Straits at CityCentre: Courtyards Are the Devil’s Playground

New westside restaurant doesn’t face onto a parking lot. Chaos ensues:

The dining room of Straits, the swank new Malaysian restaurant at City Centre, looks chaste and serene in its Web site photos. So I was dumbstruck by the maelstrom that greeted me on a school night the week before Thanksgiving, when the restaurant felt more like a thunderous Vegas nightclub.

The bulk of the floor plan was given over to bar/lounge seating, and outdoors–looking upon the grassy City Centre mall plaza ringed with fire pits–tented pavilions held still more tables for the cocktail crowd. A live band on an outdoor stage blared R&B standards as ice-blue holiday lights swayed, wind whipped the fire-pot flames high and merrymakers clustered on the chilly lawn.

“It looks like the Devil’s Playground out there,” murmured my dinner guest as he found me at a table beside the sleek open kitchen. We were both a little shellshocked. Judging by the avid crowds, far west Houston, out by I-10 and the Beltway, has been hungering for a capital-S-Scene, and the restaurant- and bar-heavy new City Centre development has provided one readymade.

Photo of CityCentre courtyard: Misha Govshteyn

16 Comment

  • Unfortunately the food and service at Straits while not terrible was not good enough to make me want to go back anytime soon. Bistro Alex was far better and on opening night had a pretty big crowd at the bar/lounge/pool area. The valet was a little snooty though. I’ve yet to try Yard House or Cafe Rose.

    I’ll be calling the plaza “The devil’s playground” from now on. :)

  • I’m glad City Center has taken off and is being received well. It reminds me a lot of the new development in Baton Rouge called Perkins Row. Of course Perkins Row makes City Centre look like a small strip center. It’s huge!

  • I was surprised to learn that City Centre is not, in fact, anywhere near the city center.

  • Zippy,

    The Memorial City area is geographically closer to the real city center based on the population spread of the the region. The is the reason METRO National has put $700 million towards renovating and rebuilding the area around Memorial City Mall. Demographic studies put the center near this area. City Centre isn’t that far off from reality.

  • Interesting. As someone who lives in the Loop and works downtown, when I look at a map I have a hard time seeing that as anything but the ‘burbs. City Center (to me) means downtown, or at least in the loop.

  • zippy,

    The link below will take you to the H-GAC population and demographics page. There is a link on the page to a Population Density Map. It shows a snapshot for 2005 and a forecast for 2035. Look at all the red on the 2005 map and you’ll notice the center is actually below Memorial City. It’s basically inside the Beltway between I-10 and US-59.

    What this come down to is that the Memorial City area and Westchase also is an easy location for a large amounts of potential shoppers and dinners to convene. The Beltway and I-10 help also for the Memorial City area. It’s easy to see why the area has been so much focus of redevelopment by developers.

  • Thanks for the link. There is density there, for sure, but to my eye it looks like the population center is inside the loop or just outside, not by Memorial City.

  • And really, when you describe a location in a city by saying “It’s at the center,” people immediately think “Oh, they must mean the population center; let me find a population density map to figure it out!”

    Why do developers think cutesy naming conventions like “Centre” and “Shoppe” are a good idea?

  • LOL John,

    Yeah I know. I don’t plan on responding much more to this one.

    The reasons they use the cutesy names is that they work. Yes, they are stupid, but marketing research (for what it’s worth) keeps verifying the silly names work.

  • Really? “Shoppes at Whispering Pigeon Ranch” draws more people than “Shops at….” (or “WPR Shopping Center”)?

    I’m not questioning you, I am just amazed. And really curious about how the research was done (because I’m a marketer and find it interesting).

  • Well John (yet another),

    People also buy a new fancy invention called a Snuggie which is essential a robe put on backwards. I’m not in marketing/advertising, but isn’t the intelligence of the buyer/shopper considered?

    To me, I don’t care what the name of the center is called. What does it matter? If the restaurants and shops are what I to patron, then I’ll go.

  • I’m with Zippy. When looking at the current density map, I-10 and the Beltway are on the edge. Looking at the projected map, it appears the inner loop will be insanely dense. City “Centre” will be unchanged.

  • Great, I can’t wait to visit. It sounds fun!

    If you don’t like a busy, festive restaurant scene, then don’t go. Go somewhere else.

    Houston needs a festive restaurant scene. They’re too quiet here. To get people to stay and drink, you must play louder music and make it fun.

    All the other cities have caught onto this, but Houston still hasn’t and most restaurants are quiet and boring. And, if that’s what you like, then go to those types of places. If you like a more festive environment, it sounds like Straits is the place!

  • @Mark – “To get people to stay and drink, you must play louder music and make it fun.”

    Wash Ave much?

  • @kjb – good point – and this is why I have made my career in B2B marketing, not consumer marketing!

  • I just wanted to mention that Straits is Singapore “asian fusion” and not Malaysian. No, I’m not the Mayor of CityCentre, that’s just my screenname. I am at CityCentre every weekend and, yes, “Devil’s Playground” is accurate. ;)