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All About Schmit

The French Cowboy's Philippe is both elegant and playful.

Although it's more expensive now, that foie gras is still worth every dime; you'll not find a silkier, nor a richer, treatment of goose liver in town, the Sauternes tugging out every buttery note from the liver as it melts into a crusty slice of hot brioche. The terrine is even ample enough to split among a table of four for an appetizer. And if you think you can finish it yourself, trust me: You can't.
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Between the two of us on that Burgundy-saturated Friday night, my wine rep friend and I couldn't even finish half of the foie gras terrine, eventually making the Sophie's Choice to save our stomach room for the bottle we were savoring over the course of a three-hour meal. Philippe encourages you to linger in this way, making you forget that there's a cold, wet night waiting outside. It's there in the food, of course, but also in the kind, attentive service and the way the French never rush through their meals — another beautifully civil notion that's strongly encouraged here.

There's something to be said for this kind of special-occasion dining, which is being lost as Houston's restaurants go increasingly casual. Something to be said for sommeliers who can expertly guide you through a list they thoughtfully constructed themselves — not a list that's the lazy creation of a wine distributor — and for a chef who walks the dining room each night like a benevolent dictator, demanding the most of his kitchen crew while still adding a twinkle of extra celebrity to the place. There's something giddily fun about checking in with the hostess stand downstairs, then being magically greeted by their upstairs counterparts and swept in grand fashion to a table that manages to pull off lacy linen napkins without feeling fussy.

Beautiful yet simple: Skate wing in lobster broth.
Troy Fields
Beautiful yet simple: Skate wing in lobster broth.

Location Info

Map

Philippe

1800 Post Oak Blvd.
Houston, TX 77056

Category: Restaurant > French

Region: Galleria

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Fridays, 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturdays.
Seafood soup: $8
Steak tartare: $8
Moroccan tartare: $8
Buttermilk-fried calamari: $9
Bacon cheeseburger: $14
Poached skate wing: $23
Pigs in a blanket: $24
Drunken foie gras: $25


READ MORE
SIDESHOW: French-Texan Flair at Philippe
BLOG POST: Ring in the New Year with French-Texan Flair at Philippe


We tried not to overindulge that night, but it's difficult to restrain yourself when a towering masterpiece of steak tartare, redolent with Dijon mustard and crowned with a quail egg nestled into half a spotted shell, is only $8. My friend and I ate every last square centimeter of tartare on the plate, before turning our attention to the $8 bowl of seafood soup still awaiting our attention: a satiny broth intensified with saffron that was so thick with the sweet, briny flavor of clams, mussels and white fish that the pieces of seafood themselves weren't even missed.

For her entrée, my friend ordered "pigs in a blanket" — Schmit's play on words that calls to mind the Texan kolache, but actually refers to the French standard, pork blanquette. It was fine stuff, heavy and husky under its blanket of sage-tinged cream sauce.

I got a delicate poached skate wing in lobster broth. It seemed a crime to even touch the skate, whose tender flesh was fanned out on the tiny bones and arching across my plate like a delicate bird's wing. It was an extraordinarily beautiful yet simple dish to behold. When I eventually came to my senses and took the first bite, I was pleased to find that the delicate flavor matched the ethereal presentation. Beneath the wing bobbed porcini mushroom-filled ravioli in a thin, tawny broth that tasted of pure lobster stock with every bite. I coveted every last sip.

I never experienced Chef Schmit's cooking when he wowed the city during his time at Bistro Moderne, but I can imagine this is what it was like before the Hotel Derek unceremoniously shut the bistro's doors and Schmit was left at loose ends. No wonder Houston was so desperate to keep its French cowboy firmly planted in place. And thank God he chose to remain here: Philippe is Chef Schmit's glorious return to form after years without a kitchen of his own, and Houston is richer for it.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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7 comments
Stacey
Stacey

@guest .........my classmate's mom makes $79/hr on the internet. She has been without a job for 8 months but last month her paycheck was $7695 just working on the internet for a few hours. Here's the site to read more LazyCash4. com

guest
guest

not a bad article, but i have to say that the "Sophie's Choice" remark was tasteless and a bit offensive. even for the houston press.

Daniel Carlson
Daniel Carlson

The book came out in 1979, the film in 1982. It's not as if the wounds it opened are still fresh. The phrase long ago slipped into the pop lexicon to generically and comedically mean "an impossible choice," and the usage is meant to be why am I even bothering to dissect a joke for someone so clearly determined to just pick something random to complain about, I mean really, you're probably not even reading this.

guest
guest

"so clearly determined to just pick something to complain about."

i'm going to complain about your statement now, because if i took offense to it, then i obviously knew the intention of the author, so didn't really need the explanation about why i was offended in the first place. and the holocaust is still very fresh in a lot of people's minds, so a casual joke about having to choose between wine and foie gras being anywhere near choosing between which of your children should have to die, is distasteful. sorry you don't agree, but you can waste more of your time by arguing your point. have at it.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

At the risk of further inflaming things, let me just state for the record that never - never in a million years - did I think that referencing a fictional character's choice in a work of fiction would cause someone offense. Any offense was clearly, obviously, distressingly unintended.

So I apologize if I offended with that choice of statement, but that's as far as my apology can extend. A "Sophie's Choice" is a literary turn of phrase that's been in ample use for the last three decades, and nothing else.

How about that coq au vin, guys?

Bradg
Bradg

Shut UP. God sake.....it's just a phrase. I'm sick to death of people being "offended" at every. damned. thing. Everyone always having to tip toe around, sifting through their words so carefully and diligently making sure nothing is every "offensive" yet someone is ALWAYS FINDING SOMETHING TO BE BUTT HURT ABOUT. Really, grow up and deal. You're precious feelings are too much on your precious sleeves.

 
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