photo credit: Richard Casteel

Theodore Rex review image

Theodore Rex


1302 Nance St Ste A, Houston
View WebsiteEarn 3X Points

In 2012, a restaurant called Oxheart opened downtown with a new perspective on fine dining for Houstonians. The tasting menu was minimalist and severe and the servers wore leather aprons and spoke in soft voices. Houstonians lost their sh*t for this place. In 2018, Oxheart closed and reopened as a new restaurant called Theodore Rex. There is no longer a tasting menu here, but there is a tomato toast so widely beloved, it should be interviewed on 60 Minutes.

Since opening—aside from that tomato toast—Theodore Rex quickly devolved from the glory days of Oxheart into some kind of disappointing tourist attraction. Like one of those sketchy roadside tiger zoos, or a hologram of a dead musician. You arrive expecting a great, interesting meal, but you leave uncomfortable, hungry, and maybe feeling a little taken advantage of, especially if you get stuck with the check, which will come out to over $200 per person.

The brief but esoteric small plates menu, which doesn’t seem to change too often, is a compilation of Theodore Rex’s past hits. More like a Now That’s What I Call Music: 2015 Houston Dining edition, with little to offer well into the 2020s. Some dishes, like the spring peas and the classic tomato toast are pretty tasty—although served weirdly out of season (they no longer bother to put the tomatoes on the toast for you, by the way). But then some things don’t work. Courses arrive an agonizing 15 to 20 minutes apart. Food that should be hot comes out cold, like the Roasted Cap Of Beef And Mushrooms. Flavors are often unbalanced, as is the case with the excessively fermented Cresc’tajat pasta. Some dishes taste either way too sour or smoky, or, like the handmade tagliolini, one-dimensional and dull. An overreliance on butter makes so many dishes greasier than you might want. There’s no connection, no throughline, as though each item was created for a different restaurant. 

The servers are more akin to docents at a pretentious museum, as equally smug as they are unhelpful. They do little to translate the menu, which is a Mad Libs mashup of culinary buzzwords in French and English. You are a wayward passenger relying on a driver with no map. At random and unpredictable intervals, servers will show up with specific utensils for specific dishes, but if you eat at the bar, they stick you with a box of forks you’re left to navigate alone. Maybe this kind of service was cool and edgy five years ago, but now it feels lazy, like they can’t be bothered to wait on your table like any other grown-up restaurant. 

Don’t get stuck in this tourist trap. Spending nearly $400 on a dinner for two should afford you far more than cold, disconnected food and equally cold, disconnected service. Instead, if you’re looking for a fancy or intimate meal, we suggest checking out Tatemó in Spring Branch or Kata Robata in Upper Kirby. That said, if you have a lot of money to spend, and want to enjoy that tomato toast again (and again), then dinner at Theodore Rex will meet your expectations. We, however, are not buying another ticket for this ride. 

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Food Rundown

Theodore Rex review image

photo credit: Raphael Brion

Spring Peas

Why Theodore Rex serves spring peas in the dead of winter is a bit of a mystery, but this dish is delicious. Thinly sliced flounder with grapefruit is a lovely balance of acid and sweetness. And it’s nice that this is served with a chilled tiny spoon.

Theodore Rex review image

photo credit: Raphael Brion

Tomato Toast

The tomato toast is savory and buttery and has umami and acid, and it’s obvious why it is a consistent guest favorite. This has been on the menu since the beginning, except now you get to put the tomato on the toast yourself.

Soured Pork Sausage

This dish is both pretty and a pretty severe detour from the rest of the menu, like eating a Mondrian painting that’s incredibly sour. The aesthetics here are the most important part of the dish, and the Thai-inspired sausage is a punch to the palate.

Theodore Rex review image

photo credit: Raphael Brion


Basically buttered noodles, you look at the plate and you wonder if they forgot something. The pasta is cooked nicely al dente, but the oyster liquor sauce and raw shallot mignonette is delicate but underwhelming.

Theodore Rex review image

photo credit: Raphael Brion


This overly savory and intense pasta is filled with mushrooms and fermented radish. It’s like eating aged seaweed.

Theodore Rex review image

photo credit: Raphael Brion

Gulf ‘Mutton’ Snapper

Though the snapper filet is tender and well-seasoned, the accompanying pistou is not, with undercooked hard bits of summer squash. The side of rice comes out drowning in butter, as if it were movie theater popcorn.

Theodore Rex review image

photo credit: Raphael Brion

Roasted Cap Of Beef

Brutally expensive, the beef, the jus roti, and the mushrooms all arrive cold. But, you know, plated beautifully. Everything is very soft, as though they were worried about your ability to chew by the end of the meal.

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