Houston's $200 Hamburger
A $200 hamburger with an edible 24-karat gold bun? It's just part of a new River Oaks restaurant's bold menu
Now that the inevitable permitting and construction delays have been resolved, the restaurant will open to the public on Monday in the former Palazzo's space on Westheimer. It joins recently opened Latin-Indian fusion restaurant Trenza and Japanese-Korean hybrid Nara as new arrivals at Kirby and Westheimer. It's an end-of-year, mini River Oaks restaurant boom.
Things look very promising for the former Houston Country Club chef.
Although some finishing touches still need to be finalized, including construction of the restaurant's patio, the kitchen, dining room and bar are ready for customers. At a preview service Thursday night, I had the opportunity to taste a menu that Gitschner describes as "ranch to table." In short, things look very promising for the former Houston Country Club chef.
Of the starters, the signature salmon trio ($19) was the clear winner. It features cured, pastrami-style, hot smoked and miso salmon preparations that all had different flavors despite being the same fish. Both the hot smoked and miso came out beautifully medium rare, while the pastrami salmon has just the right amount of saltiness.
Grilled Asian braised pork belly ($12.50) benefited from an 18-hour sous vide bath that gave it a tender texture with a little crunch on top from the grill. The slightly sweet flavor reminded me of the best possible version of American Chinese-style spareribs.
Since the restaurant prominently features Wagyu-style Akaushi beef, my friend and I both ordered steaks. They're cut to order and priced by the ounce: $8 per ounce for the filet (four ounce minimum), $7 per ounce for the strip steak and $6.50 per ounce for the ribeye (eight ounce minimum). No one can deny the rich, fatty, intensely beefy flavor that Akaushi provides. It rivals any of the best USDA Prime beef served around town, although Gitschner explained that its unique muscle fibers prevent it from being seared to achieve the crispy crust that's typically seen in high-end steakhouses.
Each steak comes with both a green vegetable and a starch. While the truffled mac and cheese didn't come out quite as piping hot as I would have liked, the show-stopping tower of parmesan and panko crusted onion rings was one of the single best bites I've had in awhile. Sweet and crispy without a trace of grease, they were so tasty that the three dipping sauces seemed entirely superfluous.
Since he began his career in Austria, Gitschner received one year of formal training as a pastry chef, and it shows in the high-quality of the housemade desserts. Although all of them tasted great, the super-tart key lime pie, light "slice of heaven" angel food cake and rich chocolate banana bread pudding souffle were the clear highlights.
Throughout the meal, service was remarkably polished and friendly without being overbearing. Our server displayed a thorough knowledge of the menu, specifically extolling the health benefits of Akaushi beef. The dining room wasn't full, but it displayed a warm vibe with Gitschner greeting almost every table by name.
As we lingered over desserts and coffee, the chef sat with us to hear our feedback. He told us that the menu will have a few new items on it when the restaurant opens to the public on Monday, including a dish that's sure to cause a minor sensation when it debuts. 60 Degrees will sell a $200 hamburger made from Akaushi ribeye that's topped with foie gras, shaved white truffles and served on a bun made with 24 karat gold.
A total stunt? Maybe. Will people order it? Absolutely.