Houston food, restaurants and dining review. Urban living, travel, thoughts and other randomness.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Bistro Provence !!

Bistro Provence is located on Memorial, just outside of Beltway 8. I tend to think of it as a more regional Cafe Rabelais. After watching the Rockets kick the Mavericks' ass, we trucked it to this little bistro that doesn't take reservations for less than six people. Like Cafe Rabelais, we often find French speaking couples dining at this bistro. Tonight we saw such a couple conversing with a waiter in French. The only downside? Your own mangled pronunciation of items on the menu.

Between the French conversation, the tables smashed close together, the dim lighting and the small tables, we had a perfect receipe for an intimate and delightful dinner. Bistro Provence did not disappoint.

We started with an excellent country pork pate. I love chewy outer skin of this country pate as much as I love the cornichons they include. The cornichons help the pate, acting a little bit like the gari (pickled ginger) for sushi.

Last time, we tried the French Onion Soup. Most good French Onion Soup I like tastes the same, and there seem to be a plethora of places to get that soup, so instead I ventured out and tried the bouillabaisse. Every time I have ordered this dish at other restaurants, it has come to disappointment. Not this time!

The taste brought me right back to Brittany, just outside of St. Malo. I know, I know... Brittany for bouillabaisse? What about Provence? Well, I tried several bouillabasse concoctions in Provence and somehow managed to miss all the good places that make the dish. So, for me, it is Brittany that sets the standard for this dish. Bistro Provence's bouillabasse lacks the large croutons, the rouille (a doctored-up mayonnaise), and a shellfish, but what it lacks in ceremony, it makes up for in flavor. The broth had that taste of oversaturation with shrimp shells, fish carcasses, garlic, onion, and whatever other magic you put into the broth. Thankfully, they didn't ruin that flavor by leaving in overcooked shrimp or fish. Instead, it appears Bistro Provence cooks the shrimp and fish separately, until just done, before plating it. I slurped up every last drop.


Rekha had the beef stew, Shamaa had the duck, Dave had the cream chicken stew, and I had the civet de lievre. Civet de lievre is essentially rabbit stewed in red wine and other herbs. The total effect of the stew is to make the meat so tender it falls off the bone. It also adds incredible flavor to the rabbit. Like many stews, the chef forgot that as the liquids reduce, the stew gets more salty. So, like many stews, the civet de lievre had a bit too much salt. Alas, who can complain when the meat falls off the bone, the decor reminds you of another country, and the tastes complement the environment?

Ahhh. A good meal in a beautiful restaurant. Move inside the loop Bistro Provence! We need you here.

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