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Etoile Cuisine et Bar offers traditional as well as modern interpretations of French and Mediterranean cuisine in its beautiful farmhouse-inspired space in Uptown Park.
With their recent move to Houston, Owner/Chef Philippe Verpiand and wife Monica Bui brings culinary experience earned at the French Culinary Institute in Avignon and some of the world’s most famous restaurants. Having made the conscious decision to sell their restaurant, Cavaillon, in San Diego (Rancho Santa Fe Hills), they chose to bring a menu to Houston that would appease both those interested in traditional French offerings and those who prefer a more modern and seasonal approach.
The menu offers up the classics of French cuisine such as duck leg confit, beef bordelaise and braised short ribs. Definitely try the escargot Bourguignonne for an appetizer and the cassoulet made in traditional fashion with pork, sausage and duck. The wild boar Bolognese is a popular selection from the lunch menu.
If the goal was to replicate an "elegant French farmhouse", then it is definitely a sexy one. Etoile Cuisine et Bar is not a large place by any means, but the set up plays kindly to the available space and does evoke an immediate sense of comfort. With a large bar and seating that allows you to get an up close and personal kitchen view, you will find that Etoile Cuisine et Bar fits quite well into its surroundings. The lighting was dim, but bright enough to enjoy the beautiful presentation of your meal.
The scene seemed mixed and included socialites, those on first dates and regulars. The waiters are very knowledgeable. Our server, Waylon was extremely helpful and was great in providing recommendations on both our wine and menu selections for the evening.
Moving on to the food, the menu is two-sided and represents the two styles of Chef Verpiand. On the "La Tradition" side of the menu, you will find those well-known favorites like Escargots Bourguignonne (Snails baked in Garlic and Herb Butter) or the Coq au Vin (Chicken braised in Red Wine, Purple Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables). If you flip your menu to the other side, "La Saison", you will find items such as the Plat de Côtes de Boeuf Braisés (Braised Beef Short Ribs, Butternut Squash, Mousseline, and Seasonal Vegetables) or the Risotto de Champignons (Mushroom Risotto with Aged Parmesan).
During our dinner, we got to play on both sides of the fence! To start the evening off on the right note, we sampled the Bisque de Homard (Maine Lobster bisque, finished with Brandy), the Raviolis de Champignon (Mushroom Ravioli, Port Wine and White Truffle Oil, Aged Parmesan), and the Escargots Bourguignonne. The texture of the Escargots was perfect - not too tough nor mushy. The tenderness of the Escargots, blended with the generous portions of garlic and butter, made for a lovely beginning and was prime for dipping bread into the rich broth. The ravioli was amazingly fresh and the richness of mushrooms and the addicting aroma of the white truffle oil quickly made this dish memorable. For the filling, button, beech, or crimini mushrooms are used, but it really depends on what Chef Verpiand can obtain from the market. Two words: smooth and velvety.
For our main entrées, we decided to continue mixing things up by ordering from both sides of the menu: Magret de Canard à l’Orange (Roasted Duck Breast, Glazed Daikon, and Orange Spiced Gastrique), Sole Meunière (Lemon Sole, Roasted Cauliflower, Fingerling Potatoes, Fried Capers with Lemon Brown Butter), Coq au Vin, and the Plat de Côtes de Boeuf Braisés. The Sole Meunière gets the two thumbs up award. We had already made all our selections when Monica, the chef's wife and partner in food, stopped by the table and softly suggested we also try this top selling dish. It was a delicate and flaky Sole prepared perfectly The explosion of flavor, for such a mild fish was fabulous. The next winner was the Plat de Côtes de Boeuf Braisés. I love short ribs; and the chef’s ribs were fantastic! The meat was falling off the bone, and the butternut squash served as a wonderful medium to catch it and all its juices.
Dessert rounded off a perfect evening. The descriptions provided by the waiter convinced with had a little room left. We sampled the Dark Chocolate Pastilla (Raspberry Coulis, and Sorbet), the Pistachio Ice Cream (Profiteroles with Warm Chocolate Sauce), and the Thin Apple Tart ("a la mode" Fleur de Sel, Caramel). The Dark Chocolate Pastilla was a mix between a chocolate lava/molten cake with the outside layer of cake stripped and replaced with a thin, crispy, and buttery pastry casing. The Apple Tart was rich and the ice cream that melted across the warm tart created the perfect duo.
We are fortunate that Chef Verpiand decided to make Houston his home and share his culinary talent with us. Having served as a personal chef for a brief period before opening Etoile, he truly prefers cooking for larger groups and we are the fortunate recipients.
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