James Beard Award-winning California chef, cookbook author and restaurateur Bradley Ogden unveiled his second restaurant in Houston – Bradley’s Fine Diner – on Thursday, April 3. His first Houston outpost, the more casual and neighboring Funky Chicken, opened in December to mixed reviews and ignited more local debate as to what defines great fried chicken.
Odgen’s son, Bryan Ogden is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has worked with numerous celebrity chefs. He serves as this restaurant’s executive chef, turning out dishes inspired by decades of his father’s celebrated “modern American cooking” with an emphasis on local and seasonal cuisine.
Tucked away in a new strip center at 191 Heights Boulevard just south of I-10, BFD is an interesting juxtaposition — slightly elegant but mostly casual with a few funky touches. It’s a comfortable space, warmed by the use of reclaimed wood, subway tile and comfy upholstered banquettes. Service is attentive and spot-on in a way that immediately grabs your attention; it’s under the direction of general manager Sébastien Laval, who most recently was at Restaurant Cinq in La Colombe d’Or Hotel and before that at Hotel Zaza.
The menu might be described as Midwest-meets-California cuisine. We began a recent dinner with the bone marrow toast ($12) and tender popcorn rock shrimp ($14), both well executed. A third starter, the hand-cut fettuccine with Oregon morel mushrooms, asparagus and domestic parmesan ($23, photo at left), was a Spring-time dream of a pasta dish that could easily serve as a main serving.
Note: You will probably be surprised by the menu prices here in a place that calls itself a diner, as entrées range from $24 to $54. That seems quite ambitious. But I was impressed with the pan-roasted Atlantic black cod ($36) – beautifully cooked and served with coconut Carolina rice, heirloom zucchini and Gulf shrimp — while the “Bradley’s Yankee Pot Roast” ($28) was a memorable throwback with meltingly tender beef and pillowy garlic-herb dumplings.
Also worth noting is BFD’s bar program, which includes an American-driven wine list administered by sommelier Rob Ortiz. Mixologist Josh Durr has created a unique variety of custom, hand-crafted cocktails like the booze-infused “T-bird” featuring Texas vodka and gin, tonic and grapefruit and the cleverly named “Heights Buck” with Texas gin, brandy, house ginger syrup, lime, bitters and soda. There’s also a nice draft beer selection as one might expect at a diner.
Dessert options include dark chocolate banana cake with hazelnuts and malt ice cream. It is intensely rich and served topped with caramelized bananas (photo at right). I’ll be back to try the pineapple upside-down cake served with tapioca custard, almonds, passionfruit and a white chocolate milk shake.
Lunch service began this week and brunch starts this weekend, so I look forward to exploring those menus soon.
As for my first dining experience at BFD, I admit it was a bit of a splurge. But given the food and service, it has redeemed Ogden’s local reputation and already earned a spot on my list of restaurants for a celebratory meal. Look for the father-son team to open a third concept, Ogden’s Pour Society, in Memorial City Gateway in a few weeks.
Bradley’s Fine Diner, 191 Heights Blvd., just south of I-10, 832-831-5939, www.bradleysfinediner.com.