There's probably nothing in town like the seafood charcuterie board at 1751 Sea & Bar, the old Star Fish completely redone by Sambrooks Management Company (The Pit Room, Sam's Fried Chicken & Donuts, Pi Pizza).
Forget that the concept of "seafood charcuterie" is impossible. Point is, the same methods used in true charcuterie are employed at 1751, but with oysters (smoked at The Pit Room), salmon (cured), scallops (served conserva-style) and tuna (also cured, and called pastrami), and surprisingly, it's a fresh idea for Houston.
The seafood charcuterie (offerings may change depending on what's in house and fresh) will likely steal the headlines at 1751, which recently opened and brings together a few highly respected personalities in the city's culinary scene—culinary director Lyle Bento, formerly of Underbelly Hospitality; executive chef J.D. Woodward, formerly of La Vista 101; chef Michael Nutt, formerly of Cafe Rabelais; director of operations Steve Breaker—under the name of Sambrooks (Michael), who has quickly created something of an empire in the city.
How should you dive in? Besides the board, there are mussels pistou, hot chicken oysters karrage, crispy calamari in Alabama white sauce and jalapeños—possibly a nod to lesser-known Rhode-Island style calamari—a rich uni pasta, and a cheesy crawfish souffle. Oh, and a seafood tower.
Interludes include seafood salad, gumbo, and pickled green tomato and crab salad, while entrées span from grilled swordfish and salmon to ribeye and a vegetable pasta. If you want your shellfish warm, go with the Tom Yum Hot Pot: lobster, langoustine, rock shrimp, clams, scallops, mussels, and mushrooms in an acidic Thai chili broth and served with mint, rice, and chili peppers.
There are oysters from Massachusetts and Nova Scotia, tiger prawns from New Zealand, and halibut from Alaska. Of course, the Gulf will take precedence whenever it can, but 1751 won't settle for poor quality anywhere.
"Mostly it's the quality of the products," says Woodward. "We want to start people out with, 'Wow this is awesome,' and if we can't get it in the Gulf, where can we get it?"
There's also a sizable dessert list, with Woodward currently making the sweets (look for a spongey and sultry coconut cake).
At the bar, run by David Maness (who was at Star Fish), 1751 boasts more than 100 gins, which will constantly shift depending on availability, and they're shown off on gold-lined shelves behind a beautiful marble bar. Cocktails include Gin Lane, made with a rhubarb-infused gin and a bit more than a pinch of blood orange, and the Mama Qocha—Uncle Val's Peppered Gin with lemon, chicha morada, papaya, pineapple, toasted black pepper, cinnamon, Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cassis and egg white, served with corn nuts. There are also gin and tonics, mules, tiki offerings, and classic martinis (in a welcome move, half the martini is served in the glass while the other half is cooled over an ice bath). There's also a wine list trending toward new-world bottles, and a small selection of beer.
With the promise of high-quality seafood, a deep list of gins, and a dining room that can be a date night, a group party, or a casual happy hour with a dozen oysters and a martini, 1751 has a lot to live up to. Just more pressure for Sambrooks Management Company, whose portfolio has filled up quickly (and is only getting bigger). But early returns? The team looks ready to fulfill and possibly exceed expectations.
"We're really pushing each other all the time," says Woodward. "The interplay between Lyle and Steve and Mike and myself has been really loose and constructive, I think, which is a really good place to be in."