Philippe Restaurant + Lounge

Laurann Claridge
February 16, 2011

Keys to the Door: Chef/owner Philippe Schmit; interior designer Lauren Rottet; architect Shafik Rifaat; operating partner Chris Fannin.
What’s on the Menu: After an absence from the Houston dining scene, former Bistro Moderne exec chef Philippe Schmit is making a splash at his eponymous restaurant in the new BLVD Place development. Ask the Gallic chef what his gleaming, two-story French eatery is all about, and he’ll more likely tell you he doesnt want it to be: stuffy, formal, intimidating or rife with attitude. Instead, working with widely acclaimed Houston-based interior designer Lauren Rottet, Schmit’s team has pulled the white cloths off the tables, appointed the environs upstairs with a soothing palette of whites, grays, blacks and forest wood hues, and papered the walls with architectural renderings and black-and-white photos of relics from France’s past. Downstairs, those swinging by for a bourbon or a Lillet blanc on the rocks will find manly leather lounges and cowhide pillows and ottomans that encourage one to idle away their day while old French films play on a loop in the back of the bar. With more than two years to contemplate his menu, Schmit has compiled an enticing assortment of dishes, both small and large plates, from a complex lobster bisque with light cod quenelles ($9) to spicy duck confit tamales ($9) that bridge his homeland ingredients with local flavors. Although the menu headings might make you snicker (“Flirtations,” “Sumptuous,” “Contained Decadence”), Schmit’s dishes are thoughtfully articulated. “Main Attractions” include a très classique parchment paper–wrapped dorade steamed with parsnips, cabbage, orange zest and a splash of vermouth ($22) and a hearty Cowboy bone-in rib-eye steak with frites ($64), a share plate for two. Playing around with the tried and true, Schmit replaces meat with duck for a Frenchified shepherd’s pie ($23) and deftly plays with Moroccan spices in everything from a steak tartare with almonds, raisins and harissa ($8) to strewn lamb shanks, braised and served with couscous, apricots and dates ($26). 1800 Post Oak Blvd. in BLVD Place, 713.439.1000;

Image: Photos by Shannon O’Hara.