Culture / Restaurants

The Galleria’s Most Talked About New Restaurant: Sky-High Ambitions Put the Pressure on a Star Fort Worth Chef

BY Laurann Claridge // 06.16.16
photography Julie Soefer

It was the opening of the year when Saks Fifth Avenue unveiled its smashing new store this spring, just a few hundred feet beyond their former Galleria space, but it felt a world away. The glamorous retailer upped the ante on its restaurant, too.

The new space, perched on the second floor, is named for Saks’ former Westheimer address, but 51Fifteen has grown in size from 5,700 square feet to more than 9,800 (and comes with its own private entrance, as well as access through the store just past those tony designer ateliers). The drop-dead-chic space was created and conceptualized by Houston designer Nina Magon of Contour Interior DesignHarrell Architects served as the architect of the project and shepherded it through the construction process.

Unlike this season’s avant-garde runway styles, the classic palette of whites and grays won’t soon date. An artful grove of blooming tulips is installed overhead at the entry. Underfoot, sheets of large-scale Dektron mimic the look of Carrara gold marble, inlaid with decorative brass bars that lead you either to the bar, where Platner’s golden Knoll chairs invite you to stay for a glass of Veuve Clicquot, or to the dining room, where bold, octagonal inlays of wood, brass and stone run up the wall to the soaring ceiling, producing a coffered like effect.

The restaurant is operated by Houston-based Landmark Hospitality; general manager Chad Wherry warmly greets his guests, while chef Stefon Rishel plies them with dishes that have a global influence but arise from sourced local ingredients. (Wherry and Rishel worked together for three years in Fort Worth prior to their move to 51Fifteen.)

51Fifteen is open seven days a week, with brunch on weekends and a new weekday menu for both lunch and dinner.

Highlights include a groaning cheese board with one perfectly ripened fromage after another, coupled with house-made lavash and go-withs such as sweet and tangy kumquat marmalade ($18). Don’t miss the shareable whipped ricotta, also made in house with roasted baby beets of every hue ($12) and a simple, fresh ceviche of shrimp, crab, snapper, avocado and pico de gallo ($16).

Ladies-that-lunch salads abound, from a tossed cobb ($16) to a kale Caesar ($14) and tuna Niçoise ($28). Heftier sandwiches such as the 51 Burger ($16) are an option, but lamb lovers will flock to the beautifully cooked lamb T-bones plated on a shallow pool of English pea and fresh mint purée with roasted baby carrots ($24).

This chef really knows how to coax the flavor from meat and vegetables alike, unafraid to put a good sear on while keeping the meat’s interior a perfect medium-rare.

It’s a welcome indulgence after a day of shopping or a quiet respite mid-week.

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