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Sep 10, 2012 11:51 AM

French Food in Houston?

Hi All,
So I've seen a few posts here and there with a few suggestions for French in Houston, but I was hoping to get a collective list and opinions about French Restaurants in the area. Here are a few that I saw posted to get the thoughts started:

- Chez nous in Humble
- Brasserie Max and Julie
- Bistro Le Cep
- Brasserie 19
- Le Mistral
- L'Olivier
- Bistro Provence

Thoughts? More suggestions? Good, better, best?

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  1. I'm a big fan of French food and I can't say that I've had much luck with finding good French in Houston (although I confess I don't travel there often). The place on your list that I have the most recent experience with his Brasserie 19. It's decent, to slightly above average, but nothing to write home about, at least the last time I ate there. I don't remember specific dishes, but I remember the meal as OK, nothing more.

    Wine list is (or was, at least) in an annoying -- near incomprehensible -- electronic form (with pictures!!). Again, the list was slightly above average, but not special. The Burgundy section, the part of the list that I paid the most attention to, was filled with mid to lower level producers with a few exceptions -- Thibeaut Ligier-Belair and Ghislaine Barthod both come to mind. And even in those cases, the wines they had weren't top wines from those domaines. A quick look at the Rhones showed much the same (although the did have a Coudulet de Beaucastel Cotes-du-Rhone (but not their CNdP).

    I've heard good things about Le Mistral, but it's just so far out from downtown where I'm usually staying. Something like a 40 mile round trip for dinner. Not just outside the loop, but even outside the Beltway!!! Not my idea of fun. Likewise, I've never investigated the restaurant out in Humble. Driving 20 miles for dinner and having good wine and then having to drive 20 miles back to town sounds hideous.

    1. I am a very big fan of Le Mistral. After experiencing the Kitchen Table and several other meals, it is definitely worth the drive. The food is not over seasoned, just right. One of the best sea bass' I have ever eaten.

      And believe it or not, the Pot Pie is to die for.

      1. You're missing a fair few of the decent in-the-loop places:

        Cafe Rabelais
        Au Petit Paris
        Bistro Des Amis
        and soon to open near the Galleria Etoile

        are just a few of the ones that come immediately to mind without thinking too hard. I'd think that Philippe, Artisans and Au Petit Paris are slightly better than all of the ones that were originally mentioned, but that's just my personal opinion. L'Olivier is very good, and it really depends whether you're looking for traditional, bistro, or "updated" versions of French.

        1. Okay, so it's not really "in Houston," but Katy. And it's not really "French," but Italian.

          Still, Da Vinci is owned and operated by Alex Salmassi, a Monegasque that graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, so he's certainly familiar with the finest dishes of France.

          The menu rotates according to what's good and fresh in the markets, and what he's in the mood to prepare. And, he will prepare whatever special dishes you'd like, if you give him enough notice, and he can source the ingredients.

          He and his exquisite restaurant are definitely worth a mention to anyone searching for French food in the Houston area.

          1. Report on L'Olivier-
            I really wanted to like this place, because the waiter was fun, the price was about on par with what I was willing to pay for date night with my wife, and it had just the right amount of whimsical to their presentation.

            The Good:
            Amazing raw oysters - sorry can't remember the coast nor type, but perfectly briny and sweet at the same time. Skip the weird vinegar shallot sauce though - tastes like it's been sitting around too long or something and just ruins the flavor of the oyster.
            Excellent Farmer's Salad - chunks of bacon, beautiful poached egg with runny yolk, bacon vinagrette on mixed greens.
            Amazing Moules (Mussels) - delicious white wine broth, excellent seasoning, and huge portion.
            Delicious 'Waffle cake' with housemade blackberry and red wine ice cream - just as it sounds, warm crunchy waffle with the just right tart ice cream.
            (Insert catchy name for cocktail here) - hibiscus, gin, raspberry liqueur, soda based cocktail which was truly excellent.

            The Bad:
            - Tropical Ceviche - tiny bits of diced seafood swimming in a very bland ?yuzu based chilled broth. Kind of boring for ceviche - not sure what they were going for because it was not really tropical and seemed to lack the spirit of a really good ceviche. Kind of just dead and disappointing.
            - Side of Brussel Sprouts - they were sliced thin and ?sauteed with butter and some lemon and kind of peppery. Taste was decent, and served in a tiny Le Creuset, but not terribly memorable.
            - Beef Bourguignon - seriously mediocre. Insufficiently seasoned, one bit of a mushroom (?), tiny portion, few chunks of bacon which were nice. Served on an even smaller bed of mashed potatoes (not memorable). Sauce served on the side in a little metal cup - why? Isn't this a braise? Isn't that what the whole thing is about? The rich, complex gravy I was hoping for... never materialized.

            ... And for the most unfortunate part - the Frites. I mean, really? I have never had bad fries at a French restaurant - until this moment - especially when you're paying upwards of $5 for fries. That's why above, I could only comment on the Moules being good, not the Moules et Frites. Served in a paper bag - yes, cute, whimsical - but soggy, undercooked in some places, burnt in others. Yes, that's right, we don't serve fries in paper bags because they get soggy - even when perfectly cooked (which these were not). Why not just do the newspaper cone that most bistros have done for the whimsical touch? At least it vents out the steam!

            Oh, and one more first - no bread. None. Not a single mini baguette.

            So, what do you do with the inconsistent, but kind of pricey restaurant? Do you go back and take your chance again?

            2 Replies
            1. re: neointima

              I really like the black risotto with shrimp at lunch. It's been a while since I've been there, but I did order the steak frites last time and don't recall they were deficient. Sounds like an off night to me.

              1. re: Lambowner

                Thanks for the tip - will try again in a few weeks, and if we happen to get frites again and they don't come out well, I will try to develop the courage to send them back and get a happy result instead.