After abruptly parting ways from his eponymous restaurant last September and triumphantly returning to the kitchen in March for a pop-up foie gras dinner at Kris Bistro, chef Philippe Schmit is back again, and this time, his focus is on chocolate.
Schmit is widely regarded as one of the best French chefs in Houston, so his departure from Philippe (the restaurant, now helmed by Manuel Pucha and called TABLE) set tongues wagging. The restaurant issued a statement saying "Schmit is leaving his post to pursue other projects." But then, for about six months, he was completely off the radar.
When he returned with the five-course foie gras dinner at Kris Bistro and Wine Lounge, it was clear Schmit was back, and that his food, which had long straddled the line between French and Texan, was better than ever.
Schmit is supposedly still on the hunt for a restaurant, but in the meantime, he's serving up a sweet and savory chocolate feast at 6:30 p.m. at Kris Bistro on Thursday, May 15.
"We wanted to find a theme that was unusual or exciting," Schmit explains of his choice to highlight chocolate for this meal. "We wanted to find ingredients that you could try to match with different courses. Foie gras wasn't easy to match with dessert, but the chocolate is the opposite. The truffle dinner will be a little more classic. It's challenging but exciting."
Like the foie gras dinner, the chocolate dinner will consist of five courses, plus canapés with champagne as guests arrive. The first course will be a corn tamale with braised veal cheeks and a dark chocolate molé. After that, Schmit will serve a cured salmon napoleon. I personally don't picture salmon and chocolate pairing well together, but the dish, described as layers of coffee and chocolate with dill-ginger whipped cream and ginger vinaigrette sounds intriguing.
The third course will be a seared scallop in cacao butter with what Schmit is calling "saffron vegetable fricassée lasagna" and a milk chocolate emulsion. That will be followed by a roasted whole quail with chanterelle mushrooms, polenta and artichokes in a chocolate hazelnut grand veneur sauce. Sauce grand-veneur translates to "huntsman's sauce" and is usually made with peppercorns, dry red wine, meat stock, currant jelly and heavy cream.
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Finally, Schmit will serve a strawberry jubilee for dessert. It will include flambéed strawberries, a warm chocolate and caramel strawberry compote and vanilla pepper ice cream.
The dinner will serve no more than 100 people, to allow Schmit, along with Kris Bistro chef Kristofer Jakob and the students of Culinary Institute LeNotre, to put as much energy as possible into serving a small crowd, rather than struggling to served hundreds, as Schmit sometimes was at his old restaurant, Philippe.
"This dinner is not necessarily indicative of what I might have at a restaurant, " Schmit says of his future plans. "We're just having fun and playing with the main ingredients and being creative. But I am trying out a few things."
Tickets are $110 per person, not including beverages, tax and gratuity. Wine pairings are available for an extra $40, and I recommend that, as chocolate and wine go so wonderfully well together. For reservations, call Kris Bistro at 713-358-5079 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.