Galleria Gourmet

Houston's shopping center has everything from Japanese and Mexican food to Neiman's tea room and hamburgers on the ice rink. We tried them all.

WHEN GERALD HINES, HOUSTON’S own Edifice Rex, built the Galleria complex, he combined under one translucent pleasure dome the elite of the merchandising world.

Below are suggestions of places to eat in and around The Galleria.

EL FENIX

If Mexican food moves you, try El Fenix. You’ll find comfortable surroundings and courteous help. The tostadas are hot, crisp, and easily some of the best in town. For a main dish, try the chicken chalupas, double mounds of lettuce, chicken, avocado and sour cream dressing, and grated cheese. These have been spectacular on two occasions and barely passable on a third; they are, however, worth the gamble. The chicken enchiladas with sour cream are notable. On the other hand, don’t jump at the shrimp Veracruz, six shrimp atop enough rice to feed an unplanned family. If you have a strong arm, wash down your lunch with beer served in icy, attractive, three pound champagne glasses.
First level, The Galleria,
5015 Westheimer 621­6080
Mon.­Sat. 11 a.m.­10 p.m.
Closed Sunday
Cocktails/Beer
Inexpensive to moderate
Major credit cards

FARRELL’S ICE CREAM PARLOR RESTAURANT

Farrell’s exudes pre­fab gay­90’s aura. The ice cream is recommended as are the incredible concoctions. For the timorous there is the slab of ice cream, a hearty chunk, for 35¢. For the real pig, there is the trough at $2.15; and for the suicidal, there is the Farrell’s zoo at $8.50. Birthdays are a specialty here. On that happy occasion you will be treated to (or afflicted with—according to your point of view and age) drum beating and singing. Entire birthday parties are encouraged to do their celebrating on the premises. Madness. Sandwiches, hamburgers and lunches are also featured, but are not noteworthy. FarrelI’s is for the young of nerves and digestion.
First level 626­1319
Sun.­Thurs. 11 a.m.­ll p.m.
Fri.­Sat. 11 a.m.­12 p.m.
No alcohol

HOUSTON OAKS HOTEL

You step from the brilliantly lit lobby of the Houston Oaks Hotel into the muted glow of tastefully civilized surroundings: paneled walls, conservative English prints, softly lit table lamps, black leatherette banquettes, simulated Waterford crystal, and pewter plates. A rosebud for each lady and attentive service complete the Savoy Room’s milieu.

The menu aspires to haute cuisine. Unfortunately, the food has not yet come up to expectations. Everything we have tried to date has been a near miss. In the appetizer category we have found the terrine of pheasant overly dry. Quenelles of red snapper have been burdened with a much too heavy sauce. Smoked salmon has come with a tasty sour cream and horseradish sauce, minced onions, and a lemon slice; but the fish and sauces have arrived tableside still covered with Saran wrap—quite a letdown after having seen this dish so exquisitely handled at the Window Box in the Hyatt Regency.

On one occasion, the bouillabaisse, prepared for two and served in a baroque scalloped shell was crammed with luscious scallops, San Francisco Bay shrimp, gargantuan Gulf shrimp, oysters, and crab meat. Unfortunately, the broth had been reduced to the point of resembling Gulf brine. Senate steak, a selection of tournedos—lamb, beef, and pork—sounds great, but has proved to be dried out and generally undistinguished. However, other beef choices have been adequate.

The wine list is well constructed and prices are reasonable. A special list features some fancy vintages ($16­$75) for those on unlimited expense accounts.

At lunch this is a comfortable spot for something light like a salad or the tasty chicken filled crepes, Crêpes à la Reine. The pace is slow, the noise level low, the tables reasonably spaced and you may comfortably linger over your coffee and talk. Rendezvous for business or pleasure in one of the dark corners.

High atop the Houston Oaks Hotel, the Galleria Roof overlooks the Golden Triangle, southwest Houston, the Post Oak­Westheimer traffic jam, and the red faced University Club joggers. Swagged woven drapes and patterned wall covering, both in rusts and oranges, and clusters of pressed glass lighting fixtures provide a pleasant backdrop for the flashiest part of the decor, the view. Expansive on a clear day, glittering on a clear night, the sight makes it worth your rising to the occasion. On the other hand, when the smog creeps in on giant lion paws…

Lunch is the only regular meal served on the Roof. At night the fare is limited to hot hors d’oeuvres and the Galleria Roof becomes a nightclub. Weekdays the menu offers four fixed entrees and one “pot luck” special. The menu changes intermittently and the quality varies. On one occasion we had a fishy tasting shrimp Newburg, on another day we had a sumptuous crab salad.

On Sunday, the staff prepares a brunch that draws crowds to the roof. Lines form for the buffet which features individually prepared omelets with choices of fillings, pastries, fruits, cheeses, bacon, luncheon meats, seafood Newburg, beef, crêpes, biscuits, even ice sculpture—all for $4.25. The crowds are rather oppressive, but the feast makes it worth the jam. Reservations are required.
Street level: enter from Westheimer;
Third level: enter from mall.
Savoy Room
Lunch: Mon.­Fri. 11:30 a.m.­2 p.m.
Dinner: Mon.­Sat. 6:30p.m.­11 p.m.
Sun. 6 p.m.­11 p.m.
Galleria Roof
Lunch: Mon.­Fri. 11:30 a.m.­2 p.m.
Sunday brunch: 11 a.m.­2 p.m.
No dinners served
Moderate to expensive
Cocktails/wine
Coat and tie
Reservations advised at dinner (Savoy Room) and required at Sunday brunch (Galleria Roof)

JAPANESE STEAK HOUSE

Located at the west end of The Galleria complex (enter from the Westheimer side; there’s no mall entrance), The Japanese Steak House is strikingly contemporary with an Oriental flavor—sort of Evans­Monical East decor. In the main dining room you’ll encounter a communal seating system with assorted couples being grouped around teppans. Don’t plan to whisper sweet nothings or talk shop. A kimona­clad cook deftly sautées prime cuts of sirloin, mounds of fresh mushrooms, onions, bean sprouts, and bell peppers. She portions these out to diners who in turn have to decide how to cope with fair size beef chunks without a knife. Both the meat and vegetables are plentiful and delicious.

In a smaller dining room called My Apartment, seating is

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