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That's Rich

Brasserie 19 is the place to see and be seen in River Oaks.

Whether you go for lunch or dinner, however, Brasserie 19 impresses at every service. At lunch, the decibel level in the restaurant dims considerably, while light floods the sunny space. It looks every bit the modern brasserie at these times, sunlight glinting off polished brass details on the bar and peeking through the white wicker chairs.

You can see the palm trees lining West Gray from the massive plate-glass window that dominates the front of the restaurant, and appreciate the art deco lines of the River Oaks Shopping Center, as cool and crisp as the brasserie itself. At the table next to us, a Frenchman was dining alone and languidly reading a newspaper. "You don't even feel like you're in Houston," sighed my dining companion, who seemed to be dreaming of her beloved brasseries back in France.

That same sense of vacationing for a meal was palpable at Tony Mandola's, the cozy and well-respected restaurant that occupied this space for 22 years until decamping to nearby Waugh Drive to open a free-standing restaurant earlier this year. Losing the New Orleanian restaurant was seen as a blow for the old shopping center, and Brasserie 19 was met with eager excitement when it opened in May of this year. Would it stand up to Tony Mandola's? So far, the answer seems to be a strong yes.

Try the pan-roasted duck with figs and bask in your surroundings.
Troy Fields
Try the pan-roasted duck with figs and bask in your surroundings.

Location Info

Map

Brasserie 19

1962 W. Gray St.
Houston, TX 77019

Category: Restaurant > Belgian

Region: River Oaks

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Local chèvre ravioli: $13
Grilled octopus: $14
Tuna sandwich: $13
Croque madame: $15
Steak frites: $38
Pan-roasted duck: $28
Pork shoulder: $24
Cassoulet: $23


READ MORE
SLIDESHOW: French Nouveau at Brasserie 19
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During lunch, we all but inhaled a platter of delicate, briny East Coast oysters, washed down with a hoppy Modus Hoperandi IPA. Brasserie 19 has a beer menu to match its wine list blow for blow, with Belgian classics like Saison Dupont and Blanche de Bruxelles holding court among craft brews like North Coast PranQster and the mighty Arrogant Bastard Ale.

My friend's croque madame was a crusty beast of a sandwich, covered in melting Gruyère and a rich Béchamel sauce that nearly made the fried egg on top obsolete. I appreciated that her frites were truly frites, skin-on and fried twice, served — without asking! — with a tangy mayonnaise.

The polar opposite of her meal, my plate featured a simple tuna sandwich whose unfussy construction belied the effort and skill that had gone into poaching the tuna in olive oil until impossibly moist and in need of no additional mayonnaise or mustard. On the side was a quinoa salad — a pleasant surprise, given it wasn't listed on the menu — that balanced the nutty seeds with peppery bites of arugula and a bright citrus vinaigrette.

We lingered far too long over our lunch, finally tearing ourselves away after two hours. It was difficult to leave that day, not only because the food had been so good, but the atmosphere itself is almost too inviting. I've experienced that feeling every time I've dined at Brasserie 19 — especially on the patio. It may not be prime real estate for the elite, but it's a front-row show for me with an added one-two bonus: It's never noisy out there, and although reservations are required to get a seat inside at night, you can usually find an open table on the patio if you can't resist the urge to drop by and see what specials Schmidt and McGraw have cooked up for the night.

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On that wild Saturday night, our waiter couldn't have been more charming despite the fact that the brasserie must have done 400 covers in one service. My friends and I took forever to make up our minds, and he never once rushed us, but instead stood patiently and guided us through the restaurant's immense wine list with aplomb. Any questions he couldn't answer were quickly remedied by a consultation with the bar manager (whom I appreciate the restaurant doesn't mistakenly call a "sommelier"), making for one of the most pleasant nights of service I've experienced in a long time.

The cocktails — while pricey — were well-constructed, solid drinks: a pair of French 75s that glittered in champagne flutes and a rosy gin drink with Chambord that was surprisingly easy on the sugar. Our first wine selection was depleted, but our waiter was quick to suggest two Evening Land alternatives — both well within our initial price range and smartly chosen based on our initial request of an American Pinot Noir from the Northwest.

A special that evening — gleaned from the restaurant's smartly maintained Twitter account — of a foie gras terrine was well-received by my table. We polished it off as quickly as we did an appetizer of charred baby octopus with soft fingerling potatoes and a bright, invigorating salsa verde. Not everything here is dogmatically French, which I appreciate — especially when used in clever combinations like this. We were only slightly disappointed in the local chèvre ravioli, albeit not because it wasn't tasty; it was simply far too small to split the one raviolo between three people, and didn't live up to its $13 price tag.

Later in the evening, after I'd ordered my entrée — the Saturday special of milk-braised pork shoulder with corn pudding — the general manager came over to apologize profusely: The kitchen had run out of pork chops, he explained, while cupping a massive portion of plastic-wrapped raw meat in one hand.

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2 comments
guest
guest

The Clark/Cooper group are douches..just ask any employee/former employee. Besides being overall slimey, there's no traceability of where their tips go.

Brent Jatko
Brent Jatko

Sounds delightful......rare duck breast or veal porterhouse? What a dilemma.

 
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