Proprietors Tony and Russell Masraff had a simple plan for relocating their eponymous restaurant Masraff’s. The father-and-son duo would close their location on Post Oak Boulevard at the end of April and reopen a couple of weeks later in a new home on I-10 just east of Bunker Hill (9655 Katy Fwy.).
Construction delays pushed the opening to early November, but they've finally been resolved. The new Masraff’s has been quietly open for a couple of weeks. Moving from the Galleria to Memorial has brought a number of changes designed to appeal to a new generation of diners who don’t want to wear a coat and tie at dinner.
“I don’t believe any more in fine dining in Houston. I think it’s passé,” Russell Masraff tells CultureMap. “I want people to come in wearing jeans a nice button down and feel really comfortable. That’s what we’ve created.”
Slimmed down to just under 6,000 square feet, Masraff’s sets its new tone with a shellfish display at the entrance that highlights the restaurant’s new cold seafood offerings as well as its selection of USDA Prime steaks. Customers will see oysters being shucked and the restaurant’s new sushi rolls being prepared.
Masraff envisions the bar as a happy hour destination. “The bar is designed to where we want a high level of energy. It’s got a fun, good vibe to it,” he says.
The dining room has a floor-to-ceiling, climate controlled wine tower. In keeping with Masraff’s goal of adding more action to the restaurant, sommeliers frequently climb the tower’s ladder to retrieve various vintages. As in the bar, an effort has been made to make the experience a little more casual and welcoming.
“I don’t want people to feel like they have to wear a coat in this place,” Masraff says. “We’ve had that for 20 years. Frankly, I don’t want to wear a tie again, so I’m not.”
While the ambiance may have changed, diners can expect the same quality of food that Masraff’s has served for 20 years. The menu remains anchored by steaks, chops, and fresh seafood. However, every recipe — except the signature calamari — has been tweaked with better ingredients and updated presentations. In addition to the new shellfish offerings, Masraff’s will add Japanese wagyu to its menu in the near future.
Masraff calls the duck breast rossini his favorite dish from the new menu. A play on the classic tournedos rossini, the dish uses duck breast instead of filet mignon, then tops the slices with Hudson Valley foie gras.
Other highlights include a stepped up take on a wedge salad, chilled mussels with a ginger-miso vinaigrette, and a 14-ounce, bone-in filet. Pair them with sides such as saffron and lobster grits, creamed corn, and smoked potato puree.
“I don’t want to be one of those chef-driven restaurants where you read the menu and say ‘I don’t know about that,’” Masraff says. “I want a menu where you can’t decide what you want because there’s too many great options.”
Opening the new restaurant has not been without its challenges. Weeknight business has suffered without the usual expense account dinners to keep the dining room full. However, approximately 80 percent of the kitchen staff and 60 percent of the front of house remain from the previous location, and they’ve all embraced the challenge of getting Masraff’s firing on all cylinders.
“The best part is, when it’s busy, it’s fun again,” Masraff says. “I love the energy when it’s full.”