THERE'S AN ELITE club of beautiful Houston restaurants that, after long seasons of thoughtful planning and painstaking development, were forced to make their debuts during the trying days — especially for the food and beverage industry — of the Covid era. Bludorn, Ostia and the spectacular Indian palace that is the Galleria's Musaafer are members. And so is a wonderful gem of a place that may have gotten a bit less attention because it only has 40 seats and, by design, is just a bit off the radar: Master restaurateur Ben Berg's clubby, dimly lit Turner's, literally under the stairs of Berg and famed chef Robert del Grande's sprawling The Annie Café & Bar.
Stepping into Turner's is a bit of an adventure, amid the tinkling ambiance of a mahogany piano and the gently flickering candlelight of table lamps, passing a small black-marble bar and entering a narrow shotgun-style hall of a space with soaring ceilings. Forest green walls are chock full of old paintings in gold-gilded frames, and there's tufted leather everywhere, all decorated in the way one might imagine the grand libraries of the robber barons of hundred-years-ago New York. You pretty much must have a Manhattan or Old Fashioned to sip, and a lingering smile for the swells.
The food here is as decadent as the environment (which, by the way, is kicked up a notch further with live vocalists accompanying the pianist on weekends). There's an emphasis on wow-factor fun, with lots of tableside panache — as in the wedge salad that gets bacon added by the servers, who slice bits right off a fully cooked slab before your eyes. Indeed, finishing touches — a ladle of gravy here, a sprinkling of spicy honey something there — are added to almost everything on the table.
There's a killer burger and an over-the-top Rueben sandwich on the menu, and even a Wagyu hot dog, but it's hard not to choose a more traditional multicourse meal, that really must begin with the steak tartare and foie gras combo; expect a big thick is-this-all-for-me? disc of the latter. Mains include the Ambassador's Meatloaf that comes with a fried egg and oxtail gravy on top, and a rich Lobster Thermidor.
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