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The 19th Oasis

In the restaurant-challenged Heights, Shade shimmers like an oasis

I heard a lot about the minimalist design of Shade before my first visit, but this isn't the sort of minimalism I was expecting. I think of Monica Pope's new restaurant, T'afia, with its bare-brick walls and frosted-acrylic tables, as minimalist.

T'afia, in turn, is reminiscent of the extreme minimalism of New York architect Richard Meier, who designed Jean-Georges Vongerichten's restaurant 66. And if you ask me, 66's monochromatic white walls, blank surfaces and shadow-box bar (you see only the silhouettes of the bottles behind a frosted Plexiglas wall) have all the warmth of a hospital operating room.

Shade is nothing like that. Architect Ferenc Dreef's style is much more relaxed. The bold, clean lines of the wooden divider between the bar and the dining room remind me of Danish modernism. The look is echoed by a sleek, room-length banquette upholstered with a retro-looking green fabric. The hardwood floors are a warm reddish hue, and the walls are painted a cool, fresh pea-green.

East meets West at Shade: Tuna carpaccio (front) 
and chicken-fried pork chops.
Troy Fields
East meets West at Shade: Tuna carpaccio (front) and chicken-fried pork chops.

Location Info

Map

Shade

250 W. 19th St.
Houston, TX 77008

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Heights

Details

Tuna carpaccio: $12
Duck confit spring roll: $6.50
Beef tenderloin: $26.50
Wasabi-crusted grouper: $19
Chicken-fried pork chops : $17.25
250 West 19th Street, 713-863-7500. Lunch: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Dinner: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and Sundays, and 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Brunch: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

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The playful lighting fixtures look like suspended lamp shades, and some of the wooden ceiling braces are exposed. Large glass vases full of twisty bamboo sprigs sit in a series of window niches. The tables are linen-less and covered with a slate gray Formica. Be it minimalist, modernist or some other "ist," the space is as inviting as deep shade on a hot, sunny day.

Claire Smith's smart, engaging cooking style, the restaurant's fabulous interior design and the casual stylishness of the eccentric Heights natives who frequent the place have all combined to make Shade one of the hippest restaurants in the city. There were few decent restaurants in this neighborhood to begin with, and now that Shade has one of the only bars in the otherwise dry Heights, it shimmers like an oasis in the desert.

Finally the bartender reappears, and I lick my chops over the prospect of a cocktail. "We'll just need to swipe your ID," she says. Evidently the method of joining this private club is to give the bartender your driver's license and let her swipe it to put you on the computerized membership list.

To my immense aggravation, food critics can't hand over their IDs in restaurants if they hope to remain anonymous. So I don't get a cocktail after all. You, on the other hand, will probably have no trouble getting served at Shade's fashionable bar. Do me a favor: Please order a slushy Beefeater martini there on a hot afternoon, and let me know how it tastes.

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