First Bite: Andiron Brings Elegant Steakhouse Fare & Outstanding Service to Montrose

Andiron dishes

Just after Michael Sambrooks of Sambrooks Management Company announced he was closing 1751 Sea and Bar, the owner of The Pit Room and Candente  bounced back with the opening of Andiron on April 19. The highly anticipated, live-fire steakhouse concept is located at 3201 Allen Parkway.

Taking the company’s expertise for barbecue and grilling into the fine dining arena, Sambrooks has tapped into Michelin Star power with executive chef Louis Maldonado, who brings his experience from French Laundry and Cortez. Maldonado’s team is rounded out by chef de cuisine Mario Da Silva and pastry chef Katie O’Hara

Intrigued by the cooking-over-live-fire concept, I made a reservation within the first few days of its opening, mindful that new restaurants need a little time to iron out kinks in service and execution. There was little need for concern: my first visit was just about as perfect as a dining experience can be, and while on my subsequent visits there were a few missteps in the food, the service was just as exceptional. Restaurant veteran Jose Montufar, formerly of Café Annie, oversees the white-glove level of service, yet the overall restaurant is still casual and comfortable — attentive but unobtrusive. 

Andiron Dining Room
Andiron Main Dining Room. Photo by Julie Soefer.

The attractive interior, designed by the firm AvroKO, is modern yet warm. The 28-foot-long chandelier that floats over the marble-topped bar serves as a beautiful centerpiece for the bar dining area, while the main dining room has a view into the kitchen and of the 22-foot live-fire grill. The best seats in the house may be the chef’s counter, situated directly in front of all the action.

Our server explained that Andiron blends traditional steakhouse fare with unique small plates of seasonal, fresh ingredients meant for sharing. Each dish on the menu has some element of live fire or smoke. Alongside the main menu is a Daily Reserves menu of special dishes and cuts of meat such as Snow Beef Wagyu and a Brandt Beef Porterhouse.

Fresh baked focaccia
Fresh baked focaccia bread at Andiron. Photo by Minh Truong.

The focaccia bread service to start was a sign of delicious things to come. It arrived at the table accompanied by cold pressed olive oil for dipping. The crust of the bread was crispy, buttery, and salty, while the interior was light, fluffy and slightly chewy. A selection of raw oysters from Alabama and Texas were as good as expected and made more exciting by the unusual accompaniment of sea grapes (a type of seaweed grown in shallow waters) that added extra brininess and the housemade cocktail BBQ sauce that had a hint of smokiness. 

Foie Gras Eclair
Eclairs filled with foie gras mousse. Photo by Minh Truong.

From the selection of Daily Reserves, the Foie Gras Éclair is playful and unique. The choux pastry, because of its neutral flavor and airy texture, was the perfect vehicle for the rich foie gras mousse.

The Coal Roasted Beet Salad was ordered each visit. It is a simple dish but well-executed. The different-colored beets are served alongside grilled celery and topped with roasted pecans. Grilling the celery took away the strong bite, transforming it to a mild savoriness that complemented the sweetness of the beets. 

Turbot and Golden Osetra Caviar
Turbot topped with Golden Osetra Caviar. Photo by Minh Truong.

The breaded-and-fried balls of turbot (flatfish with firm, white flesh and a delicate, mild flavor) topped with Golden Osetra Caviar is an indulgent bite. The crunch from the fried fish exterior  and slight sweetness of the flesh were welcome foils to the smooth texture and sea-saltiness of the caviar. 

Wagyu Saucisson Sando
Wagyu Saucisson Sando with black truffle. Photo by Minh Truong.

While most of the small dishes were wins, there were a few blunders. The Wagyu Saucisson Sando with black truffle was disappointing. Using the Wagyu in a saucisson preparation (air-dried, cured sausage, similar to salami) made it bland and dense. If I hadn’t been told it was Wagyu, I wouldn’t have known. It was also salty — to the point that we sent it back. They were gracious about our critique and took it off our final bill. The clams casino was also lackluster. The ingredients described on the menu included bacon, Noilly Prat (French dry vermouth), chili and finger lime. None of these flavors were discernible, and the clams were gritty. At a price of $21 for four very small clams, this is a dish I would not order again. 

12 oz Black Angus Picanha. Photo by Minh Truong.

As to be expected, the meat entrées steal the show, particularly the picanha. This is a cut not normally seen outside of Brazilian churrascarias, but it should be. The picanha is a beef cut from the rump area. There’s very little fat within the meat itself, but the overlay of fat adds flavor as it cooks. The beef at Andiron comes from Niman Ranch, is grilled simply, served with a sprinkle of coarse salt and comes with housemade chimichurri. Perfectly cooked to medium rare, the steak is tender and juicy, and the beefy flavor stands on its own so that the chimichurri went mostly uneaten. Paired with the Pommes Anna, a side of thinly sliced, crispy cooked potatoes, it was an ideal version of steakhouse meat and potatoes. 

Pommes Anna
Pommes Anna at Andiron. Photo by Jenn Duncan.

For those looking for something more traditional, the 21-ounce Niman Ranch ribeye comes expertly seasoned and charred. A side of Wood-Roasted Maitake (or Hen of the Woods mushrooms) in brown butter sauce was a great complement to the meat thanks to the citrusy, earthy finish. The Atlantic cod is a fine alternative to the meat options. The flaky, delicate fish is paired with grilled spring onions and finished with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Chocolate Cake with Yuzu Caramel and Roasted Kumquats
Chocolate Cake with Yuzu Caramel and Roasted Kumquats. Photo by Minh Truong.

Dessert should not be missed, and the Chocolate Cake with Yuzu Caramel and Roasted Kumquats is a perfect finish. The chocolate cake is not too heavy or overly sweet, and is balanced by the yuzu’s citrus notes and kumquat’s tanginess. An off-the-menu key lime pie is tart and sweet with a buttery crust, and the rose shaped meringue is toasted to a beautiful brown. 

Branded Ice
Andiron branded ice. Photo by Jenn Duncan.

Renato Bringas, the beverage and service director who is a Court of Masters Advanced Sommelier, has curated a classic cocktail list that includes martinis — both vodka and gin — a gin and tonic with Botanist Gin, Amaro (an Italian herbal liqueur) and Fever Tree tonic; a rum old fashioned with spiced turbinado and bitters; and a barrel-aged Manhattan with Knob Creek Rye, Averna (an Italian bitter liqueur) and port. Andiron literally puts its signature on the cocktails with ice that is stamped with its logo and name. Bringas also oversees the 500+ plus bottle wine cellar with a wide range of selections from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Spain, and California.

1751 Sea & Bar was one of my favorite restaurants in Houston because of the consistently good food, the stellar drinks and an atmosphere that was fit for any occasion — a first date, a milestone celebration or just a happy hour after work. Andiron evokes the same feeling. It isn’t stuffy and refreshingly eschews over-the-top trendiness. The dishes are innovative but are also examples of how quality ingredients only need to be simply prepared to shine. Sometimes, you don’t need the fanfare of smoke and mirrors in the presentation but rather just a little bit of smoke and fire on the grill.

Andiron is currently open daily starting at 4 p.m. for cocktails and dinner service beginning at 5 p.m. Reservations are recommended and can be made on Resy.

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