Restaurants / Openings

New Seafood Restaurant on Heights Boulevard Brings Charcuterie, Serious Gin and Secret Barbecue Power

This Ambitious Spot is No Mere Revamp — The Story Behind 1751

BY // 04.04.19

Can a second act under new ownership and a new name breathe new life into a restaurant once hampered by front office complications? If the official opening of 1751 Sea and Bar is any indication, the answer is a delicious yes.

Sambrooks Management Company was betting big with its takeover last fall of Star Fish and the transformation of the Heights Boulevard restaurant. After several weeks of being closed, the Houston spot re-opened its doors on Tuesday with a compelling, fresh menu and an appealing ambience under the new moniker.

And what about that unusual name? Offering more than 110 varieties of gin under the direction of beverage director David Maness, “1751” is a nod to the British Gin Act of that year. Thus, the selection of gin and tonics is vast as is the array of creative cocktails and martinis.

Not having touched gin since an unfortunate overdose in my freshman year at LSU, I took the leap and swooned over the light, delicious Gin Act martini while my dinner date savored the semi-sweet Clearwater gin and tonic and moved onto his preferred Tidewater cocktail comprised of Gin Mare, Bitter Truth, Golden Falernum and ocean water tincture. But, I digress.

Gone are the kitschy Star Fish turquoise accents, replaced by a sophisticated black and white motif, backdrop for an enticing menu that salutes owner Michael Sambrooks’ love affair with smoke. As owner of The Pit Room, he has encouraged executive chef J.D. Woodward to employ The Pit Room’s mesquite fumes in a variety of dishes including the spectacular 1751 Charcuterie Board.

The collection of salmon gravlax (could I order some to go please), cured (smoked) tuna, scallop conserva, pistou mussels, smoked oysters and more provided a dreamy dinner for two that left us too full to go much further on the menu. Well, we did start with a half dozen plump, sweet East Coast oysters.

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Of the seafood charcuterie,”We wanted to stand out a little bit. I haven’t seen a charcuterie board like that in the city yet,” executive chef J.D. Woodward tells PaperCity. “It started as a little idea. And then it kind of grew. We realized that we can do all this really cool stuff.

“We can pull good things from different parts of the menu and the whole section that is cured and preserved was pulled from that.”

Storm’s End
How about a Storm’s End cocktail at 1751 Sea and Bar? (Photo by Shannon O’Hara Photography)

Keeping a keen eye on the dining room, 1751 GM Adrian Cueno notes that the varied menu offers both dishes for sharing and full plate menu items. “This is the culmination of about two and a half months of Lyle Bento (Sambrooks culinary director), J.D. Woodard, and chef Mike Nutt’s inspiration,” Cueno says.

“We wanted to have a showcase seafood restaurant and source the best and apply the best applications and techniques.”

And a showcase it is with elements such as caviar, crawfish soufflé, New Zealand rainbow clams, Rohan duck salad, baked oysters, lobster spring rolls, many dishes with an Asian influence in preparation.

There is Niman Ranch prime ribeye for carnivores and a veggie pizza for vegans. For the purists in your dinner party, 1751 offers “simply fish” the daily offerings of fresh-caught flounder, salmon, swordfish and the like simply seared or grilled. And that opens the door for sides that include Louisiana style dirty rice, potatoes with caviar, potlikker collard greens and fried Brussels sprouts.

Keeping an eye on the new operation on opening night was Michael Sambrooks, who with his parents, Lisa and David Sambrooks, founded their namesake restaurant group which includes Sam’s Fried Chicken & Donuts (formerly Lee’s Fried Chicken & Donuts), Pi Pizza (soon to be rebranded) and a Tex-Mex restaurant in Montrose.

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