinart are priced close to retail and within a couple of dollars of each other at both restaurants.
High rollers can indulge with Krug in “multiple sizes,” from the non-vintage version to four vintages ranging in price from $339 to $707. Alternatively, they can drop almost $1,000 on 21-year old Dom Perignon P2 Brut Rosé.
The restaurant’s list also has enough options to entice even those with more modest budgets. Non-champagne sparkling wines are affordably priced, with options starting in the teens and several choices in the $30 to $50 range.
While even the restaurant’s press release describes it as “champagne-fueled,” A’Bouzy’s food also looks to have potential. Virene has hired Freddie Gonzaga (Brennan’s, Ibiza) and Jose Ruiz (The Grove, Liberty Kitchen) to serve as co-executive chefs.
An on-trend de-rigeur raw bar provides options including oysters and caviar, and the dinner menu features 17 starters and 10 entrees. Options range from lighter fare like a green salad with Champagne vinaigrette (natch) and tuna watermelon sashimi to heartier fare like a bone-in pork chop or Dover sole in brown butter.
Expect service to be on point. As L’Olivier owner Mary Clarkson discussed on a recent episode of CultureMap’s weekly restaurant podcast, “What’s Eric Eating,” favorite customers have already been given the opportunity to get a peek at the space and select where they’d prefer to sit in the dining room. Whether any specific tables become as coveted as Brasserie 19’s famous window tables remains to be seen, of course, but it won’t be for lack of effort on Virene’s part.
For the last year or so, the city’s boldfaced names have been dining at places like Steak 48 and Le Colonial. With A’Bouzy’s arrival, expect many of them to shift from River Oaks District back to the real River Oaks.