Last week, the New York Times published an article about D.C. restaurateur Ashok Bajaj with the subtitle "A New Delhi-Born Restaurateur Brings Power Dining to D.C." Several of us read the article, but not because we were super interested in Mr. Bajaj's latest opening. We had no idea what "power dining" was.
Unfortunately, the article used the term as if it's a common part of speech.
"Oh Susan, I was out power dining the other day, and you'll never guess who I ran into!"
"Goodness, Roger, I do love power dining!"
"As do I. It's my favorite thing to do after power walking and power washing."
A quick search online showed that power dining has nothing to do with speed or force. According to Forbes, power dining refers to "magnetic restaurants that influential people (be they bankers, producers or fashion designers) use to impress, cajole or intimidate others in their field."
Hmm. I can think of a few Houston restaurants that fit that mold. Restaurants where the wealthy, influential and beautiful flock to see and be seen. No need to travel to New York or L.A. to power dine. We've got your top five spots right here.
5. Vic & Anthony's The glamorous steak house is situated downtown amid the hustle and bustle of business people and tourists eager to see what Houston is all about. The steaks are consistently voted some of the best in the city by diners and critics alike, and the opulent dining rooms with intricate stained glass, mahogany, white linen table cloths and glittering chandeliers match the elegant clientele. Men enjoy throwing around money and company cards at Vic & Anthony's, and why not, when the oversized dining chairs and oversized portions invite oversized wallets and personalities.
4. Quattro Quattro at the Four Seasons often offers special prix-fixe dinners for those seeing shows at the Toyota Center, and given that it's in a fancy hotel, it sometimes hosts visiting celebs. When wealthy out-of-towners need an upscale place to stay downtown, they choose the Four Seasons, and when they need a classy meal, they head to Quattro on the third floor. There's an elevator that goes only to and from the restaurant ('cause why mingle with the plebs in the lobby if you don't have to?) and the floor-to-ceiling windows offer a great view of downtown Houston. Oh yeah, and the food, courtesy of chef Maurizio Ferrarese, is pretty awesome, too.
3. Petroleum Club A favorite spot of former President George Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, the Petroleum Club is definitely a spot to see and be seen. There have no doubt been countless deals affecting the oil and gas industry struck over fanciful dishes in the Petroleum Club's lavish dining room. There's even an elite subgroup called Don't Mess with the Oil, no doubt populated by billionaire geriatrics. If you're wealthy enough to be a member or fortunate enough to be invited by one, be sure to be on your best behavior. You never know which local oil barons or foreign heads of state you might run into.
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2. Eddie V's It's not unusual to see Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Porsches in the valet queue at Eddie V's in West Ave, and the clientele is as fancy as their vehicles. The service and food are both impeccable, and though Eddie V's is a chain, it's not at all the kind of place you'd take the kids on a Wednesday night. Arrive half an hour before your meal and enjoy some cocktails at the V Lounge while listening to a live band. Diners generally think the prices are fair for what you get, but that doesn't stop people from dropping some major dough at Eddie V's. If you're going to go to a spot that attracts social butterflies and the richest of the rich, be sure to dress the part. Nothing less than a cocktail dress and heels or a smart jacket and slacks will do.
1. Tony's Tony Vallone's namesake restaurant is the epitome of a power dining spot in Houston, partially because Tony personally knows anyone who's anyone, and friends of Tony's love the special attention they receive from the staff and from Tony himself. I recently dined at Tony's, and even though I make a meager journalist's salary and am lacking the appropriate table manners for a place like this, everyone who works there treated me with respect and made sure I had the best meal possible. Chef Grant Gordon's modernist cuisine is cutting-edge for many diners in the blue-hair club, but people keep coming back to see how Tony and company will challenge them next. With a wine menu featuring bottles in the $20,000-per-bottle range, it's definitely a place for heavy hitters with heavy wallets to impress their peers. And who wouldn't be impressed when the owner himself comes by to check on you during your meal?