Pop-Up Pros: With Impressive Partners from Far and Wide, Four Seasons Houston Ups the Game

Pop-Up Pros: With Impressive Partners from Far and Wide, Four Seasons Houston Ups the Game

Smoked Salmon Cheesecake with Emeril’s Reserve Caviar

THE POP-UP CULINARY trend — when great chefs from elsewhere take over a local restaurant for a night or two — continues to be a hot in Houston. But as the novelty of the concept fades to been-there-done-that, pop-up purveyors must be increasingly clever to attract savvy foodies.

Enter Four Seasons Hotel Houston, which seems to have gotten the pop-up play down to a science, partnering with buzzed-about restaurants (and bars) from around the country, and wrangling in full houses for their high-dollar events. On Sunday and Monday nights earlier this week, the chef and crew from famous Emeril’s in New Orleans served a decadently devised tasting menu to sold-out dining rooms.

“We love tapping into our great network of talented and award-winning friends to bring exclusive and extraordinary experiences here to H-Town for guests to partake in,” says GM Tom Segesta. “As the city's Downtown destination, Houstonians and visitors can always count on something great happening here at Four Seasons Hotel Houston.”

The Emeril’s pop-up may have been as notable for who wasn’t there — the “Bam!” Man himself, Emeril Lagasse. Running the show instead, and impressively so, was Lagasse’s chef son, who is all of 21 years old and as boyishly good-looking as he is chatty and charming. He’s running the restaurant back home, too, by the way.

Having entered the bespoke dining space through the Four Season’s hidden-away-but-not-really-wink-wink speakeasy-style bar Bandista — which on its own is worth a trip Downtown, with its complex cocktails served by bartenders in dashing prohibition-era dress — guests enjoyed a regal, Big Easy-blessed menu. The $195 dining experience began with nibbles of foie gras mousse and a tequila-and-sherry-spiked spin on a traditional New Orleans Crusta cocktail, this one sweetened fancifully with cotton candy that melted away when the booze hit the flute.

Courses that followed included a smoked salmon “cheesecake” with delicate layers of creole cream cheese, smoked salmon, caviar and flecks of edible gold; a rich oyster cream stew with (more) foie gras and mushrooms; Emeril’s classic Potato Alexa with shaved black truffles; seared Wagyu steak with daube glacé; and banana cream pie for dessert. Young Chef E.J. himself brought the potato dish to this reporter’s table, cheerfully telling its origin story and how it came to be named after Billy Joel’s daughter.

Big spenders were offered thoughtful wine pairings with each course. Very big spenders could opt for even more special pairings, for an extra $315 for the five pours.

The Emeril’s pop-up follows another one in February in which trendy New York speakeasy Employees Only took over Bandista for two nights of reservation-only mixology. Seatings of 90 minutes each were offered, for guests to sip the most famous of the famous bar’s delights, served up by Employees Only’s best barkeeps. Fans of fancy cocktails eagerly filled the slots over two nights. The vibrantly purple Amelia was a fave, with vodka, St-Germain, sweetened blackberry puree and lemon juice poured into a perky coupe.

Four Seasons says the fun has only just begun. New Orleans’ acclaimed Jewel of the South bar will pop up in June — dates to be announced soon. “Houstonians can also look forward to at least two additional Bandista pop-ups,” says a hotel rep, “and can consider the Emeril's pop-ups as the first of a soon-to-be-announced quarterly celebrity chef pop-up series!”

E.J. Lagasse

Potato Alexa with Truffle and Parmesan Mornay

Wagyu and Daube Glacé with Baby Lettuces and Beef Jus

Banana Cream Pie


A cocktail by Employees Only

An Amelia cocktail from Employees Only

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