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100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 33, Moules Congolaise at Jeannine's Bistro

100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 33, Moules Congolaise at Jeannine's Bistro
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt

This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

By now, hopefully everyone knows the story of how Jeannine's Bistro came to be: Where Vinoteca Poscol now holds court was once Cafe Montrose, long the only Belgian restaurant in town. Its owners divorced and the restaurant closed in 2008, but -- as with all things -- out of that destruction came creation: Two beautiful new Belgian restaurants were born. Catherine Duwez revamped The Broken Spoke with new partner Roy de la Garza, while Andrew Klarman opened Jeannine's Bistro with his sister, the eponymous Jeannine.

These days, Duwez has moved on to a Belgian cafe all her own in the former Dharma Cafe space -- Cafe Brussels -- and Klarman's own spot has blossomed into a bistro so successful that it had to expand into the space next door to accommodate all the diners that crowd the place each night. While Cafe Brussels is getting its sea legs, I've been getting my moules-frites fix at Jeannine's Bistro, where the frites aren't quite as excellent -- but the mussels themselves are far better.

The mussels treatment I'm most in love with right now is the moules congolaise, which steams the mussels in a barely creamy broth of coconut milk, tomatoes and spices. It's a bit spicy, with licks of paprika and chipotle coming through the broth, and the fat, juicy mussels do an excellent job of soaking up the rich flavor of the stuff.

You'll have plenty left when the mussels are gone, however, and you can do one of two things with that broth: You can dip your frites into it, although I'd recommend using the housemade mayonnaise for this instead. Or you can do as my waiter recommended one afternoon as he packaged the excess broth, onions and various other vegetables to go: "Boil some shrimp in it," he instructed. "This stuff is too good to waste."

Indeed, the next night I had some truly excellent Gulf shrimp congolaise -- all thanks to Jeannine's. And the best part? The whole package, frites and all, is only $12 at lunch.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F. No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo No. 61: Black bean burger at Ziggy's No. 60: Parillada at Pampa Grill No. 59: Peanut butter and jalapeño jelly burger at Wicked Whisk No. 58: Eggplant involtini at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 57: Lone Star dog at James Coney Island No. 56: Sushi at Sushi Miyagi No. 55: Palestinian chicken at Al Aseel No. 54: Roast beef sandwich at Local Foods No. 53: Mexico City plate at Molina's Cantina No. 52: Tacos at Brothers Taco House No. 51: Branzino at Lucio's BYOB No. 50: Beef sweetbreads at Feast No. 49: Golden Doomba Special at the Rice Box Truck No. 48: Malted waffle at City Cafe No. 47: Banh mi bo kho at Cafe TH No. 46: Chicken fried steak at Triple A No. 45: Larissa plate at Harry's No. 44: Spaghetti carbonara at Coppa Ristorante Italiano No. 43: Wings and grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 42: Frito pie at C&D Burger Shoppe No. 41: Pollo con mole at El Gallo de Jalisco No. 40: Fried avocado taco at H-Town StrEATs No. 39: Rigatoni in bolognese sauce at Paulie's No. 38: Chorizo kolaches at Peña's Donut Heaven No. 37: Sashimi at Dadami No. 36: Half-pound burger at benjy's No. 35: Fried chicken at Haven No. 34: Whole-fried speckled trout at Liberty Kitchen



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Jeannine's Bistro - Closed
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