September 30th marked the tenth anniversary of Le Mistral’s humble beginning. What started as a semi basic bistro, quickly became a little less casual & somewhat more expensive. Within six months of opening, Le Mistral clearly understood their clientele’s want for all that is fine dining.
With chef David Denis’ brother living in the South of France, he began with a convincing request enticing Sylvain Denis to relocate to Texas. Sylvain has taken on the role as owner slash successful sommelier at Le Mistral, having gone from a one page selection to over 400 glorious choices.
As I sat with John DeMers, of Delicious Mischief, chef Denis began to enlighten us… Beyond brokeness, these guys spent the first part of living the dream eating pasta & rice. Keeping eyes on the prize paid off, as they became more & more successful. With prominence came the need for a larger space. After acquiring one acre of land, the Denis brothers lacked financing to build. Sitting on it for a bit was their only option, until finally, the dough began to roll.
With dough rolling came the opportunity to expand this French venture by opening a specialty food store. This building of baking boasts many of Le Mistral’s signature items. Located next door, Foody’s Gourmet & Bakery offers cooking classes as well as the always exciting wine classes. Chef Denis provides bread for many of the restaurants in Houston, including Brasserie 19 & Coppa Ristorante Italiano.
Oil & gas companies in the neighborhood provide a substantial amount of the success Le Mistral maintains. While listening to chef Denis speak, AVH could no longer hold this totally off the subject slash burning question inside…
“When will you be opening Artisans?”
Chef Denis all but let out a mini inquisitive chef gasp, while quickly asking how I knew such a thing. Oui! Oui Chef! After meeting the future sous chef of Artisans in The Woodlands recently, he loose lippingly forked out details, describing the concept of Artisans as full of uniqueness, offering something Houstonians don’t often see.
The restaurant is to be set up as if everyone were dining in the kitchen, alas a massive chef’s table shall be located downtown, forcing all to be very merry. While handing over the very business card with the name of the OTHER super top secret partner, he suddenly spoke the unthinkable…
“You can have the card.”
Just so you know, hype is not chef Denis’ French forté. His plan makes sense… Let a place open without the fluff, resulting in nook & cranny extinction upon full completion. He will fluff his Artisans’ stuff when he’s good & ready. Get it. Got it. Good.
P.S. Artisans secrets of total mumness are upon us.
We first tasted the soupe de champignons sauvages, which is a wild mushroom soup with garlic whipped cream. Le Mistral also offers French onion soup gratinée with Gruyère cheese & thyme.
Tasting the creamy artichoke soup brought forth a delightfully strong artichoke flavor perfectly. Just when all possibilities of higher happiness seemed impossible, floating in the middle was none other than lobster ravioli. This chef feels artichoke & ravioli belong together in the very best way.
It’s almost painful to speak of the risotto a la langouste. Lobster tail, spinach, and Vermouth become one with Arborio risotto. Another interesting app is the Mediterranean mussels marinières-style with shallots, mussel juice, parsley, white wine, and cream. Also offered are Burgundy snails baked in butter, garlic, and parsley.
Chef Denis described the slowly baked halibut entrée as being prepared without any sauce, and arriving on a bed of fennel with sliced tomatoes. While having fish talk, this chef began to speak of his vegan sister-in-law. Um, just so you know, she cares about the little chickens. Sniffle.
Cornbread tres leches with vanilla panna cotta & pear sorbet is a combination easily equaling the most scandalous of all scandalous ingredients. I’m sorry. Um, there is no need to upset the basic needs of cornbread by adding tres leches. If these two ingredients were people, they would assault one another before spastically running to punch panna cotta.
Best friends they need not be, for these families of food must never be forced to frolick. Chef Denis’ words were, “You will either love the cornbread tres leche… or absolutely hate it.” He wasn’t messing around, for this dessert doesn’t tit my tat.
A dessert classic capable of causing full cornbread recovery is chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce & homemade whipped cream. This chef said certain desserts may still be cooking when they arrive, but… “We do all the chihuahua in the back.” Exciting!
Humans rejoice, for Le Mistral has a chocolate fondant with Kalhua slash vanilla ice cream. Dessert options continue with orange Grand Marnier crêpe flambéed, as well as baked carmelized apple tart & vanilla ice cream.
It’s fair to say Zagat knows restaurants, as they recently awarded Le Mistral with Best Food in Houston 2010, as well as Best French Restaurant in 2006. Congrats to the Denis brothers in celebration of ten prosperous years. Houstonians look forward to many more.