French Faves: As the Paris Games Approach, Houston Bubbles Over with Steak Frites and Escargot

French Faves: As the Paris Games Approach, Houston Bubbles Over with Steak Frites and Escargot

The burrata-stuffed heirloom tomato at Cocody

FRENCH CUISINE HAS been credited with providing the cooking foundation for the entire culinary world. Thankfully, Houston is home to many master chefs of France, some with multiple (and new!) local concepts, who are spreading the love of cuisine française across our city. Here’s your perfect 9.


Annabelle Brasserie

Inside Annabelle Brasserie (photo by Brian Kennedy)

When a fancy French fête is calling, Berg Hospitality’s feminine, all-day Autry Park gem is photo-ready, with flowers dangling from the ceilings, generous French doors streaming with sunlight, and cushy banquettes. Indulge with the raclette baguette prepared tableside and a Frenchie martini. Coq au Sutton is a lovely entrée with celery-root-truffle purée — and we can never pass up the lobster salad with caviar and lemon aioli.

Artisans

Beef tartare with poached egg yolk at Artisans

In its posh new Galleria-area home — which shockingly previously housed a James Coney Island — find a sultry hideaway with intimate dining areas, a showcase kitchen, and grand chef’s counter. Chef-restaurateur Jacques Fox and team play up French culinary classics with twists like the “trio of tastes,” with pan-seared scallops, blue-crab-stuffed wonton, and lobster cappuccino. A snug section of the bar can be reserved for a tête-a-tete or small gathering.

Bistro 555

From veteran Houston restaurateurs including Christophe Paul of Café Rabelais, and David and Sylvain Denis, this cozy Memorial go-to was originally Bistro Provence. It looks and tastes straight from the French countryside with dishes like frisée salad with lardons and French vinaigrette, and beef tenderloin with cognac green peppercorn sauce and garlic green beans. The succinct all-French wine list complements the menu beautifully down to the Sauternes to finish.

Brasserie du Parc

It may be on the ground floor of a Downtown highrise, but this breezy brasserie has a gorgeous view of Discovery Green and a glass “greenhouse” for dining. From deeply flavored lobster bisque to the pork-belly omelet and an indulgent croque monsieur, chef Jose Hernandez orchestrates menus for a business- and tourist-heavy crowd. Just add a glass of Sancerre and dessert for a fine repast. Divinely crackly mille-feuille apple tart with vanilla ice cream, anyone?

Brasserie 19

Although its founder is not French, this lively see-and-be-seen River Oaks mainstay certainly looks like a French brasserie with yards of white marble and bistro chairs. Its menu spotlights many French classics along with American fare. Top marks go to the Burgundy escargots, cassoulet beans with duck confit, and plump mussels in white wine, fennel and orange zest — with toasty baguettes, mercí! Salade Niçoise with seared tuna is a lunchtime fave.

Cocody Restaurant and Bar

The chef's table at Cocody

Swoon-worthy décor glistening with hundreds of crystal lights complements the fine French cuisine at this newcomer. Sink into a curvaceous rosy banquette for creations by French Master Chefs David Denis and Lionel Debon. Start the show with signature Lollies — skewers of stacked delicacies like salmon, cream cheese and sesame — or the clever whole-tomato and burrata plate. Segue to veal osso buco mushroom fricassee with risotto, or splurge on the Discovery multicourse tasting menu.

Etoile Cuisine Et Bar

Raspberry Bavaroise dessert (photo by Shannon O'Hara)

Since opening more than a decade ago in Uptown Park, Master Chef of France Philippe Verpiand’s authentic French haunt continues to shine. Regulars pile in for well executed cuisine like tarte fine au Saint Jacques (seared scallops) — or an impromptu bite at the bar of mushroom ravioli, moules a la crème with a French wine from the excellent list. All breads are house-made daily, and desserts are a must! Private wine room available.

Le Jardinier

Culinary Canvas Dish (photo by Julie Soefer)

When the setting requires cuisine equally as exquisite, the MFAH’s tres chic destination overlooking the Cullen Sculpture Garden is it. Grounded in French technique, the multiple menus offer modern twists with sophisticated plating. Roasted lamb with green pea coulis, Parisian gnocchi, and Dover Sole for Two are highlights. Expect seasonal plates inspired by current exhibits, too.

PS-21

Casablanca cocktail

Craving an intimate, softly lit cocoon complete with table linens for a French respite? Master Chef of France Philippe Schmit’s latest venture is the antidote for frenzied days, sans loud music. At this cozy Upper Kirby spot, start with the foie gras terrine and a French 75 garnished with a lemon macaron, and segue to steak frites ribeye with peppercorn, bordelaise or bearnaise sauce. The Grand Marnier soufflé with Clementine salad and crème anglaise is truly a grand finale.

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