Former Kris Bistro namesake Kris Jakob worked for nine years at the tucked-away gem inside Culinary Institute LeNôtre before striking off on his own to open Brasserie 1895, 607 South Friendswood, #11. The full-fledged nature of the school’s educational programs — charcuterie, wine, pastries and more — was reflected in Kris Bistro’s French menu, so it's only natural Jakob has carried that skill set forward to his own place.
Brasserie 1895, with its plush burgundy and gray booths and flickering gas lamps, reflects Jakob's experience as a chef and has a distinct multicultural, Houstonian air about it. That means rogan josh is on the menu right next to gumbo, wood-oven fired pizza and chicken-friend steak. The style of plating, though, is definitely French-influenced.
So, instead of a hulking slab of chicken-fried steak, a beautiful plate of two tender breaded cutlets appears at the table, the cutlets propped carefully on smooth potatoes whipped with plenty of butter and emerald-green haricots verts (French-style green beans) on the side. Sometimes it’s okay for a chicken-fried steak to just be a chicken-fried steak, but this is a successful if unexpected take on it — certainly more so than many other restaurants' attempts to fancy up this dish.
The aforementioned rogan josh is stunning and would pass muster at the very best Indian restaurants. Incredibly tender chunks of lamb sourced from Black Hill Meats are bathed in creamy coconut sauce spiked with the rogan josh spice mix (a complex blend that traditionally includes paprika, garlic, ginger, cumin and more). The saucy meat is laid alongside thick yellow dal (lentils simmered until thick and soft).
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Piping hot naan comes on the side. Since it’s made in a pan, not a tandoor, it’s thicker than the traditional versions, but that also has a side benefit. The thickness enables it to hold heat better, and the few remaining slices of bread were still warm even by the time the last scoops of dal and lamb disappeared. Jakob says the dish is so good because he begged a former neighbor to teach him how to make traditional Indian food until she relented.
There’s a selection of both Belgian and local craft beer on the menu. The Belgian ones include esteemed classics Chimay, Orval, and Duvel, while the Texas brands veer refreshingly off the beaten path. That means that Texas Beer Refinery’s Gulf Coast Gose, Galveston Island Brewing’s Citra Mellow and Space Dust get a well-deserved turn in the spotlight. Wines are so reasonably priced that it seems silly not to just buy a bottle, with plenty of selections from Italy, France and the United States in the under-$40 range.
Brasserie 1895 is a valuable and terrific addition to the Friendswood area. It’s the kind of place those who live in the neighborhood can go to when they want a very nice dining experience that's also laid-back and friendly. (As if to emphasize that nice-but-easygoing vibe, servers wear sports coats over jeans and T-shirts.) That said, even diners who don’t live in the area but happen to find themselves within a reasonable jaunt ought to stop by and see what Jakob’s new restaurant has to offer.