Wherever you go in Paris, you will find a multitude of cafes and bistros showcasing whole rotisserie chickens in their windows. Thankfully, you don't have to spend much time scouring the streets in search of a hot, juicy chicken -- your nose will lead you in the right direction.
In Houston, you can find rotisserie chickens on menus at a few restaurants, but unfortunately, they're usually pieces of rotisserie chicken rather than whole birds. You can also settle for the bagged rotisseries at the grocery stores (which aren't bad options). But it's safe to say our city is in need of a few more local establishments serving meats and fowl cooked in this traditional manner. And that is where Allô French Rotisserie comes into play.
This rotisserie-centered French restaurant opened in Vintage Park just a few weeks ago. Eric Goldner (a mastermind behind Hubbell & Hudson) established Allô to be a casual, laid-back establishment serving French fare without the ritzy, fancy feel most French restaurants in Houston strive for.
Upon walking inside, you are greeted with relaxing French music softly playing in the background and the strong, wonderful aromas of chicken and meat cooking on the rotisserie.
Allô's service is similar to that at Fielding's Wood Grill (another establishment from former Hubbell & Hudson partners) -- you order at the counter, take a seat and the rest of the meal is waiter service. Unfortunately, this ordering method means you must make decisions quickly if you want to start with an appetizer, enjoy a cup of soup, or have a glass of wine or beer with your meal. But once you take a seat, your waiter will bring your food in a timely manner so that you can enjoy each course as you would in any other restaurant.
I dined at Allô on a Tuesday, so the rotisserie special was roasted short ribs. Allô's chefs prepare all-natural rotisserie chicken every day, and a special rotisserie meat, including herb-crusted sirloin on Mondays, orange hoisin-glazed duck on Wednesdays and porcini-rubbed brisket on Fridays. The rotisserie selections are served with your choice of two sides and a sauce.
My father and my fiancé decided they both wanted the beef short ribs, but were quickly informed that there was only one order left...even though it was only 7 p.m. (Maybe Allô should stock up on their daily specials.) Unfortunately, only one person could have the ribs; my fiancé made a wise choice and let my father have them.
The second I saw escargot on the menu as a starter option, I knew I had to order it. My mother decided to try the charcuterie and cheese plate, because, like me, she's obsessed with cheese trays.
All in all, the escargots were just mediocre -- nothing made them pop. But the charcuterie and cheese plate was scrumptious and perfect for sharing. I appreciated the waiter's knowledge of the cheeses and cured meats on our platter as well. He informed us that the options change daily -- meats vary between Spanish chorizo, salami, prosciutto, liverwurst and the like; cheeses include Cheddar, Parmesan and Gruyère. The cheese plate also has tiny slices of toasted, crispy baguette, a chile pepper jam, olives and gherkins. Each of the cured meats, cheeses and pickled vegetables pairs nicely with the others -- a favorite combo was Gruyère with the chile pepper jam on a toasted baguette slice.
The appetizers were enjoyable, but they weren't outstanding. What was outstanding was the rotisserie -- as it should be. The roasted short ribs order was everything you would want it to be -- moist, tender, warm and comforting. The fall-off-the-bone short ribs covered in a thick bordelaise sauce were perfect for a cold winter night or when you just need something that makes you feel at home.
While the main attraction at Allô is the rotisserie, Allô's menu offers a variety of dishes that cater nicely to any patron's stomach -- hungry customers can choose a large serving of French shepherd's pie complete with savory lamb, beef stew and truffle whipped potatoes, or indulge in a classic croque madame sandwich.
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For those looking for lighter fare, enjoy a warm cup of French onion soup with croutons and a Romaine salad with herbs, tomato confit, crumbled blue cheese, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and a French vinaigrette, or opt for a seafood entrée such as the shrimp brochette a la plancha -- seared jumbo marinated shrimp with ratatouille covered in an herb pesto, or roasted salmon with herbed rice and Gribiche sauce.
If a whole or half bird is too much food for you, Allô offers the rotisserie chicken as an addition to any salad. The slices of chicken are tender, moist and bursting with flavor -- you won't miss the crispy skin from a whole or half bird.
Allô serves a variety of red and white wines by the glass, half carafe and full carafe, as well as beers on draft and by the bottle, making for a complete and enjoyable dinner.
The French restaurant has been open for only a few weeks, but it shows promising signs of being successful in the Vintage Park shopping center, especially with holiday shopping picking up speed. Hungry shoppers will be looking for a casual, comforting and tasty place to eat, and Allô is an excellent option for lunch, dinner or just dessert.