PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston May 2023

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seafood bouillabaisse, and you'll get spears of grilled bread along with the traditional dollop of rouille, the garlic- and saffron-scented sauce thickened with bread ($18). I always gravitate toward gnocchi on a menu, and it's rare even in French eateries outside the continent to see Parisian-style gnocchi. Unlike the traditional Italian version, French gnocchi is made with a base of pâte à choux, then delicately poached in boiling water to finish cooking. The resulting light pillows of choux are accented with caramelized onions, olives, seasoned with anchovy, and mellowed with crème fraiche ($18). Completely crave-worthy. Other entrees include a deceivingly simple omelet made with a high ratio of yolks to whites (90 percent) to create a fluffy but soft envelope filled with lump crabmeat and served with bearnaise sauce ($23). Chef Domas has a wood burning Josper oven to play with, and out of it comes his bar steak, a bistro classic made here with the bavette (flank) cut, initially cooked sous vide before it's charred in the Josper ($38). The double cheeseburger has been getting lots of attention for its 60/40 combination of short rib and duck grind; apropos to its Gallic origins, it's topped with melting gruyère, duck-fat-fried onions, and special sauce ($18). Eau Tour, Rice Village, 5117 Kelvin Dr. T he name PS-21 is neither a New York public school nor a psalm in the Bible. It simply reflects first initials of chef Philippe Schmit and Sébastien Laval, combined with the year when they founded their latest restaurant concept. For the past two decades, these French- born restaurateurs have made a distinctive mark on the Houston restaurant scene: Top toque Schmit led the kitchens at Bistro M o d e r n e , P h i l i p p e Restaurant + Lounge, and Toulouse, while Laval — now also working as an in-demand consultant — managed front-of-the- house operations at MAD, Musaafer, Le Colonial, and La Table. Their newest concept is housed in the former locale of Queen Vic and Olive & Twist on Richmond Avenue. Laval, along with architect George Atala, pared back the 3,400-square- foot space to create a clean aesthetic inside, with rich plum-painted walls, dark woods and caramel-colored leather chairs pulled up to white-cloth-covered tables. Dining at PS-21 reminds me that indulging in authentic French cuisine should be a leisurely paced experience. The fare is to be savored, never rushed, and flavor profiles are often quite subtle. If you're accustomed to food cooked with a riot of spice followed by a wave of heat, you won't find it in French fare. Schmit and Laval have embraced the experience of l'apéro (short for apéritif) to whet your appetite for what's to come. It's that treasured hour or so before dinner when you can unwind over a cocktail and share a few snacks, such as céleri rémoulade ($12). Celery root is rarely seen on American shores (but much adored by moi) and bears no resemblance to the green fibrous stalks we all know so well. Here, the root vegetable is shredded and enrobed in a delicate remoulade seasoned with cool house-made mayonnaise spiked with Dijon mustard and a touch of lemon juice, with an optional shaving of fresh black truffles. It's as subtle as it gets. Alas, I overlooked the tarte flambée — a caramelized onion and bacon tart traditionally made with baker's dough scraps and topped with créme fraîche ($19) — but wasn't disappointed with the brandade of codfish spread ($16). Made as it traditionally is in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France with salted codfish puréed with potatoes and olive oil, the bramade is then topped with panko breadcrumbs, gratinéed, and served alongside grilled focaccia. The cocktails, created with mixologist Souvik Dasgupta, highlight ingredients that hail from French territories all over the globe. For example, the Polynésie mixes fresh pineapple and pineapple sorbet with crème de coco, piña sherbert, and champagne ($16). The Casablanca is a Moroccan mélange made with tumeric-infused rum spiced with cardamon bitters, lime, and tonic ($16). Moving on, don't miss the steak tartare Rossini made with prime-grade tenderloin; the finely chopped beef is served with sauteed foie gras and sided with toasted pain de mie ($35). Then there's the raclette service for two, where a half-wheel of the cheese is brought tableside, warmed, and served with fingerling potatoes, pickles, salad crudité, and charcuterie ($28 per person). I enjoyed the crispy salmon, three medallions encircling a dollop of asparagus pesto before being wrapped in a crispy brick pastry and served with a zucchini and pepper relish ($27). Seafood bouillabaisse ($32), as well as a vegan version ($24), is served along with traditional steak frites with grilled ribeye and your choice of peppercorn, bordelaise, or béarnaise sauce ($48). PS-21, 2712 Richmond Ave. PS-21 The entrance to Eau Tour PS-21 The fare at PS-21 RAYDON CREATIVE HAROLD CUA 74

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