A peak inside new Houston restaurant

In its fairly young life, Georgia James has had its share of reinvention, multiple lives, and assorted locations.

The luxe steakhouse from Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality had its genesis as the original concept (One Fifth Steak) in the chef’s daring, unorthodox One Fifth project that began in 2017 with five different restaurants over five years at the Mark’s American Cuisine space at 1658 Westheimer . The steak concept – practically a surefire in a beef-loving city — proved to be among the most popular and memorable of the One Fifth iterations, so much so that Shepherd couldn’t help but revive it as Georgia James in October 2018 after he closed his Underbelly at 1100 Westheimer, the restaurant he opened in 2012 and earned him a James Beard Award in 2014. Georgia James operated in the former Underbelly space until late January 2022 when Shepherd closed shop at 1100 Westheimer. The restaurant was briefly relocated to 1658 Westheimer through June as the final salvo in the One Fifth project.

Fans who stuck with Shepherd’s posh steakhouse manifestations will be glad to know that the peripatetic Georgia James now has a permanent new home. July 1 marks the official start to the steakhouse’s newest chapter as the first of several high-end dining projects to open at Regent Square, the massive residential and retail at West Dallas and Dunlavy from GID Development Group.

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Executive Chef Greg Peters poses for a portrait Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at Georgia James in Houston.Jon Shapley/Staff photographer

Since it opened at Underbelly, Georgia James has been the jewel of Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality portfolio, and now it has a shiny new home at 3503 W. Dallas to play out its indulgent dining ambitions. The project is swank indeed: 11,000 square feet of space on two levels (the second-floor lounge with two expansive terraces is set to open at the end of the month). Walls of windows draped in airy sheers lend light to the first-floor dining room, a 7,000-square-foot space of white-napped marble tables and tawny upholstered Scandinavian-style walnut chairs.

On one end of the long dining room is an open kitchen that fairly echoes the working pass of the former Underbelly. And that’s where executive chef Greg Peters and his crew are rekindling the Georgia James fires.

While much of the restaurant’s signature moves remain, specifically the cast iron-seared steaks sizzled in copious amounts of butter along with garlic and fresh thyme, Peters new menu also holds some new twists and welcome flavors. For Georgia James’ discerning customers, these menu additions may be the most exciting element of the new project. Like the original Underbelly’s philosophy of telling the story of how Houston eats, Georgia James is charting a new course through that lens.

“It’s not really a rebirth or rebranding but a continuation of what makes Georgia James ‘Georgia James,'” Peters said. “We didn’t want to change that, but we wanted to have fun with the menu. We wanted to take a fresh look at things.”

Executive Chef Greg Peters prepares the Viet-Cajun roasted oysters Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at Georgia James steakhosue in Houston.
Executive Chef Greg Peters prepares the Viet-Cajun roasted oysters Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at Georgia James steakhosue in Houston.Jon Shapley/Staff photographer

Those new ideas include a starter of pho-cured beef tenderloin carpaccio – pho spices clinging to thin leaves of beef dotted with lemongrass aioli and scattered with crispy rice noodles. Another nod to Houston’s Vietnamese cravings is the Viet-Cajun roasted oysters (oven-roasted oysters bubbling in a buttery bath flavored with Creole seasoning, garlic, cayenne and fish sauce) inspired by chef Trong Nguyen’s Crawfish & Noodles in Asiatown.

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What else is new? Seared Gulf fish (usually red snapper) paired with charred cabbage and a twist of wheat noodles in Szechuan peppercorn oil; loaded au gratin (potatoes bubbling in potatoes mornay sauce shot through with bacon and chives); masala-flavored fried onion strings served with turmeric yogurt; and the Underbelly classic “Lamburger Helper” refashioned as a beef-forward “Steakhouse Helper.” There are also new steak bolsters of add-ons such as crab Rockefeller, roasted garlic butter and chimichurri sauce.

These newbies join familiar Georgia James menu items such as bone marrow with pecan pesto, tuna tartare with crispy rice, smoked redfish dip, iceberg “slab” salad with blue cheese and bacon lardons, fried chicken with dirty rice, and whole roasted lobster with cornbread stuffing and garlic herb butter. And, of course, the beef: 44 Farms strips, ribeyes and porterhouses; American and Japanese Wagyu; and the showy big spender cut of dry-aged long bone ribeye.

The dry-aged long bone ribeye, photographed Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at Georgia James steakhouse in Houston.
The dry-aged long bone ribeye, photographed Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at Georgia James steakhouse in Houston.Jon Shapley/Staff photographer

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