Houston Restaurant Week is better than Christmas -- there, I said it. Last year my husband and I went crazy trying new restaurants, finding many of our favorites through the Restaurant Week event. This is the gift that keeps on giving (and I'm counting the extra five pounds you have to work off in September). Add in that part of the proceeds benefit the Houston Food Bank, and this is definitely The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
I recently got an invitation for a sneak peek at the Restaurant Week menu at Philippe, a restaurant that has been on my "to-try" list since its opening back in February. The media tasting included dishes from both the lunch and dinner menus Philippe will be serving during Restaurant Week. If the dishes were chosen to pique my curiosity, it worked -- I made a reservation for lunch on my way out the door. (Okay, a table-side visit from the handsome French chef didn't hurt. I'm a sucka for great hair, and this man has great hair.)
Both appetizers we sampled were chosen from the HRW lunch menu. The sherried onion soup was made with house-made "Pain de Mie," Gruyere cheese and a sherry wine broth. The soup was a little sweeter and less savory than a "traditional" French onion soup, and I might have liked just little bit more of a meaty flavor from the broth -- that said, I can hardly quibble when there was no shortage of nutty Gruyere melted on top.
The second appetizer was a salad of sweet rock baby shrimp dressed with a vanilla citrus vinaigrette, garnished with mango, avocado and freshly shaved coconut, served atop a bed of mesclun greens and mint. The shrimp was a hit for me: light and lunch-friendly in terms of both flavor and size, I could easily eat a large portion of this over greens as a stand-alone lunch dish. I thought it had a nice depth of flavor without filling me up too much to contemplate a second -- and third -- course.
Our main courses were chosen from the HRW dinner menu. As with the Sherried onion soup, the beef short rib ravioli were a bit sweeter than I expected, from the tomato confit and garlic sauce; black olives niçoise provided a necessary salty component for balance. The beef short rib filling was soft, melt-in-your-mouth luscious--definitely not my Gram's version of Sunday ravioli.
The second main course was a grilled skate wing served alongside an "old fashioned mush potato, with porcini mushroom and olive oil" with a grenobloise garnish, lobster vinaigrette and mesclun. All I can say about the fish is "yes, yes, yes, yes, yes." The rich, buttery, caper-laden grenobloise sauce stood up to the skate, pushing back against the firm texture and sweet flavor of the fish. Plus, it's super-pretty on the plate.
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Both desserts were lovely to look at, and came in a nice, lunch-friendly portion: a key lime pie, and a brown butter financier with roasted apricot and pistachio ice cream. I will confess to not being much of a key lime pie person, though I've tried to cultivate an appreciation for it over the years. And the brown butter financier's buttery richness and light, lemon-y flavors really stole my heart. What can I say? I like my cake, and I'll eat it, too.
Click through to find a full list of participating Houston Restaurant Week restaurants, as well as a selection of menus.