The Renewed Robard’s Steakhouse In The Woodlands Features A Perfectly Elegant Sunday Brunch
Robard’s Steakhouse, which originally opened at 2301 North Millbend in The Woodlands in 2014, recently underwent a remodel and its fresh new look is now up for public consumption. Its moniker is after Howard Hughes Jr.’s middle name. There are historical portraits of the legendary movie mogul, pilot and inventor and the things he loved on the walls — airplanes, sports teams and movie cameras, to name a few.
The company that owns it (and most of The Woodlands) is Dallas-based parent company Howard Hughes Corporation. If the goal of summoning Hughes’ ghost is to evoke a sense of class, style and just generally make patrons feel well cared-for, then Robard’s certainly succeeds.
(If you want to go down a long, deep rabbit hole on how the restaurant came to be, do some research on Hughes, George Mitchell, The Woodlands and Howard Hughes Corporation. It’s a long, winding story that should prove interesting to anyone who has an interest in businesses and how they evolve.)
I was invited to visit for Sunday brunch and gain some familiarity with the restaurant and its staff. Having never been to the “old Robard’s” before, there was no basis for comparison between what used to be and what is. There is something to be said for a lack of preconceived notions. The time was brunch on a Sunday — the day after executive chef David Morris and pastry chef Ryan Witcher pulled off a remarkable double win of both the top savory and pastry awards at the The Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting & Chef Showcase.
(In fact, until July 31, Robard’s is offering 20-percent off dinner in celebration of the feat. Just mention the website offer when you make your reservation.)
Morris is also helping to re-do the menu and concept of the former Current and Sidebar spots at the Westin In The Woodlands. Those are debuting later this summer.
The brunch menu has a novel structure. In the bar area, which has a good view of the sprawling golf course and during the day gets a lot of natural light, is set up as a buffet. On the line are self-serve platter and towers of freshly baked breads, lox, traditional breakfast meats, cheeses, shrimp, oysters and more. On one side of it, an employee mans a rib eye carving station. (Why bother with a hunk of typical roast beef when you can just be serving up perfectly rare slices of rib eye?) That old (but ever-appreciated) saw, the made-to-order omelet station, sits right across from the rib eye station.
As the old pitchmen would say, “But wait, there’s more!” Not only do brunch-goers have access to the fancy all-you-can-eat spread, but they can also order a selection of hot, prepared dishes that sail out of the kitchen — up to four per table. On our visit day, the choices were a classic Benedict, Crab Benedict, Lemon Ricotta Pancakes, Texas Sticky Bun French Toast, chicken on a buttermilk biscuit with sage sausage gravy as well as lobster truffle macaroni and cheese. An assortment of breakfast meats and potatoes could also be ordered from the kitchen.
Of course there are mimosas and Bloody Marys, and yes, there are unlimited refills. One especially appreciated offering is that Robard’s offers to swap tequila for vodka in the Marys. The resulting drink is a Bloody Maria; one that has always seemed very appropriate for South Texas with its proximity to Mexico. Non-alcoholic beverages include sodas, coffee and iced tea.
The most spectacular display, though, is Ryan’s Pastry and Dessert Land. Located just to the right of the entrance is a huge, dark bookshelf. Nestled among the decorative items are at least a dozen plates of assorted fine pastries. In one area are tall, glass jars of chocolate-covered candies with bright candy coatings: blueberries in deep purple, green-hued pistachios and more. Witcher and his staff also create their own mini version of Kit-Kat bars.
A plucky bit of rebellion led to the spectacular display. “When they remodeled Robard’s, we lost our spot where we were putting pastries,” he said. “I saw this huge, beautiful bookcase. I got yelled at because they were worried I’d ruin the varnish on the wood. I told them I didn’t care and they could worry about it later.”
One platter holds chocolate-dipped strawberries accented on one side with a chocolate coin with graffiti-like splatters of edible “paint.” (Witcher says he uses Valrhona and Cacao Barry chocolates for his creations; the coins are brought in from a chocolatier in Las Vegas.) Another platter holds a tri-color sesame seed-coconut panna cotta. “We use macerated pineapple with vanilla sugar, a little chile pepper paste and white chocolate Valrhona pearls,” Witcher explained. “I spent a lot of time in Asia. I love their culture and food. Their desserts tend to be balanced, clean, healthier and with less sugar.”
There are simple, homey sweets, too, like Black Forest cake and Witcher’s chocolate chip cookies. The big hunks of chocolate are due to using chopped pistoles rather than typical chips or chunks. “This is my favorite cookie,” said Witcher. “Every chef has his or her own version of chocolate chip cookies. I use all three chocolates [white, dark and milk] so these are not too sweet or too dark.” There are also traditional coconut macaroons and French-style macarons.
All this free-flowing culinary wealth does cost a pretty penny — so make sure you’ve got the appetite to match. Brunch is $49 for adults and $18 for kids six to 12. Children 5 and under are free. (Robard’s planned ahead for kids and kids with tiny appetites, too. There’s an a la carte kids menu that includes the requisite chicken fingers and short stack pancakes.) Diners in The Woodlands who want to feel classy and well taken care of with more than a little style might discover that a regular trip to the Robard’s brunch spread becomes a dining out priority.
Robard’s Steakhouse is located at 2301 North Millbend on the grounds of The Woodlands Resort and Conference Center. The hours are Mondays through Thursdays from 4 to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 4 to 11 p.m. and Sunday brunch is from 11 to 3 p.m. Valet parking is available.