Jose Hernandez has been busy. The acclaimed pastry chef, who went off radar after leaving his high-profile post as Chef de Cuisine at Triniti, has re-emerged on the Houston food scene with an offering of his own: La Balance Cuisine, located in the heart of Katy's Cinco Ranch development.
The modest bistro, which opens to the public this Thursday, August 15, is poised to become Katy's "it" fine-dining restaurant. The warmly decorated space, with modern crystal chandeliers and starched white tablecloths, is upscale without being too stuffy, perfect for a romantic dinner or an outing with friends. Menu-wise, Hernandez offers classic French standards that include beautifully plated salads, seared foie gras, buttery-garlic escargots de Bourgogne, the ever-popular steak frites made of grass-fed beef, magret de canard (duck breast) and most, important, his famed desserts.
For dessert lovers, Hernandez's desserts are on a par with some of the best you'll taste in New York City. His composition and execution are unmatched in the greater Houston area. A gianduja (chocolate hazelnut) dessert is smooth, sinful and beautifully plated -- worth the drive from Houston to get a sample. His chocolate soufflé gives a lesson in how soufflés should be executed, rising to three-inch perfection, with a moist, fluffy innard that breaks apart delicately, absorbing the rich sauce that comes with it in way that can only be described as to die for.
His wine list, curated with the help of Glazers' Master Sommelier Guy Stout, is extremely affordable, offering a solid selection of bottles and wine-by-the-glass options that will enhance the dining experience without breaking the bank.
"We want to offer great food with reasonable prices," says Hernandez, who poured his life savings into La Balance Cuisine, performing much of the interior renovation with his own hands.
He proudly offers wholesome, locally sourced products, including humanely raised, grass-fed meats by local farmer Black Hill Meats. Fish and seafood products are also sourced from local, sustainable purveyors. Most entrées fall in the high teens-to low-20s range, with the highest-priced entrée coming in at $26 for grass-fed filet mignon.
Though they were too late to sign up for Houston Restaurant Weeks, Hernandez is currently offering a $35 dinner menu of three courses, with $5 of the proceeds going to Texas Children's Hospital. He is also offering a lunch prix fixe of three courses for $12.99, as well as a full patisserie station (so you can take those desserts to go) with French macarons.
Due to a current problem with the Cinco Ranch homeowner's association and his landlord, Hernandez has been prohibited from putting up a sign in front of his restaurant. As a result, La Balance Cuisine, tucked away in the corner of an unassuming strip mall, is literally hidden from view -- a hidden gem, if you will.
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If you seek it out, you will surely be rewarded. My reward was the chocolate soufflé, captured in the video below -- I'd go back for that alone.