Wild Restaurant Surprise

Haters beware: New over-the-top steakhouse ups the game in Midtown, brings real sophisticated food

Haters beware: Houston's new over-the-top steakhouse serves good food

Mr. Peeples Houston interior July 2013
Inside the dining room at Mr. Peeples Photo by Gary Wise
Mr. Peeples Houston steak
Colorado lamb with mint-cilantro chimichurri Photo by Nick Scurfield/Twitter
Mr. Peeples Houston July 2013 shrimp cocktail
Ceviche from the appetizers menu Photo by Eric Sandler
Mr. Peeples Houston July 2013
Black magic cake with a Mexican Coke float Photo by Eric Sandler
Mr. Peeples Houston interior July 2013
Mr. Peeples Houston steak
Mr. Peeples Houston July 2013 shrimp cocktail
Mr. Peeples Houston July 2013

Mr. Peeples Seafood + Steaks officially opened to the public Monday night after hosting an under-the-radar soft opening over the weekend. Under construction for over a year, last night was the first time Houston diners could assess whether the restaurant's food lives up to the hype of Mr. Peeples' over the top decor.

While commenters have been quick to see the restaurant's graffiti and purple accents as a sign that it won't be around long, my visit shows that the restaurant has real promise to stand toe to toe with the other top contenders in the Great Steakhouse Boom of 2013. It's also serving much more sophisticated food than most of the other options in Midtown.

Before I get into the details, there are some caveats. This visit was arranged in advance with the restaurant's PR firm, and a representative joined me for the meal. The chefs presented and explained the dishes.

  My visit shows that the restaurant has real promise to stand toe to toe with the other top contenders in the Great Steakhouse Boom of 2013. 

Obviously, the average diner's experience won't match mine, but hopefully the chefs in the kitchen execute everyone's dishes as well as mine were. Although I tried to observe the service at other tables, a light Monday night crowd made it difficult to evaluate. Given his reputation as a consummate professional at Vic & Anthony's, it's reasonable to think general manager Tim Kohler will quickly rectify any service hiccups that occur during the opening weeks.

As for the food, there are plenty of reasons to think the kitchen will exceed people's expectations. Assisting executive chef Pedro Silva, who moves over from owner Landmark Hospitality Group's 51Fifteen, are executive sous chef Angel Rios and sous chef Rick Guerrero. Rios spent many years at Vic & Anthony's and helped revive iconic Galveston restaurant Rudy & Paco's after it was destroyed by Hurricane Ike.

Guerrero's worked all over the world, but his seafood chops come primarily from a long stint in the Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine empire. Pastry chef Johnny Wesley earned wide acclaim at Killen's Steakhouse in Pearland, so, if nothing else, dessert at Mr. Peeples will be worth the caloric splurge.

Mr. Peeples Early Look 

The meal began with house-baked pretzel bread and warm butter that showed the reasons why it's showing up on menus from Moon Tower Inn to Wendy's. It was warm, appropriately salty and showed a nice contrast between the exterior crunch and a soft interior. Of the appetizer choices, the escargot served on rolls with a pan reduction of butter, garlic and Gruyere was the most successful; the snails had a slightly firm texture but weren't chewy.

The batter on the gluten-free calamari was fairly bland, but that was offset by the two dipping sauces and the batter's crispiness. The ceviche's presentation in a martini glass with plantain chips sticking out had a Ramsay-esque wow factor, but the flavors didn't pop in the same way they do at other restaurants.

 Rios said he knew Wesley had nailed the cake within two bites. 

Figuring that the kitchen's steaks are probably going to be solid, I opted to order three other items. First was a double-bone, Berkshire Kurobuta pork chop served over a sauerkraut that included apple and fennel. The chop itself was absolutely massive — easily enough for two to split with a couple sides — and very juicy. Apple and fennel together is a classic flavor combination that paired well with the pork.

Next came seared scallops topped with candied bacon and orange slices. The meal's highlight were Colorado lamb chops served with vanilla plantains and mint-cilantro chimichurri. The lamb had just enough gamey flavor, which the sauce balanced nicely. 

My favorite side was fingerling potatoes wrapped in bacon. Despite their deliciousness, they were too filling to eat more than one. However, I imagine these will be extremely popular as a bar snack alongside a beer. They're also gluten-free.

For dessert, Wesley provided a full sampling of his offerings. Strawberry cheesecake comes with the crust on top to prevent it from becoming soggy, along with compressed strawberries, strawberry ice cream and strawberry foam. The chef blends techniques used in tres leches and devil's food for his black magic cake, and the result provides intense chocolate flavor with a surprisingly light texture.

Rios said he knew Wesley had nailed the cake within two bites.

Haters aside, Landmark wouldn't have invested so much time and money into a concept without ensuring that it would be successful. With talent in both the front and back of the house, Mr. Peeples looks poised to be one of the better openings of 2013.