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Fine Dining at Perry’s
Drinks, Steaks, Chops and… Turtle?
We were invited to Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille in Sterling Ridge, to sample a somewhat broad spectrum of the menu, and were happy to take them up on the invitation. If you don’t get into Perry’s often, you may not know that they have undergone some rather elaborate and extensive renovations. The dining room is open and airy, yet with the warm brown tones and rich furnishings and linens, still intimate. There are nine private dining rooms, which can accommodate parties from eight to 150. Gone are the clinical blues and whites of yester-year, the whole scene is elegant and inviting.
From The Bar
We arrived at the tail end of Social Hour, and business was brisk. During happy hour, there are some fantastic deals in the bar (called Bar 79), including half-off select wines and appetizers, and signature Pick Three Mini-Martinis; a flight of three of their 11 martinis with ingredients fresh from the kitchen to the bar ($12). I opted to try the trio of cocktails, and selected a Pineapple Ginger Mojito, a Raspberry Crusta and a Cucumber Blueberry Martini, while he had a Grand Smash ($12), which is a kind of an adult lemonade refresher with a hint of orange, made with freshly muddled lemons and mint shaken with Grand Marnier. Of my trio, my favorite was easily the pineapple-ginger mojito. I also enjoyed the cucumber blueberry martini, which I didn’t know I would like – I mean, come on, cucumber? But it actually almost tasted like pink lemonade. Refreshing, really.
For our appetizers, we sampled a half order of the Appetizer Trio ($29.95) – which included Perry’s signature fried asparagus topped with jumbo lump crab meat, the cherry pepper calamari, and the homemade polish sausage. The fried asparagus is good, though like all asparagus is a little tough at the ends, though this can easily be overlooked for the crab meat, which is of the highest quality and has excellent flavor and texture. Don’t let the the name “cherry pepper calamari” fool you, as it is almost unforgivably spicy. Even for both of us with our penchant for peppers, we found ourselves reaching for bites of their house-recipe bread as a palate cleanser – so proceed with caution. The polish sausage is superb, as one would expect from some place that began as a modest butcher shop, way back in 1979. Is it too soon to say ‘last century’?
While we were waiting for our salads, we sampled the turtle soup, because you can’t be a foodie and not be willing to try new things. Both of us were pleasantly surprised. Of course, if you’ve ever had turtle soup, you won’t be. But if you haven’t, turtle soup has the consistency of a soupy chili, a mild flavor, with just the slightest hint of fishiness, from the fish stock used as its base. He compared it to a spaghetti sauce, only much milder than the zesty sauces he prefers with his pasta.
Because we couldn’t decide on just one salad – and Erin, our server, informed us of their larger-than-expected amplitude – we asked for two different salads, and had one of those split to sample the different house-made dressings available. The chopped salad with apple wood smoked bacon we split, having one half served with the Homemade Italian Dressing and the other half with the Homemade Buttermilk Vinaigrette. The second salad we opted for was the field green, pear & candied pecan salad, which comes with the Homemade Italian Dressing. We found both of the salads to be very lightly dressed, not drowned*, which better allows the crisp vegetable flavors to stand out. Of course, he prefers a little more dressing anyway, and Erin happily brought more of the Homemade Italian Dressing to the table. In the second salad, those candied pecans were the bomb. Ironically, when our salads first arrived, the second salad was sans pecans. Ironic because they arrived just moments after Chef Chris Baughman had left our table, therefore having been prepared while he was out of the kitchen. Based on the intensely embarrassed reactions of Erin, then Rebecca (the General Manager), you’d think they were apologizing for a live cow having meandered through the dining room, not some missing garnish. But actually, that’s the level of ownership everyone there at Perry’s seems to share. And they wouldn’t hear of just bringing a ramekin of candied pecans to us, they remade the entire salad.
She Said: Let it never be said that the entrée portions coming out of Perry’s kitchen are too small. We let Erin recommend what she felt were the two most popular and/or best entrées Perry’s puts out, so she suggested the Chateaubriand (an off-menu special) and Perry’s Famous Pork Chop. And then I went and asked if I could sample the Tomato Basil Pasta with Grilled Beef Tenderloin on top of that. What was I thinking? There was no way all of this food was going to be consumed in one sitting. The sample of the pasta I recieved was just half of a lunch portion – a dinner portion would have been more than twice that – and it was still more than enough.
Mr. Perry’s family is Italian, and dishes like the tomato basil pasta are his grandmother’s recipe. Though I only tried a couple of bites of the pasta that night, the sauce was delightful. The tenderloin medallions in the pasta were prepared extremely rare, to the point that they were cool in the center, which I shared with Erin. Some of you may consider a cool red center delightful, but I like mine with a little more heat than that. Of course she insisted on replacing the dish for me, but I persevered in turning her down, because seriously, as soon as the dishes began coming to the table I knew I heavy-laden to-go bag was coming home.
The Chateaubriand for One ($42.95) and Perry’s Famous Pork Chop are both carved table-side. Diego, Perry’s flambé artiste, made short work of dividing the beautiful six-ounce filet into three, fork-tender slices, which Rebecca then dressed with three, house-made sauces. The creamy Béarnaise sauce was our favorite, followed by the truffle merlot, then the roasted peppercorn demi-glace. Crafting a good Béarnaise can take years to perfect, considering it’s made of such simple ingredients as an egg yolk, a little tarragon vinegar, shallots, and clarified butter. Chef Chris makes all of his own sauces and they are excellent.
He Said: While Diego carved the Chateaubriand for One, Rebecca came back to the table to carve the pork chop. Perry’s Famous Pork Chop ($34.95) comes with instructions. Once it’s carved, they recommend you start you with the eyelash, for the juices, then move on to the ribs, where the most flavor resides at the bone, finally the eye of the loin, to eat with the house made applesauce. The rub and sauce on the pork chop are very good, but as we sampled each other’s dishes, the Chateaubriand was easily my favorite. I’d had the chop once before several years ago, and remember it the same. Consistent quality and service is the main stay at Perry’s Steak House where they strive to provide the same at all of their locations.
On The Side
We really didn’t need any sides, what with the appetizers and salads, but you really shouldn’t pass on the Au Gratin Potatoes ($9.95). So much warm, melty, cheesy, buttery, potato-y goodness would be a terrible thing to miss out on.
Knowing full well we would maybe get down perhaps one bite each of the desserts, we none-the-less let ourselves be talked into trying two different dishes while we savored our cups of decaf. Perry’s serves Royal Cup coffee, which is wonderful, and our two decaf coffees were mild and had good flavor.
Though Perry’s is known for the Nutty d’Angelo, we opted for two others, the first being the Rocky Road Bread Pudding ($9), and the second requiring Diego to return to our table and flambé, the Mont Blanc a la Frisc ($10). He starts with butter, then adds some sweetened condensed milk followed by a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream and Belgian white chocolate shavings, which, just as they’ve all melted together, he tosses in a half-shot of rum to flambé. This lovely sauce (perfect for stirring into that decaf, by the way) is then poured over a little stack of vanilla ice cream atop a homemade sponge cake along with freshly cut strawberries. For all it’s pageantry, though, we both found the rocky road bread pudding to be exquisite, with it’s mile high marshmallow topping. As an added bonus, with no ice cream in the mix, the butterscotch bread pudding with chocolate chips in a caramel sauce, topped with candied walnuts and toasted homemade marshmallow transported home easily enough.
The Staff, The Service, The Care
Perry’s is definitely a place to go if you want to feel like part of the family, or like Cheers, where everybody knows your name. Every staff member we interacted with throughout the evening, as well as those we observed in the dining room, performed with the utmost professionalism. Everyone took ownership and showed pride in what they did, and were all eager to lend a helping hand at any point to a fellow staffer if needed. There was never once someone standing around daydreaming, or checking their facebook on their phone, or chit-chatting with other staff members. And if anyone working there is new, it certainly doesn’t show. Those that we actually spoke with are all long-time industry trained. Chef Chris Baughman started in the restaurant business as a dishwasher at 15, then worked his way up before graduating from The Art Institute of Houston in 2004. He joined the Perry’s family as a chef de partie six years ago, before moving on to executive sous and is now the executive chef.
Rebecca Munns, the general manager, has been with Perry’s for the better part of a decade, and prior to that, had spent a number of years at all levels of service in various restaurants. And Erin, the tiny little server (seriously, she’s all of four-foot-nine-and-a-half-inches; she’s not short, she’s concentrated awesome!) has been with Perry’s for nearly as long as Rebecca.
So in conclusion, would we go again? Yes. And would we recommend you go, too? Absolutely. Perry’s isn’t exactly a quick bite, grab a burger on the way home kind of place (though it could be, at least during happy hour inside the bar) but should definitely be on the short list of placed to consider for a nice, quiet, leisurely meal, whether celebrating a birthday, aniversary, or something far more formal.