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Paris Matched

Laurier Café is turning out Parisian bistro food at Paris, Texas, prices

At Laurier, the waiter suggested medium, and the pork came out just right: firm but a little pink. The free-range pork sold by Niman Ranch (see "Pig in the City," by George Alexander, November 22, 2001) is more flavorful and deeper in color than the water-injected stuff they sell in the grocery store, and it tastes much better roasted. The spinach and asparagus were the same ones Garrido was raving about, and they were excellent. But the thin au jus sauce in the bottom of the bowl was boring. I suppose it was flavored by the chipotle-citrus marinade the pork was soaked in, but the sweet taste didn't go well with the mashed potatoes.

On a subsequent visit to Laurier Café, two friends and I sat out on the deck on a cool spring evening and had a bottle of tart Sancerre. I ordered the roasted chicken, which was extremely juicy. Dried herbs had been stuffed underneath the skin so that every bite was wildly aromatic. It was served on a large heap of crisp, sweet snap peas, lightly cooked spinach and roasted potatoes.

We also tried roasted grouper, which was incredibly fresh but cooked perhaps too simply. Some "pico de gallo" was perhaps meant to spice up the fish, but the salsa was little more than tomatoes and herbs. Generous servings of roasted carrots and snow peas on the side helped, but the overall impression was blandness.

Excellent asparagus, crispy fries and Niman Ranch beef -- Laurier Café outdoes its French bistro counterparts.
Deron Neblett
Excellent asparagus, crispy fries and Niman Ranch beef -- Laurier Café outdoes its French bistro counterparts.

Location Info

Map

Laurier Café

3139 Richmond Ave.
Houston, TX 77098

Category: Restaurant > Cafe

Region: Lower Shepherd-Kirby

Details

713-807-1632. Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Arugula salad: $6
Goat cheese salad: $7
Steak frites: $20
Roasted pork: $15
Roasted half-chicken: $14
Roasted grouper: $19
Risotto: $14
Cline Mourvèdre Contra Costa: $24

3139 Richmond

The biggest disappointment at Laurier was the mushroom and asparagus risotto. It was made with long-grain rice instead of the traditional short-grained Arborio. Arborio stays nutty through the long cooking process, while long-grain rice tends to get too mushy. But that wasn't its biggest problem. There were plenty of mushrooms and asparagus in the rice, and the dish also had enough cheese to give every bite a melted cheese tail. But the rice tasted like it had been cooked in a thin vegetable stock rather than a rich chicken stock.

I suspect that the risotto was prepared with vegetarians in mind. Such is probably also the case with the pasta, a penne with tomato and basil. With the seasonal vegetable plate and lots of meat-free appetizers, vegetarians have plenty of options at Laurier -- which will give them something to do out on the sunny patio while the rest of us sink our teeth into a glorious piece of roasted meat. That's the main attraction here, just as it should be at any bistro worth its sea salt. The pork and chicken are both excellent choices, but the steak is outrageous. And the portion isn't skimpy either -- Garrido couldn't even finish his.

What makes the steak frites exceptional isn't the crispy french fries or the perfectly cooked vegetables, it's the quality of the beef. I've raved about the nutty flavor and tender texture of dry-aged beef before [see "Aging with Grace (and Science)," August 30, 2001]. But this hormone-free, custom-fed, dry-aged Niman Ranch beef is in a class by itself. In fact, it's so much better than French beef that I can honestly say the steak frites at Laurier Café are better than any you'll get in Paris.

Wine Notes

Cline Mourvèdre, Contra Costa, Ancient Vines, 1999

Mourvèdre is a Rhône varietal especially popular in the French region of Bandol, where it yields such exceptional wines as Domaine Tempier. It is called Mataro by the Italians, and it was under this name that the grape was planted extensively in California in the late 1800s. It did well in hot and sunny regions like Contra Costa County, where few other wine grapes thrived. Although it fell out of favor in France and elsewhere because it is difficult to cultivate, the California vines survived. These Mataro vines were rediscovered in the 1990s, when California Rhône varietals came into fashion. The grape yields a rich, wild cherry-scented wine that has lots of structure and a deep purple color. At $24 at Laurier Café, it is an exceptional value.

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