Now Open: One Fifth Romance Languages Debuts In Montrose

In keeping with the plan announced when business partners chef Chris Shepherd, Kevin Floyd, Whitney Mercilus and Steve Flippo took over the former Mark’s American Cuisine space, One Fifth Steakhouse had ended (for now, at least) and One Fifth Romance Languages has begun.

It is the second of five restaurant concepts expected to be brought to life in the 90-year-old former cathedral. One Fifth Romance Languages will end next July, making way for a third kind of restaurant: One Fifth Fish.

Ultimately, Shepherd’s project is a restaurant incubator. According to a press release, the steakhouse concept was so successful that Shepherd is looking for a permanent home for it, now that One Fifth Romance Languages is up and running.

One Fifth Romance Languages is Shepherd’s first European restaurant. To prepare, he trained in Italy for two weeks learning about the culture as well as the cuisine. “Two weeks in Italy wasn’t nearly enough, but the experience was invaluable, ” said Chris. “I met amazing people who showed me their cuisine and their ingredients through their eyes and through their personal stories. I hope the sense of place I discovered in Europe translates on a plate to my guests. If so, One Fifth Romance Languages is a success in my book.”

Duck Heart Bolognese
Duck Heart Bolognese at One Fifth Romance Languages. Photo by Julie Soefer

Back in Houston, chef de cuisine Nick Fine trained the cooks on techniques for preparing classic dishes, such as suckling pig presse which Fine says requires 24- to 30-pound milk-fed pigs. For carbonara, which requires very rich egg yolks to be at is very best, One Fifth Romance Language is sourcing cage-free eggs from Yonder Way Farms and Knopp Branch Farms. Classic dishes are subject to unique interpretation. Bolognese, for example, will make use of duck hearts.

Other inventions include a “textures of mushroom” salad—with the main ingredient presented raw, hearth roasted, pickled, pureed, dried and cooked into granola, all in one dish. Cordon Bleu-trained pastry director Victoria Dearmond (who attended the Austin campus of the French culinary school) is getting the opportunity to go back to her culinary training with desserts that include Cherry Frangipane Tart and Budino (a type of custard) that incorporates hazelnuts from an Italian farm that Shepherd discovered on his travels.

In classic European style, the menu is divided into four appropriately-sized courses: antipasto, segundo (second course), plato principal (main entrée) and familia. (There are different but similar terms for these courses across Europe.)

Suckling Pig Presse at One Fifth Romance Languages
Suckling Pig Presse with White bean puree, charred broccolini and red pepper mustarda at One Fifth Romance Languages. Photo by Julie Soefer

Not everything from the steakhouse menu has disappeared. The crowd-pleasing seafood and charcuterie tower with terrines, rillettes, king crab legs and seafood salad is a holdover (Shepherd calls it the “Big Dog Tower”) as are the towers that focus on either charcuterie or seafood. Ditto for the American whiskey program. Owners Kevin Floyd and Chris Shepherd partnered with Agricole Hospitality’s Morgan Weber to form the Houston Bourbon Consortium. Hence, One Fifth Romance Languages currently sports five single-barrel offerings sourced by the trio and those will be replaced by new ones throughout the year.

On the beverage side: the wine, cocktails, beers and spirits program has taken a matching European turn. Wine director Matthew Pridgen’s list emphasizes Old World wines from France, Italy, Spain, Austria and Germany, but keeps a few New World ones to accommodate guests’ preferences.

Bar manager Eli Beckmann has retooled the cocktail program to incorporate cognac, fino sherry grappa and Armagnac. The gin and tonic is made with Spanish tonic and fino sherry while the Armagnac makes an appearance in the Gascon Cobbler (name for the French region where Armagnac is made).

The snappy reds and blues of One Fifth Steakhouse have given way to a more romantic look. Floyd and Collaborative Projects worked on a new interior design scheme that features paler greens, blues and purples. Fabric draped across the ceiling softens the look and the awning over the bar lends some gentle definition.

One Fifth is open Sundays and Mondays from 5 to 10 p.m. and Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5 to 11 p.m. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made online.

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