Star Fish Houston, now open at 191 Heights Blvd. Opened in April, the new restaurant offers Houstonians an authentic seafood experience. Featured photos show the classic martini, cauliflower, raw oysters, and the sea food tower (contributed photos).
For a city that identifies itself as the third American coast, there are remarkably few seafood restaurants in Houston, and fewer still in the near north. We enjoy some wonderful NOLA-inspired choices, but it’s difficult to parley even really, really good crawfish into “fare de la Mar.” A newcomer is changing that.
In April, Star Fish opened at 191 Heights Blvd., and the locally owned dining spot with its fresh seafood, raw bar, wood-fired grill and outstanding service has been drawing accolades since. The team behind Cherry Pie Hospitality launched Star Fish. The same group operates popular State Fare, Lee’s Fried Chicken & Donuts, Lee’s Creamery, Pi Pizza, and Petite Sweets. By most measures, they’ve hit another high water mark with Star Fish.
There is a lot of talent on board to help. Both the concept’s principals, Heights resident Lee Ellis and chef John Mills, were powerhouses behind the Liberty Kitchens when, in 2015, the two left the company. Together, the restaurateurs launched Cherry Pie Hospitality and started to check off successes. They brought in Cherry Pie veterans, Executive Chef Armando Ramirez and General Manager/Sommelier Leonora Varvoutis, to oversee their latest effort.
The Star Fish dining room is a reflection of its menu: fresh, bright and original.
The understated, elegant space is sufficiently welcoming that one could visit before a night at the theater or following a child’s softball game. Dining room chairs are painted a cheerful ocean blue and there are large, family friendly booths lining the walls. Expect an abundance of natural light, and the 300-gallon fish tank with its array of colorful, live creatures is a hit with kids. The design restates what the food makes clear – nothing was left to chance.
While comparable in price to Pappas Seafood, don’t expect obscene, Pappas-sized portions of mass-produced food. Both the portions and presentations at Star Fish maintain the modern aesthetic echoed by the interior. It’s freshness and flavors that take this dining experience over the top. No taste, texture, color or style is a second thought.
There are no short cuts or concessions to mass production. All additions and sauces accompanying the foundations are quality, nuanced, and original.
The lump crab cakes arrived basking in a shallow tidal pool of house-made lemon-dill aioli. There were none of the fillers found in crab cakes elsewhere. Each cake was a mound of meaty chunks of crab, most of which fell into the aioli under its own weight when teased with a fork. The pairing resulted in a divine combination of shellfish and sauce. It was exactly the sort of detail at which Star Fish excels.
There are six homemade sauces geared for the raw bar: Sriracha lime cocktail sauce, fleur de chartreuse, jalapeño mignonette, Meyer Lemon pesto and Jim Mills’ signature green goddess. We suggest trying at least two. There are simply no losers in the lineup.
The appetizers are unusual and include puffy, crispy lobster tacos, and steak tartare. The “grill” portion of the menu includes a whole Gulf red snapper, and a deviled lobster with shrimp and house chaurice stuffing.
Sides are equally interesting. Try the cauliflower steak covered in capers and dates and swimming in lemon-butter. And we would be remiss if we neglected to mention the French fries. The fries are cooked in clarified butter instead of grease, and compete favorably with any we have tried.
Star Fish’s bar services are also stellar. Standouts include the Martini section with the Star Fish Martini, H-Town Tini and the Vesper Rosa. Bubbles sparkle here too with 37 options to sample by the glass or the bottle.
Is there anything about this restaurant that isn’t creative or original?
“Well, we don’t make the ketchup,” states Star Fish’s Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Gochman.” We really like Heinz. What can I say?,” she concludes, smiling.
Star Fish is open seven days a week starting at 4 p.m. Brunch, lunch and happy hours are coming soon. To learn more go to www.starfish houston.com.