Restaurants / Openings

Balboa Surf Club, Houston’s New Showy Seafood Palace of a Restaurant, Lives Up to the Early Buzz on Post Oak

This Place Quickly Makes You Forget You're in a Strip Center With Its Retreat-Like Setting

BY // 09.28.23

It’s been a little more than a year since Robert Quick and Matt Gottlieb of the Dallas-based Western Addition restaurant group brought their Park Cities Italian restaurant il Bracco to Houston. Now Western Addition is making quite the H-Town splash with the opening of the stunning seafood-centered restaurant called Balboa Surf Club on Post Oak Boulevard.

The new Houston restaurant — which is rumored to have cost around $7 million — is situated in the 7,200-square-foot former home of Masraff’s, within sight of its sister restaurant il Bracco. Balboa Surf Club was inspired by the laid-back, coastal culture of Southern California, where roots run deep for Western Addition president CEO Quick and COO Gottleib, who are both in their mid thirties.

Quick, an SMU grad who attended the Culinary Institute of America at its Napa Valley campus, worked in the restaurant industry as a chef at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc and Bouchon restaurants then The Hillstone Restaurant Group, where Gottlieb managed nine restaurant locations across the country for a dozen years.

The pair — in collaboration with Michael Hsu Office of Architecture and in-house designer Mary Lucille Quick of MMaison — have accomplished what many couldn’t. They’ve created a space that will make you forget you’re in one of Houston’s ubiquitous strip shopping centers.

You enter Balboa Surf Club through a shaded court clad in verdant green hand-glazed tiles and rich walnut beams that soar to a height of 25 feet. It’s a cool Zen-like space to wait for a table or the rest of your dining party. Inside, you’ll find a large center bar clad in tambour walnut wood, a lower dining area flooded with natural light and a decidedly moodier upper dining room.

I chose the latter and marveled at the walls cloaked in solid fluted walnut panels, the cozy banquettes upholstered in channeled hunter-green leather along the perimeter and the layers of soft, flattering light. Over the sushi bar is a trompe l’oeil of sorts: a brutalist-inspired custom canopy made of concrete that reminds one of an elegant curtain.

Introducing Pêche

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Dipping Into The Balboa Surf Club Menu

The Balboa Surf Club menu, while approachable, elevates the quotidian with prime-grade meats and seafood — a mix of wild-caught (Nantucket scallops and Hawaiian tuna) and farm-raised — all butchered in-house, along with desserts and bread made on site in the expansive open kitchen. The bar menu includes seven signature house cocktails ($16 each), including the Rum Dum (a blend of Mount Gay rums, lemon and frothed egg white) and the Gold Rush (a bourbon-based tincture with local honey and fresh lemon).

Beer and sake are also available, as well as an edited wine with a list of names you might recognize and a few you might not.

Balboa Crispy Oysters
The Southern tradition of crispy fried oysters is tweaked at Balboa Surf Club with layers of multidimensional flavor, the plump mollusks lightly coated in a cornmeal crust, then perched on a dollop of garlic aioli and topped with a vinaigrette studded with piquant Calabrian chilis, shallots, and capers ($24). (Courtesy Western Addition)

The starters are playful twists on the familiar, such as the made-to-order guacamole with fresh mint ($13) and the Pacific halibut tostada, its hand-cut raw fish tossed with minced radish and cucumber in an herbal citrus dressing ($16). The Southern tradition of crispy fried oysters is tweaked here with layers of multidimensional flavor, the plump mollusks lightly coated in a cornmeal crust, then perched on a dollop of garlic aioli and topped with a vinaigrette studded with piquant Calabrian chilis, shallot and capers ($24).

The Baja-style seafood cocktail is reminiscent of the much-beloved campechana with jumbo lump crabmeat, shrimp and avocado enrobed in a citrus-spiked cocktail sauce. ($22).

Balboa Seafood Cocktail
The Baja-style seafood cocktail is reminiscent of the much-beloved campechana with jumbo lump crabmeat, shrimp, and avocado enrobed in a citrus-spiked cocktail sauce. ($22). (Courtesy Western Addition)

The curated selection of sushi begins and ends with seasoned sushi rice, reportedly made every 45 minutes to ensure freshness. For the Alaskan king crab hand roll, the crab is poached in melted butter and then wrapped in seasoned rice and crisp nori ($17). Entree-size salads include The Moroccan with rotisserie chicken, Medjool dates, roasted carrots and pistachios with French feta ($23) and the pearl niçoise with seared ahi tuna, green beans, egg, almonds, tomatoes and Kalamata olives ($27).

The generously sized mains include grilled wild-caught scallops ($36) and a mighty crab cake served on a pool of lemon dill sauce. The tender chunks of jumbo lump crabmeat appear to be held together by nary a breadcrumb ($45). The salmon filet, which comes by way of Patagonia, brings a caramelized surface brushed with miso dressing and served with a cucumber salad ($35). Other options include USDA-grade prime ribeye ($52), pork chop ($35), center-cut filet ($59) and herb-roasted chicken ($25).

House-made desserts ($12 each) include coconut quatro leches cake and a miso caramel sundae piled with freshly whipped cream and sprinkled with chocolate shavings and chopped macadamia nuts.

Balboa Surf Club is located in Post Oak Plaza at 1753 Post Oak Boulevard. It is open from 11 am to 10 pm seven days a week.

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