Date of vist: 01/17/2009

Location: Houston

When you go to a restaurant whose website proclaims it “Best Seafood Restaurant” in the USA, you understandably walk in with pretty high expectations.

Good seafood is hard to find, even this close to the gulf. I remember boarding a plane from Maine to Houston once and watching, fascinated, as they loaded crates of live lobsters into the cargo hold. It explained a lot about the cost of lobsters in Houston. We are, after all, in the south, and though there’s usually at least one fish dish on the menu of good restaurants, fish focused restaurants tend toward the fried end of the spectrum. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but sometimes I long for the ginger steamed fish my mom used to make… without a long drive out to Bellaire.

Reef does itself up with a tall ceiling that makes you feel like you’re in an aquarium (the tank side, not the observation side), muted teal colors, and a cool wine room that doubles as a private party room. It’s beautiful and unique, but the bar is FREEZING! We waited there for our table and I wondered if it was where they were keeping the fish on ice.

Thankfully the dining room is warmer. For some reason, they were unable to transfer our bar tab to our table, which resulted in a bit of a wait. Between that and the frigid temperatures, the evening started at a bit of a lull. It quickly got off to a better start, though. First off, the bread here is some of the best I’ve ever had at any restaurant in Houston. Studded with huge chunks of sea salt and served hot with pepper jelly, it is divine. The menu is not more extensive than any other menu – but because it is all fish, it can seem overwhelming. Do I want redfish or grouper? I don’t know!! Lamb or beef seems like a much more familiar choice. It’s a good thing the servers are patient and knowledgeable.

The only flaw in an otherwise perfect meal was the change of service halfway through our dinner. It was done without skipping a beat – except the prior server forgot to put in the order for my appetizer, which I never received. I’m still dying to know what the cobia with smoky oil and pickled watermelon salad is like. I guess I’ll just have to go back and find out!

Recommended: Grouper, gumbo, redfish (with fried mac n cheese, awesome!), Vietnamese coffee tart.

Price: $116 for 2 including a bottle of wine and gratuity.

Food – 4.5/5 bacon slices. Great value, amazing wine list, delicious food, and a playful, unique, and flavorful take on seafood.
Atmosphere – 3.5/5 bacon slices. Cavernous room can be a little loud.
Miscellany – The valet leaves a lot to be desired. Park on the street if you can.