The dramatic dining room at Guard & Grace

Image: Jenn Duncan

ANOTHER CELEBRITY CHEF has planted roots downtown: Denver-based Troy Guard made his Houston premiere late last year with the 15,000-square-foot Guard and Grace at One Allen Center. It’s the second location for the high-end steakhouse—Guard’s TAG Restaurant Group operates the original in Denver, plus seven other concepts around the country.

Our two-story iteration includes three bars, a section of coveted kitchen-facing seating, and a glass-walled wine room filled with more than 6,800 bottles. Big and bold is the order of the day here, from the 5,280 copper rods dangling from the sky-high ceiling for dramatic effect (and representing Denver’s elevation) to the mural featuring lyrics for ZZ Top’s “Sharp-Dressed Man,” to the $400—yes, $400—gold-flecked “Millionaire Fajitas” that set the local food media ablaze when they debuted. While we decided not to blow our budget on that particular entrée, we can confirm that, elsewhere, Guard’s menu lives up to the stadium-sized rock ‘n’ roll fantasy.

The hamachi crudo, topped with Pop Rocks

Image: Jenn Duncan

The chef might not be the first to spill Pop Rocks onto yuzu-sauced yellowtail slices, but the raw bar item is witty, and the texture of exploding candy against silky hamachi and raw jalapeño works perfectly. Other mighty fine starters include Gochujang pork ribs, which bring the heat, and chicken-fried Texas quail pieces with Fresno chile hot sauce, which I could pop all night long.

Steaks are exceptional, rubbed with a proprietary blend, grilled, then finished with a spoon of demi-glace. The Prime filet mignon is imbued with a beautiful, lightly smoky flavor, and I have a newfound appreciation for hanger steak, that cousin to skirt, which appears here as a brilliantly tender Angus cut. Toppings include a luxurious béarnaise, but the demi-glace is all you need.

The non-beef entrées bring it, too. I loved the Szechuan Colorado lamb rack with its peppery bark, though I wasn’t sure how the advertised “dragon sauce,” which tasted more like a buttery reduction, was considered Szechuan. The menu description is apt, however, when it comes to the awesome snapper, topped with a feisty tomato and serrano sauce, jalapeños, and various herbs.

The desserts I most enjoyed felt refreshing after a big meal, especially the fluffy goat-cheese cheesecake topped with Anjou pears and blond-chocolate ganache, and the soft zucchini cake with snappy ginger ice cream.

The disappointments here have one thing in common: truffles. I found the truffle mac and cheese too pungent, and don’t even think about ordering Truff Luck, a Manhattan-ish drink made with stifling truffle-infused Old Forester bourbon. Instead, opt for a Colfax & Holly, the restaurant’s dirty martini served with a rosemary, gorgonzola, and prosciutto–stuffed olive for an extra thrill.

All those truffles, and the gold-flecked fajitas, can make Guard and Grace feel a little gimmicky. An evening here will be expensive no matter what you order— it is a steakhouse, after all—but the service doesn’t always match the prices or the glitzy environs. During one of my visits it was downright slow. If G&G fixes that and focuses on the already-fantastic steaks, there’s no doubt it will be a huge success.

The excellent hanger steak.

Image: Jenn Duncan

What to order

  • Hamachi crudo
  • Gochujang pork ribs
  • Angus hanger steak

Price

  • Raw bar and sushi $17–42
  • Seafood tower $85–160
  • Charcuterie and cheese $8–26
  • Starters $12–24
  • Salads $8–14
  • Steaks $24–108
  • Entrées $44–56
  • Steak toppings $3–29
  • Sides $12–16
  • Potatoes $7–28

Guard and Grace. One Allen Center, 500 Dallas St. 346-326-0789

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