Houston restaurateur, chef and all-around wonder-boy, Chris Shepherd, is opening his highly-anticipated steakhouse, Georgia James tonight. Yes, this very evening. The James Beard Award-winning Shepherd opens the new restaurant in the space which formerly housed his flagship restaurant, Underbelly. He closed that restaurant in March, much to the grumblings of its loyal patrons, to make way for the steakhouse which is named for his parents, Georgia and James.
Since then, he has opened UB Preserv, which took some of the elements and philosophy of Underbelly into a more intimate setting. His multi-concept and experimental One-Fifth just reopened with its third incarnation, One-Fifth Mediterranean in September. His mission is to create a great restaurant team at Underbelly Hospitality which enables him to lead, teach and grow.
Shepherd continues with his desire to support local farmers and ranchers. His relationship with 44 Farms has been ongoing since 2012 and many Houston restaurants have come on board, sourcing meat for their own menus from the farm based in Cameron, Texas.
The menu for Georgia James comes from a team of Shepherd alumni, including executive sous chef, Greg Peters, sous chef Matt Coburn and culinary director Nick Fine. The steaks will be either cast iron-seared (a technique championed by Shepherd) or wood-fire grilled. The Classic French Onion soup will be simple, but carefully executed with perfectly caramelized onions and an in-house veal stock. There is a dedicated dry aging room for the steaks and a curing room that will be a focal point in the restaurant.
Another Shepherd team member, Victoria Dearmond, will create steak house desserts, but the talented pastry chef will put her own spin on it with treats like wood fire-charred apple pie and chocolate cake made with cardamom cream.
Matthew Pridgen is the wine director and has created a list of five-hundred global selections representing the major wine regions, but also more obscure locations and varietals. While there will be plenty of steakhouse standards for big spenders, there will also be well-priced wines for the more adventuresome and less ostentatious diners.
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Westin Galleymore will be in charge of spirits; the liquid kind, not the ghoul-y kind. Under his direction, the classic steakhouse cocktails will reflect the more modern craft cocktails that consumers expect from today's beverage programs. There will be a surfeit of martinis and Galleymore's riffs on old favorites. And whiskey. Lots and lots of whiskey.
There is a 6,000 bottle wine room and a twenty-two foot long zinc-topped bar. The farmhouse feel of Underbelly has been replaced by a more modern and sleek design with Art Deco embellishments. Several art pieces from Houston artist Floyd Newsum will be on display, in the main and private dining rooms.
Georgia James opens at 5 p.m. today. Good luck getting a table.
Sunday through Thursday, 5 pm. to 10 p.m.