A First Look at Mr. Peeples

Stepping into Mr. Peeples for the first time, it's inevitable that you'll have a strong reaction. Bright neon pinks and purples, royal blues and golds dominate everywhere you look, from the ornate crystal chandeliers above the billiard table in the restaurant's main landing, to the hostess stand shaped like giant gold Venetian masks, to the bar area with its hanging crystal curtain.

"This place is wild!" I tweeted as I went on a photo-taking spree, trying to digitally capture what my eyes struggled to take in. It was Vegas. It was Miami Vice. It was nightclub meets the 1980's meets Prince's "Purple Rain" meets Liberace and Andy Warhol. It was pop-culture edgy and ostentatious to a fault, but I couldn't help smiling at the outrageousness of it all.

That night, Johnny "Sweetcakes" Wesley, a dessert wunderkind, was there to greet me. Wesley, who left his previous post at Killen's Steakhouse in Pearland, is the new pastry chef at Mr. Peeples, and seeing him, I knew without a doubt that the evening would end on a high.

What I didn't count on was how much I would enjoy the rest of the meal.

This 8-ounce wagyu filet from Australia was perfectly cooked.

In fact, I'd mistakenly gone in to Mr. Peeples expecting to find a fancy steakhouse. Snippets of information I'd read about the restaurant and the photos I'd seen of Tomahawk wagyu steaks on Facebook had contributed to this perception. Though the steaks are fine -- as evidenced by the utterly delectable grade-7 slices of wagyu filet that my companion and I practically inhaled towards the end of the meal -- Mr. Peeples bills itself as a seafood restaurant first, with some steak thrown in to make everyone happy.

The Ahi Tuna Poke, a Hawaiian take on tuna tartare made with fresh chunks of ahi tuna mixed in a soy-based sauce and topped with strips of wakame (seaweed), was eagerly devoured by my companion, who had lived in Hawaii for some years. "It's a true poke, like you'd get in Hawaii," he remarked as he made easy history of the dish. One of the signature dishes introduced by Rick Guerrero, the chef de cuisine, who was born in Guam and lived in Hawaii, I enjoyed the authenticity of its flavors and the plump freshness and slick but firm texture of the ahi chunks, which I scooped up with crisp wonton triangles.

Though I'd been eyeing the seafood tostaditas, we ordered crab cakes because our server raved about them. A safe choice, and they didn't disappoint, but the four, two-plus-inch diameter crab cakes were unremarkable.

The lobster and lump crab campechana, however, was a revelation. "How does it compare with The Goode Company's campechana?" I asked the server, putting him on the spot before we committed to ordering the dish. "I've never had it, so I can't say," he replied, "but I'm confident that you'll like it."

In this instance, he was correct. Served in a tall martini glass with strips of thin plantains spiking upwards from it, the campechana turned out to be the star of the evening because of its visually striking presentation and hefty chunks of lump crabmeat so large that all I could think of was: "It's as big as the end of a chicken wing!" The viscous and sweet but tangy tomato-based sauce was well-balanced, the sauce clinging to the pieces of crab and lobster without being runny.

Other highlights of the evening included a generously portioned miso- and sake-marinated sea bass, another Guerrero creation, which was light and airy with just the slightest hint of sweet, served with charred bok choy over a bed of fried rice that had been made with the drippings from the pan -- definitely something I'd order again.

For the finale, Wesley, knowing my preference for lighter desserts that are not too sweet, wowed us with an off-menu creation of fresh berries over a small round of rose gelée, topped with a vanilla whipped cream and sprinkled with Pop Rocks. As I bit into the berries, their delicate flavor exploded and a small symphony of Pop Rocks popped in my mouth -- not your average dessert and thoroughly enjoyable.

A chocolate mousse cake topped with caramel, and sprinkled with crushed peanuts and peanut butter -- meant to mimic the flavors in a Snickers candy bar -- was sinful and decadent, yet playful as well. Likewise, traditional carrot cake was served in the shape of two Twinkies, with the cream-cheese frosting oozing from the middle. Wesley says he's building a program that will make Mr. Peeples a destination for dessert, and I can't wait to see it unfold.

Mr. Peeples is run by the same group that owns Hearsay Gastro Lounge. Their mantra, which you see when you log onto their website, is "Seafood * Steaks * Style," and they do indeed offer all of that. It's not your typical, staid Houston restaurant, but you don't go to Mr. Peeples for run-of-the-mill. You'll go because everyone needs a bit of Vegas flair in their lives, and with Mr. Peeples, you won't need to get on a plane to experience it.

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