Restaurants / Openings

Houston’s New Seafood Restaurant Transforms Former Tony Mandola’s Space Into a Classy Retreat — Your First Taste Look at Gatsby’s Prime Seafood

Elevating Classic Dishes

BY

Luis Rangel has a theme, and he’s sticking to it. The owner of Gatsby’s Prime Steakhouse in the Montrose recently opened Gatsby’s Prime Seafood in the cavernous space once home to Tony Mandola’s Gulf Coast Kitchen at 1212 Waugh Drive. (PaperCity first told you the new Houston seafood restaurant was coming back in September).

The former salmon-painted eyesore of a space now sports a crisp new coat of white paint. Inside Gatsby’s Prime Seafood, which seats 225 (with options indoors and soon outdoors on a forthcoming patio), is awash in tones of sea blue, where broad brushstrokes of gold and azure adorn every wall. This serves as a backdrop to the cushy cobalt blue channeled banquettes and velveteen-covered tufted chairs.

At the first Gatsby restaurant, Rangel and his skillful team riffed on the main character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel The Great Gatsby, diligently working on threading the theme of decadence into nearly every aspect of an intimate steakhouse experience poised in a 1920s-era building in Montrose. Given the calorie-rich fare (not to mention pricey prime-grade beef), pre-prohibition era cocktails and the sounds of jazz playing in the background, they hit the theme hard. And it worked.

A Different Kind of Gatsby’s Restaurant

The name might be similar for this new sister restaurant — Gatsby’s Prime Seafood — but the roaring 1920s theme is a bit more diffused here. Many creators of the first Houston Gatsby’s restaurant reprise their roles. From executive chef Erick Anaya to former general manager Luis Rodriguez, who has been promoted to director of operations. Benjamin Harris is on board, pulling together a global wine list with favorites from California vineyards, while cocktails by mixologist Jessica Wells are both a combo of pre-prohibition era staples and modern tinctures.

And, of course, the menu has lots of lavish, over-the-top moments like its predecessor. If you’re dazzled by a tower of chilled lobster, shrimp, East Coast oysters and crab legs on ice, you’ll appreciate Gatsby’s Prime Seafood’s tiered version served with a quartet of classic sauce sides. There is caviar too. What’s more decadent than blinis and crème Fraiche with osetra (royal costs $10o, imperial, $200)?

Crossover fans of the steakhouse will recognize popular favorites, too, from the maple glazed bacon slab appetizer ($21) to the deluxe deviled eggs, a classic version crowned with fried shrimp and a dollop of bacon jam. Not to mention the trio of turf selections. That means steak, steak and steak — all prime, all wet-aged.

We’ve come for the seafood and started with the salmon crudo ($18), a fresh sashimi-style bite hit with creamy chipotle aioli and Siracha sauce. If salmon isn’t your thing, they also serve a tuna crudo ($20), along with starters like a campechana ($18), spicy crab poke with a ponzu sauce, and a variety of baked oysters on the half-shell.

Don’t miss the lobster bisque, but skip the additional black pepper grind proffered at the table. The rich, creamy soup, garnished with fresh chives and lobster chunks bobbing about, finishes with a mild piquant pepper burn that doesn’t need any further enhancement.

Baked Oysters at Gatsby’s Prime Seafood
Gatsby’s Prime Seafood serves several varieties of baked oysters (as well as raw). (Photo by Michael Anthony)

I was anxious to see how Gatsby Prime Seafood prepares my favorite French sauce, beurre blanc, especially because it is finished with a spoonful of caviar. I ordered it alongside the sea bass filet ($44), a perfectly cooked 10-ounce cut elevated by the rich butter sauce. The 14-ounce redfish is served on the half shell and, like many of their entrees, is seasoned with a Japanese-style seven-pepper rub and can be topped (for an additional cost) with foie gras ($18), poached king crab ($20), sauteed shrimp and sauces that range from truffle laced butter ($8) to a classic peppercorn ($6).

The fish, like the steak, is served sans sides. Accompaniments range from virtuous spears of broccolini ($12) to sinful (but swoon-worthy) mac n’cheese with lobster ($12/$32), as well as cream corn brulee ($12) roasted Brussel sprouts ($12) and giant onion rings ($13) its batter tinged with a touch of vanilla extract before each are deep fried in lard.

Desserts include a satisfying warm bread pudding topped with a scoop of vanilla gelato and cool crème anglaise, key lime pie, crème brulee, cheesecake and flourless chocolate cake. All the desserts are $10.

During the day, Gatsby’s Prime Seafood is open for lunch from 11 am to 2 pm Tuesdays through Fridays and for a limited menu social hour from 2 pm to 5 pm Tuesdays through Fridays. Dinner is served Sundays through Wednesdays from 5 to 9 pm, Thursdays from 5 to 10 pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 11 pm. The restaurant is closed Mondays.

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