"It's a very honest kitchen," jokes Oliver Badgio, senior vice president of Restaurant 44 Concepts. He's talking about the Phoenix steakhouse, Steak 44, where the kitchen is entirely surrounded in glass, allowing a full view of what the chefs are up to–making it, presumably, a clean one too. The kitchen will be encased in the same museum-like display when the restaurant's sequel, Steak 48, opens in the plush River Oaks District shopping center later this spring.
When brothers Jeffrey and Michael Mastro first announced their expansion to the Bayou City last summer, they planned to call the restaurant Steak 45. But they've decided to change the numeral from 45 to 48. "Arizona is the 48th state—we thought that was a little clever," Jeffrey Mastro explains. "We wanted it to be unique to its own city, then our nod to our home state."
The Phoenix culinary team is currently planning the opening Houston location's menu, which Mastro says will be very similar to the one at the original restaurant. The chefs have been traveling to Galveston to research seafood sourcing and plan to use local produce whenever feasible. "We spend a lot of time on getting as much local food as we can," Mastro says. "It always helps with the freshness and the quality." That seafood will find its way onto a well-stocked raw bar, while fruit may be grilled and served with burrata. Corn might be sautéed with cilantro or turned into a savory crème brûlée on the nearly 20-item menu of side dishes.
The company is also keeping local in its choice of chef. Mastro says he and his team are close to choosing a Houstonian to run the new restaurant's kitchen. They're also on the lookout for an in-house butcher to reduce primal cuts to steaks before wet-aging them for 28 days in an onsite, USDA-approved facility. "That’s a very important part of our concept. The way we cut our meat is a very specific way," Mastro says.
But Mastro and Badgio are quick to point out that theirs is not a traditional steakhouse. "It's not your typical dark wood, Scotch drinking kind of place," says Mastro. The design is bright and contemporary, and so are the desserts.
Like this beignet tree, which will be served at Steak 48. The fried dough is skewered on metal branches, then dusted with a snow of powdered sugar. On the side, there's vanilla crème anglaise and Nutella for dipping. The dessert has so much personality, it has merited its own Twitter feed. Beignet Tree, we'll be happy to see you in the springtime.