UPDATED REVIEW — APRIL 2009
Housed in new digs in a strip shopping center next door to its original location, Le Mistral has morphed from a modest French country bistro to a posh dining venue. Gone are the lace curtains and the view of a gas station. The dining room has skylights, but no windows, the walls adorned with modern art, including a nod to its Texas home — a very large picture of a reclining cow. The restaurant was packed on a recent Saturday evening, with parties in the wine and banquet rooms, and a lively crowd in the adjoining bar. There’s not much else that compares in far west Houston, and the restaurant appears to be thriving. Reservations, particularly on a weekend, are recommended. While jeans are acceptable, the attire is on the dressier side, with many men in sport coats.
The great service continues in the new location. This is Houston, so our good ole’ boy waiter, lacking any pretense of a French accent, seemed right at home. The wine list was extensive, not limited to French wines, and pricey.
We started with a seared scallop on fettuccine style leeks with smoked salmon sauce, which sounded better than it tasted primarily because the sauce was gluey and lacked zing. Perhaps a little citrus (or some acid as they say in the trade) would have helped. Our other starter, the foie gras terrine, was far tastier, and we ate every morsel. The rack of lamb entrée was a real winner — a generous serving of the whole 8-rib rack, nicely cooked, with a ginger herb crust that didn’t overwhelm the taste of the lamb. The lamb came with a side of good (but not fabulous) potato gratin. Our other entrée, a salmon steak, was acceptable but nothing special, slightly overcooked and a smaller serving compared to the lamb. The salmon sat on spinach fettuccine with a few fresh clams in a chive butter sauce, which also lacked punch. Our waiter didn’t recommend the salmon as one of his favorite fish dishes, and we should have listened.
While we may not venture that direction again soon (although it is a lot easier with the Westpark Tollway), we enjoyed our dining experience and are happy to see an upscale French restaurant thriving in the Houston suburbs.
FIRST REVIEWED — JUNE 2006
Braving I-10 construction, we ventured outside our Loop comfort zone to this far westside French restaurant that has received great reviews. Located in a strip shopping center, with a view of the Shell gas station through the curtains, we understand they will be building a new freestanding restaurant next door. The dining room strives for the quaintness of a French restaurant but comes up slightly short on the charm scale. Although we saw a number of diners in jeans, we would recommend dressing up a little more.
We enjoyed reasonably priced Kir Royales, and Manager/Owner Denis could not have been more helpful with our wine by the glass selections, even bringing out three bottles that weren’t on the menu that he offered to open for us. The food was very good, although not outstanding, traditional French fare. We started with the foie gras terrine — a well done version of this classic dish that was highlighted by the toasted brioche accompaniment. The seared Chilean Sea Bass was nicely cooked, although the basil risotto was a little too basil-y, and the red pepper/black olive sauce seemed slightly too assertive for the delicately flavored fish. The roasted veal chop was prepared at the requested medium but also overpowered by a large amount of sauce that tasted of onion and not of the billed apples and Calvados. The chocolate fondant (a/k/a molten chocolate cake) with a shot glass of coffee liqueur-infused ice cream was a standard version of this popular dessert.
We would return to this restaurant, and we’d like to try more dishes. However, for our first visit, the food didn’t quite live up to the charm of the owner and the otherwise great service.
1400 Eldridge Parkway