By Jim Ayres
I am not the demographic imagined by the creators of the JOEY Uptown chain when its first Texas location recently opened at The Galleria. No, that demographic would be the young, beautiful, well-dressed, and well-heeled — both patrons and staff.
Still, when looking for a new restaurant to try, I landed here and scored a bar seat without a reservation or wait.
JOEY Uptown was packed on a Tuesday at dusk. When I arrived, the valet asked my preference: front row or backlot. (The backlot would be just fine, thanks.) This being 2022, everything after that was handled by text. I got one telling me my car was secure. I responded back when I was ready to leave.
Which wasn’t anytime soon. Not because of slow service, but because of the constantly moving, jaw-dropping fashion show before me. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more attractive restaurant clientele in my life. Not in New York. Neither in Los Angeles nor Paris. Those cities have nothing on Houston!
And to punctuate it all, servers dressed in the chicest black swirled around with cocktails, wine, champagne, and the occasional food tray. I wondered out loud if JOEY doubled as a modeling agency.
Indeed, the subdued but not too dark lighting flattered everyone. My bar seat was comfortable, and I appreciated the even more subdued décor. After all, at JOEY, you’re the star!
I say all this not to mock, but to describe a legitimate attribute of the restaurant. And to my utter surprise, I must also say that the food and drink here are excellent.
JOEY’s menu offers lots of tempting treats. Among the small and sharing plates appear Korean Fried Cauliflower, Hummus, a Sichuan Chicken Wrap, Sliders, and the plate I ordered, which I’ll get to momentarily.
There’s a healthy selection of sushi and salads (this crowd may not need to count calories, but they fiendishly do). There are low-carb lettuce burgers and Impossible ones, too. Even the entrees seem friendly to the figure — Tuna Poke and Tofu Bowls, Salmon, and Sea Bass.
And for big spenders (well, if you order anything, that’s going to be you at JOEY) there’s a Steakhouse section with the usual carnivorous offerings.
My order was modest by comparison. I started with a $15 Mai Tai Crush featuring Bacardi Ocho and Black rums, almond orgeat, lime, and a stunning orchid garnish. That’s a lot to pay for Bacardi and change, but it was incredibly delicious and yes, I ordered another.
My meal was an amazing Steak and Lobster Ravioli plate. The portions weren’t oversized, but they were enough to satisfy. My sliced steak was nicely seasoned and a perfect medium-rare, while the ravioli was tender, creamy, and not at all stingy with fresh-tasting lobster.
And that’s it. I’d love to be able to tell you about dessert, maybe an appetizer, but my wallet had reached its limit. JOEY Uptown isn’t a restaurant I think will get better — it’s already there. They’re striking while the iron is hot, and before the beautiful people find their next “it” place.