May 8, 2024

Hotel Zaza restaurant/lounge: A top-shelf lure to the District

One of the most gorgeous areas in the Greater Southeast Management District, indeed in all of Houston, is the Museum Park neighborhood — a verdant treasure with oak-shaded streets, internationally recognized museums, world-class medical facilities, and wonderful restaurants. And while there are plenty of places to eat, from Southern fare to sushi, there is one spot that stands out.

At the Monarch Restaurant and Lounge, inside the historic Hotel ZaZa, you might come for the view, but you’ll stay for the prime beef tenderloin sliders.

Originally the Warwick Hotel, opened in 1926, the towering 12-story U-shaped building looms over the entrance to Hermann Park. The spectacular Mecom Fountain, at the center of the Montrose and Main streets round-a-bout, is the hotel’s neighbor. The late comedian Bob Hope once called the view from the penthouse one of the best views in the world, one that rivaled those in Paris.

But the hotel’s regal, old-world charm was wearing a little thin when it was sold in 2005 to the owners of the swanky Hotel ZaZa in Dallas. The interior of the Houston hotel was changed to over-the-top swank, with a koi pond in the lobby, artful furniture, and a blow-up of Sinatra’s infamous 1938 mug shot on the wall.

The Monarch Restaurant and Lounge is a “little” more sedate. The 245-seat eatery incorporates three distinct spaces: a Baroque-inspired main dining room with high ceilings, plush appointments, and a champagne bar,; a tree-shaded terrace; and a more casual bar area. The bar features full menu service and does double duty as a late-night eatery with live DJs on Saturday nights.

Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Monarch has three menus: Brunch, main, and one for poolside hotel guests. ZaZa is valet parking only, with the Monarch offering free parking for diners who are not hotel guests. Do choose a table on the terrace with its amazing views of the fountains and the sculpture gardens of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. With potted plants and twinkling lights everywhere, it certainly is one of the loveliest terraces in town.

Start with the volcano salt garlic fries:  thin, crispy potatoes plated with a goat cheese ranch dressing. It’s tempting to fill up with a basket of these, but there are other enticing treats on the fairly short, but seasonally rotated, menu. The deviled egg trio is a winner, one is topped with caviar, while the lamp lollipops in a pistachio-mint sauce are a delight.

Larger plates include a blue crab and lemon butter linguini and the prime filet. But for the money, you can’t go wrong with the prime beef tenderloin sliders: three perfectly cooked patties topped with fried onions and gorgonzola in a horseradish demi glace for just $23. And they come with a basket of those fries.

— by Marene Gustin

Photos by Hotel Zaza and Marene Gustin