The Four Seasons’ Smart Speakeasy and Spectacle-Savvy Latin Steakhouse Are Must-Do’s Downtown

Tomahawk steak with flaming Mezcal and herbs

DOWNTOWN'S GRAND OLD Four Seasons Hotel has been making huge strides in modernizing and sexing itself up, with largescale renovation projects over the course of a few years. But none of those efforts may be quite as impressive as its food and bev updates in recent months.

In just the last few weeks, the hotel has made its contribution, and a fine one at that, to the season’s wildfire craze — speakeasies. The intimate new eight-seat bar and small adjacent lounge is called Bandista Cocktail Laboratory, and you can only get there if a hotel employee shows you the way. They meet you in the lobby, take you up the staff elevator and through various backrooms, until they reach a bookshelf that’s actually a hidden door.

Although the entrance is cloak-and-dagger, the lamplit, Latinate vibe inside is warm and chatty. On a recent night, a hunky Brit bartender and his cute, tattooed hipster-gal colleague, both in bowties and smart vests, mixed up liquid treats from a menu divided into “1920s” — Vespers and Sidecars in delicate antique stemware, if you please — and “2020s.” In the latter category, the Fig Daisy has rum, English Breakfast tea, fig jam and a bit of lime. But the most popular seems to be the Dead Man Walking, which highlights absinthe and comes steaming (thanks to nitrogen) not in a glass but in its own dispenser; it’s an occasion of a drink and serves two.

You might be tempted to make a meal of the potato chips and French onion dip topped with caviar that Bandista offers for snacking, but absolutely have dinner at the hotel’s still-new restaurant Toro Toro nearby, touted as a pan-Latin steakhouse. On almost any given night it’s a bustling, urbane affair, with a worldly mix of business travelers putting their expense accounts through their paces and sometimes-rowdy locals enjoying the stellar variety of surf and turf on offer; “toro,” after all, means bull in Spanish and tuna in Japanese.

The seafood shines, especially in raw preparations, as in Hamachi ceviche with tart leche de tigre, little cubes of sweet potato and crunchy corn nuts. Other dishes range from comforting roast chicken to all-out spectacle, as in grilled Tomahawk steak piled high with fresh herbs and flamed with Mezcal tableside — and the must-get dessert which is (no lie) a hollow chocolate ball filled with ice cream and cakey bits and berry and vanilla sauces and smashed open with a mallet in the middle of the table.

Bandista Cocktail Laboratory

Sabores Navideños

Alto Rideshare Names Its Top Spots for Houston Restaurant Weeks!

HOUSTON FOODIES ARE out this month, and those in the know are getting from restaurant to restaurant in the rideshare service that has taken the industry by a storm.

Keep ReadingShow less

Mexology at Lyric Market

TO CLOSE OUT September, we’ve got restaurant announcements, new go-tos, and classic spots expanding to lovelier and larger digs. Let’s eat!

Keep ReadingShow less

Marcelo Saenz, Silvia Salle and Adrian Duenas

AROUND 400 HOUSTONIANS dressed up to party down at the Institute of Hispanic Culture of Houston's annual scholarship fundraiser. As with many of the city's best parties, the black-tie to-do was held in the ballroom of the Hilton Americas.

Keep ReadingShow less
People + Places