PaperCity Magazine

November 2014 - Houston

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Page 32 of 79

NOVEMBER | PAGE 33 | 2014 NOW LANDING AT BCN A MUSEUM WORTHY WORK The poetic BCN Taste & Tradition and a heady Bistro Menil whip the culinary scene into shape. By Laurann Claridge PHOTOGRAPHS JULIE SOFER G ood things come to those who wait. And wait … and wait … Case in point: Twenty- five years ago in the spot where a gray Arts & Crafts-style bungalow stood on the verdant campus of The Menil Collection, its internationally acclaimed architect, Renzo Piano, envisioned a restaurant that would serve both museum- goers and those living in the neighborhood. The museum's board launched an exhaustive search for an operator about two years ago. Now Piano's vision has finally been realized with the opening of the utterly sophisticated Bistro Menil. The cool contemporary space — clad with Spanish cedar, with a wide- planked deck, breezy outdoor seating and floor-to ceiling windows at its entry — was conceptualized by Stern and Bucek, the very firm that oversaw the meticulous renovation of the Menil House, the Menil family's Philip Johnson-designed modern masterpiece on San Felipe. The bistro is owned by noted Houston chef Greg Martin (who spent years at Café Annie, working with the Schiller Del Grande group on their many restaurant ventures) and his partner in life and work, Dr. Paul Garcia. Martin called upon his memories of dishes savored through southern France, Italy and Spain to create a menu of American fare married with European-inspired flavors and classic cooking techniques. In homage to the Gallic museum founders — the democratic and unpretentious collectors Dominique and John de Menil — Martin prices his dishes accessibly, from small plates to light salads, pizzas and flatbreads, and hearty entrees. Draft craft beers and trendy cask wines (all the rage out west) are served, too — eight varieties of the latter — making imbibing both an everyday indulgence and a biodynamic green choice. Reserve a table or the Privé room, pop in and sit at the raw- edged walnut bar or, if you're lucky, find a two-top in the Vue (aka the main dining room), tastefully appointed with gallery-white walls, cushioned Menil-gray banquettes and birch bent-plywood chairs and walnut tables, each wooden top painstakingly made by Garcia himself. Martin, one of the most talented chefs in Texas, crafts crave-worthy small bites ranging from eggplant fries with a briny anchovy aioli ($7) to olive and almond biscotti smeared with goat cheese and a drizzle of agave nectar ($6), puffy petite pizzas dressed with wild mushrooms and Italian truffled cheese ($14) and an Alsatian-inspired flatbread with crunchy pancetta, caramelized onions and dollops of crème fraiche ($9). Cozy bistro dishes include a petite quiche Lorraine cradled in a paté feuillete shell served with a house salad ($13), cassoulet ($15) and crepes — chicken and artichoke ($12) or crab and mushroom ($15). Grander entrees include roasted salmon with horseradish dill sauce ($22), the popular crab cakes ($22) and a Café Annie-inspired cocoa nib and black-peppercorn-crusted beef filet ($34), all of which come with your choice of two sides. (Don't miss the cool zucchini salad with a lemony zing, browned bits of pancetta and a sprinkle of parmesan). Desserts ($6 to $10) are as thoughtfully contemplated as the rest of the menu, with ice creams made in house, chocolate pot de crème and passion- fruit trifle. Best New the Fare oF Fall No exaggeration: BCN Taste & Tradition is one of the most exciting fine-dining restaurants to open in this city in years. Foodies in the know recall that the pre-launch chatter was rather under the radar until late this summer, when word spread of Barcelona-born chef Luis Roger's stateside arrival. Whispers of "Have you heard?" reached a fevered pitch this fall as the first patrons (including Mexico City magnate Carlos Slim) to the understated Spanish restaurant in a 1920s Victorian house left positively gobsmacked. Roger, a classically trained chef who spent his formative years cooking his way through the most lauded kitchens in Spain, boasts a post-grad internship at El Bulli, where master of molecular gastronomy Ferran Adrià left him inspired to preserve the fundamental techniques and ingredients of his homeland and make his mark on modern Spanish cuisine. Roger's life fortuitously changed when he met Barcelona-born, Houston-based commodity trader Ignacio Torras at the Spanish resort Mas Anglada on the Costa Brava, where Roger served for a decade as executive chef. Talk quickly turned to a partnership in Houston to bring a taste of their beloved country to American shores. They lured elegant GM Paco Calza, who managed RDG and Café Annie for decades, to the front-of-the-house, while San Antonio-based architect Augustin Orozco re-envisioned the two-story abode with its grand white-plaster entry and calm, tranquil interiors with gleaming white walls hung with works by Joan Miró and ceramics by Pablo Picasso. This is a destination to leisurely dine, opening your mind and palate to new experiences. Roger's complex dishes are thoughtfully built compilations such as stewed pork cheeks in a merlot ragout with prawns and sautéed artichokes ($35) and wild-caught branzino with a crumb coating of panko, pistachio and almonds over a bed of sautéed spinach dressed in butter ($48). The wines are imported from Spain, along with much of the seafood and the famed Iberico de Bellota ham, cured from the meat of free-range pigs that subsist on a diet of acorns. We'd also like to steer you to the dishes with roots grown in Spanish terra firma, such as cod jowls in a Basque country sauce ($14) to anchovies fished from the Cantabrico Sea ($17).) Impressively, this studious chef made a point during his illustrious career to learn the tenets of pastry, too. Evidently Roger was a stellar student, because his lemon tart ($10) with a pleasant pucker of lemon curd topped with sweet, glossy Italian meringue, layered in a crisp tuile cookie shell, is simply perfection. BCN Taste & Tradition, 4210 Roseland, 832.834.3411, Bistro Menil, 1513 W. Alabama on The Menil Collection campus, 713.904.3537, Picasso-inspired table BCN Taste & Tradition Grilled tuna with demi-glaze sauce, green onions and cherries Goat cheese with home- made crackers, agave nectar and figs Bistro Menil Chef Greg Martin Asparagus soup with salmon and crème fraiche Luis Roger From the sea at BCN

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