PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Houston December 2023

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Page 27 of 91

T here are brasseries, and then there's the new Annabelle Brasserie, Berg Hospitality G r o u p 's s p l a s h y French-inspired eatery situated in the long- awaited Autry Park, poised between West Dallas and Allen Parkway. By definition, a true French brasserie is open continuously, from the early morning hours to late in the evening for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, usually with a full bar, and serves classic brasserie fare such as steak tartare, moules frites, and desserts (tarte Tatin, baba au rhum). Ben Berg has checked all the requisite boxes and more. The prolific restaurant developer (B&B Butchers, Benny Chows, Trattoria Sofia, Turner's) has poured heart and soul into creating Annabelle's elegant surrounds, a 5,929-square-foot space with dining inside and out on the two- tiered veranda dotted with red umbrellas, collaborating with interior designer Gail McCleese of Sensitori. Outside the entrance is a charming vintage pink Citroen truck; inside, bowers of silk blossoms overhead are cleverly built upon an elaborate truss system that allows Berg to change the ceiling decor with the seasons. The main dining room feels intimate, cloaked in Cola brown from the Archive Collection of Farrow & Ball, and appointed with back-to-back banquettes upholstered in blush-pink, domed opera booths with demi-lune tables and a robin's-egg blue Versailles room with brick archways. The menus were created by Berg Hospitality culinary director Brian Sutton and executive chef Russell Kirkham (late of the downtown eatery Artisans). Dining after dark, I started with the can't-miss baguette with raclette ($16). Crafted with a half baguette — care of arguably the best French bakers in Houston, Magnol Bakery, which also supplies Annabelle's croissants — the warm bread is spread with a cornichon aioli before being topped with melted raclette, gently carved off the wheel tableside. It's like France's version of a grilled cheese sandwich, only far more sophisticated. This glorious tableside raclette routine is repeated when you order Le Grand Berg-er, a house-ground beef burger sandwiched in a brioche bun with caramelized onions ($32). The French onion soup is a laborious production of love ($18). Yellow onions are slow-cooked until they're rendered into a dark, sweet, caramelized mass; simultaneously, a light beef broth is created. After the prep work is complete, those dark sweet onions are ladled into a bowl and topped with the steaming broth, then a toasted slice of baguette and a mix of melted gruyère and raclette cheeses. The steak tartar is filet mignon topped with crisp garlic chips, accompanied with a frisée salad and finished with the distinctive tang of Dijon mustard ($46). The roasted bone marrow is topped with shallot bacon jam, tempura-fried escargot, and spears of grilled bread ($28). Or you can begin your repast with chilled seafood dishes, from oysters (half-dozen, $18) to seafood platters ($105 – $175). Celebrate with Annabelle's reserve caviar ($155) or Petrossian's best, from RoyalDaurenki ($135) to Royal Sevruga ($215). If you can't imagine a French brasserie meal sans frites, there's a section of six dishes that all arrive with a cone of thinly cut potato frites — from steak frites, a 10-ounce New York strip ($48), to requisite moules frites, tender mussels opened in a mild vadouvan curry coconut milk broth ($36). The most unexpected dish in that listing is the spicy Moroccan-inspired bon mi made with house- made lamb merguez, harissa, and pickled cucumber with a smear of dill-scented crème fraiche, sandwiched in a split baguette ($22). Classic tenets of French cuisine that require arduous advance preparation appear in the entrée selections, including boeuf Bourguignon, the long-cooked beef stew studded with peewee potatoes, pearl onions, and mushrooms ($30), as well as duck confit cassoulet, the Gascony peasant dish made with a ragout of cannellini beans ($29), and tender duck confit cassoulet ($29). End with chilly café liégeois, made with cool sweetened espresso, scoops of vanilla and coffee ice cream, and copious amounts of whipped Chantilly cream and crème anglaise ($12), Annabelle Brasserie, 811 Buffalo Park Dr., Suite 100, By Laurann Claridge. Photography Brian Kennedy. A Brasserie by Any Other Name Pain purdue at Annabelle Brasserie Annabelle Brasserie 26

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