The group behind three Grand Award winners introduces a new seafood spot offering old Hollywood glamor and a French-forward wine list; plus, a new restaurant takes over the Jean-Georges space in Beverly Hills
Pappas Restaurants—owner of three Wine Spectator Grand Award winners in Texas—debuted its latest endeavor, Little’s Oyster Bar, in May in Houston’s trendy Montrose neighborhood. The new seafood spot takes inspiration from old Hollywood, with scintillating chandeliers, a bountiful raw bar, luxurious lobster platings, caviar service and a finely tuned wine list to match.
For Robert Smith, Pappas Restaurants’ fine spirits and expanding concepts wine director, it was an exciting challenge to develop a wine list for an upscale seafood restaurant aiming for a younger clientele, in contrast to the programs for the Pappas Bros. Steakhouses. “It’s got a different feel to it,” Smith explained to Wine Spectator. “The neighborhood is home to a lot of the new hip bars and restaurants, and we thought this place was a perfect location for Pappas to do something different, to create a space that is upscale but friendly and not stuffy. It just feels really good when you’re in there.”
The wine list sits at 250 labels, with a clear emphasis on Champagne (the list even indicates disgorgement dates for every bottling for which the information is available) and younger white Burgundies from the 2021 and 2020 vintages. This includes horizontals from Chablis to Corton-Charlemagne, with value bottlings throughout. The list also spotlights Smith’s passion for white wines from the Loire Valley, Spain and Austria, among other regions, with vertical and horizontal depth.
But if you prefer pairing red wine with fish, Smith has curated a list of seafood-friendly picks, including Beaujolais and select California Cabernets. “With the reds, the challenge was holding back,” said Smith. “I was trying to keep the red selection at around 15 percent of the list, but now we’re hovering at like 20 percent. There’s just all these great red Burgundies—and the ‘21 Beaujolais that were being released—and I just couldn’t help myself. I had to grab a few things while they were available!”
Little’s also offers an aperitif-focused cocktail program from bar manager Oliver Brooks, which includes some refreshing, lower-alcohol beverages as well as fuller-proof tipples like a Golden Martini accented with chamomile, grapefruit and licorice.
Seafood is, of course, the star of the menu, and chef Jason Ryczek lets the quality of his ingredients speak for themselves. Alongside Maine lobster and Atlantic yellowfin tuna, there are fruits de mer from the Texas Gulf Coast, brought in each morning by Pappas’ own boats. Dishes include crab claws with creole aioli, shrimp with pomegranate cocktail sauce and Texas redfish with Castelvetrano olive salsa verde. One of Ryczek’s main focuses is caviar: He has partnered with California Caviar Company for several years and travels to California each October to help with harvesting. (The Little’s menu features caviar from six white sturgeons Ryczek selected himself.)
The Little’s space is intimate, featuring 80 seats indoors and 50 on a patio with a retractable roof. Evy Pappas, design director of her family’s restaurant group, fashioned the bright, retro-style restaurant to be inviting and comfortable, with details like Ryczek’s culinary drawings lining the entrance. The restaurant also features the original neon sign from Little Pappas Seafood House, which previously occupied the Little’s space.
Little’s Oyster Bar is open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner service.—J.L.