Chef Kris Jakob’s beef tartare arrives with an opened raw egg, a small mound of arugula and radicchio kissed with a light and tangy sweet dressing and a few pieces of the house-made boule. The award-winning tartare is an elegant and imaginative combination of Heart Brand Akaushi, cornichon, capers, pickled onion and a house made curry ketchup. The curry is the note that rockets this dish out of the flavor-stratosphere.
For nearly ten years, Jakob was an instructor at the famed Culinary Institute LeNôtre and served as the executive chef at the acclaimed Kris Bistro (now named Le Bistro) sitting unpretentiously inside the school. Staffed by students, as well as graduates of the school, the restaurant was known for its impeccable delivery of French cuisine and exquisite presentation of dishes.
When Jakob made the decision to leave Kris Bistro, he intended to open a restaurant that was closer to his heart and his home. Back in December of 2015, Jakob told the Houston Press that his aim was to “bring a more chef-driven culinary scene to the southeast suburbs outside of Houston.” Along with partner Sky Lyn Gibbons, Jakob officially celebrated the grand opening of Brasserie 1895 on July 15, 2015 to commemorate the founding day of Friendswood, July 15, 1895.
The menu at Brasserie 1895 is indeed French-influenced, yet Houston’s diverse palate can be seen throughout. Thai, Indian, Spanish and South African spices are scattered throughout Brasserie 1895’s winter menu, yet it doesn’t ever feel disjointed. The restaurant uses a wood-burning oven to fire its food, bakes its own bread and does a fantastic job of pairing a selected list of fine wine and interesting craft brews with its eclectic offerings.
The Vuelve a la Vidal is Brasserie’s version of a Mexican shrimp cocktail or campechana (known to be a classic hangover cure) presented in an over-sized martini glass. The jumbo shrimp, delivered in manageable bites, was tossed in a sweet, citrusy tomato-based glaze along with cubes of watermelon, bits of habanero and mango, generous chunks of avocado and served with crispy, light yucca chips.
It tasted more like an ode to the sweetness of life rather than a simple pick-me-up morning-after cure-all. The watermelon burst with flavor and just when I noticed the lack of bite, the habanero snuck up from behind to say a quick and satisfyingly spicy hello. The Pork Marengo, a bone-in hunk of Duroc, an American heritage breed of pork, came dressed with fine fingers of haricot vert and roasted tomatoes, mild green curry and a Marengo garnish of crawfish. Cooked medium-rare, the juicy, tender pink meat was savory and pleasantly salted. The leftovers made for a great sandwich the next day.
One large Piri Piri Lamb Meatball, halved and presented in a roasted garlic tomato sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes atop house-made tagliatelle was a hearty and satisfying entrée. Texas Ranchers Network lamb is mixed with astounding piri piri chili peppers for a South-African flare.
The Fren-chilada also successfully mingled Mexican and French flavors. Local 44 Farms sirloin is sliced, cut and folded inside a soft crepe and presented with cilantro rice and black beans in a small, delicious pool of dark, red mole and topped with freshly grated cojita.
Though delicate and light, the crepe made for a perfect juxtaposition of texture to the heavier Mexican components of a typical enchilada with each bite perfectly seasoned and spiced.
We ordered dessert on both occasions because the first time around was utterly spectacular. The Ardennes Bavarian raspberry mousse arrived on a thin layered foundation of sponge cake (cast only in a supporting role for stability) topped with an even thinner layer of gelatin made with Lindeman’s Lambic Framboise (raspberry beer). A raspberry coulis and house-made gummy bears soaked in a citrusy acid along with fresh raspberry introduced the right amount of tart to accompany the soft and sweet mousse. The dessert was delightfully paired with a taster’s serving of the raspberry beer.
The words “chocolate smoked stout trifle,” barely left the lips of our server’s mouth before we uttered an emphatic “YES, yes please.” Chef Jakob definitely flexed his gastronomical muscles when he composed this dessert. The Imperial Balinese Stout made by local Galveston Island Brewing is used throughout to create a beer-foam and chocolate and smoked stout syrup that cradled the layers of cake and custard in the glass.
In 2015, during the 11th Annual The Woodlands Wine & Food Week, Chef Jakob garnered top honors and the coveted Waterford Crystal Chef of Chefs trophy along with $5,000 for his foie gras brulee. The custard of foie gras, Madeira and truffle finished with a crisp, torched sprinkling of sugar served with house-made ginger snap cookies was simply plated, cute to look at and difficult to share politely.
The décor is eclectic: a rustic communal bar top out on the patio, well stuffed purple armchairs and large birdcages which (yes they do) encircle chandeliers. Bottles of Asian ingredients are tucked away on the top shelf in a back corner, while cases of polished antique flatware and beautiful fine china are stacked against an inner wall.
The only miss showed itself in the execution of a small round bowl of lobster bisque, cream and aged sherry under a puffed pastry dome of buttery, flakey goodness. I fear the extra time needed to cook the puff pastry overcooked the lobster meat, leaving it sad and rubbery. The bisque could have benefited from a tad more cream and ended up being the only item that made me long for the salt and pepper grinder.
Rounding out the diverse menu are items such as parsnip in Thai white curry, Tempura shrimp, and a German salad of apple, beets and potatoes right alongside a bok Caesar salad (made with bok choy rather than romaine). Chef Jakob’s cuisine is indeed New American, full of bold, defining flavors that complement and balance each other on a plate where mashed potatoes do not necessarily have to be joined by mac n’ cheese.
Brasserie 1895 607 South Friendswood Drive, Suite 11, 832-385-2278, Brasserie1895.com
Hours: Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Lobster Bisque, $12
Beef Tartare, $12
Foie Gras Brulee, $15
Piri Piri Lamb Pasta, $18
Pork Marengo, $28
HBR B Side Malbec (glass), $15
Chocolate Stout Trifle, $8
Vuelve ala vidal, $14
Fren-chilada (lunch portion), $18