Houstonians, if you're familiar and love Etoile in Uptown Park as much as I do, imagine how stoked I was when I found out that Chef Philippe Verpiand and his wife Monica Bui were going to open a restaurant in downtown Houston. The latest concept has a more casual, laissez faire vibe than Etoile, with a walk up window for crepes. With a spacious terrace for people watching and a great view of Discovery Green from the mezzanine, you can somewhat lie to yourself and pretend that you're dining at a brasserie in Paris.
The space features a bar and lounge area - perfect for pre/post dinner drinks and happy hours. Then there's the main dining room, the terrace, and then a mezzanine level area. My friend and I wanted to grab a bite and have a glass of wine before heading to a birthday party. We're both avid lovers of French cuisine and wine, so Brasserie du Parc was a a win even before we walked through the door.
There was a wonderful selection of wines and cocktails. After picking a lovely Cabernet, we settled on the following for our meal:
Raviolis aux Champignons - mushroom ravioli, aged Parmesan, port wine truffle sauce
Salad de Chevre- warm goat cheese crouton, peppered honey, green apple, spring mix salad
Les Moules- Mariniere- mussels, white wine, shallots, cream, and parsley
Ile Flottante- meringue, pistachio creme anglaise, caramel drizzle, toasted almonds
Usually I tend to over order. However I held back this time and it ended up being the perfect amount of food. My friend loved the mushroom ravioli, and the goat cheese salad was just light enough to where I could still fit in the mussels, which were the real star of the entire meal.
The mussels were served with a side of hot, crispy fries, which we used to dip into the broth. The mussel broth was milky white, and was fragrant with white wine, garlic, butter, and herbs. It was the best broth I have had in a very long time. The taste was creamy, yet light. Simple- but rich. The mussels were large, plump, and fresh. Each savory bite was full of white wine, butter, herbs, and the savory saltiness of the sea.
We gobbled up the mussels as quickly as they had come out (the food came out very fast!). There was so much of the broth left, and it seemed like a big waste to just let it all go...
So we asked for bread, and everyone was a happy camper.
Dessert was the Ile Flottante - a large cloud of steamed meringue floating in a pool of pistachio creme anglaise. If you are a big pistachio fan, please do yourself a favor and get this dessert. Each bite had many flavors disintegrating on your tongue - the pillowy softness of the meringue, surrounded by the creamy and nutty sweetness of the pistachio creme anglaise was an absolute treat for the taste buds. You also get a hint of saltiness from the salted caramel, and a floral and nutty crunch from the almonds.
So yes, I do like this place. A lot. I read a few reviews, and it seems that the initial apprehension of trying Brasserie du Parc was that it was catering to convention goers and tourists, so the food may not be up to par as Etoile. It's quite the opposite. As foodies and Houstonians, we want more options Downtown, haven't we been grumbling about that for years and years?
And a walk up window for crepes! How awesome is that?! You can take a stroll, stop by and pick up a crepe, and go on your merry way and have a jolly good time at the park. Picture perfect.
Do get the mussels. Do try the cocktails and wine. Do try the crepes- that's what I'm going to get next time.