Restaurants / Openings

Houston’s French Restaurant Where No Expense Is Spared — Ben Berg Takes Annabelle Brasserie to a Whole New Level

Your First Taste Review

BY // 01.09.24

There are brasseries, and then there’s the still relatively new Annabelle Brasserie, Berg Hospitality Group’s splashy French-inspired restaurant situated in Houston’s long-awaited Autry Park development, 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, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, usually with a full bar. After all, the idea evolved from French beer breweries that also served food, along with classic brasserie fare such as steak tartare, moules frites and desserts (tarte Tatin, baba au rhum).

Houston restaurateur Ben Berg has checked all those requisite boxes and more with Annabelle Brasserie.

The prolific restaurant developer (B&B Butchers, Benny Chows, Trattoria Sofia, Turner’s) has poured $4.5 million into creating Annabelle’s elegant surrounds, a 5,929-square-foot space with dining available both inside and out on a two-tiered veranda dotted with red umbrellas. For the design, Berg collaborated with interior designer Gail McCleese of Sensitori. Outside this Houston restaurant’s entrance, you’ll find a charming vintage pink Citroen truck driven by a pair of life-sized teddy bears delivering buckets of flowers.

Inside, more of those silk blossoms in shades of green, pink and violet dangle overhead, cleverly built upon an elaborate truss system that allows Berg to change the ceiling decor as the seasons change. (During the holidays, you’ll see a glittering array of Christmas ornaments.)

Dining Room Annabelle’s
The room at Annabelle Brasserie is appointed with back-to-back banquettes upholstered in blush-pink fabrics opposite bentwood chairs. Along the interior perimeter, domed opera booths with demi-lune tables make for a perfect tête-à-tête. (Photo by Kristen Gilliam)

The main dining room at Annabelle Brasserie feels intimate, cloaked in Cola Brown from the Archive Collection of Farrow & Ball. The room is appointed with back-to-back banquettes upholstered in blush-pink fabrics opposite bentwood chairs. Along the interior perimeter, domed opera booths with demi-lune tables make for a perfect tête-à-tête. Separating the main dining area from the robin’s-egg blue Versailles room is one of two aged-looking brick archways. In the sun-filled space, gold millwork accents and a bronze female sculpture (perhaps Annabelle herself) center the room, along with a checkerboard of black-and-white marble tiles underfoot.

The menus were created by Berg Hospitality culinary director Brian Sutton and executive chef Russell Kirkham (formerly of the downtown Houston restaurant 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 in 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.

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  • Bering's Gift's June 2024 Fourth of July
  • Bering's Gift's June 2024 Fourth of July
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  • Bering's Gift's June 2024 Fourth of July
  • Bering's Gift's June 2024 Fourth of July
  • Bering's Gift's June 2024 Fourth of July
  • Bering's Gift's June 2024 Fourth of July
  • Bering's Gift's June 2024 Fourth of July
  • Bering's Gift's June 2024 Fourth of July

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 roasted bone marrow iat Annabelle Brasserie is topped with shallot bacon jam, tempura-fried escargot, and spears of grilled bread ($28). Photo Brian Kennedy.
The roasted bone marrow at Annabelle Brasserie is topped with shallot bacon jam, tempura-fried escargot and spears of grilled bread ($28). (Photo by Brian Kennedy)

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, with a toasted slice of baguette and a mix of melted gruyère and raclette cheeses.

The steak tartar at Annabelle Brasserie 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 (a half dozen are $18) to seafood platters ($105 to $175). Celebrate with Annabelle’s reserve caviar ($155) or Petrossian’s best, from Royal Daurenki ($135) to Royal Sevruga ($215).

If you can’t imagine a French brasserie meal sans frites, not to worry. 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 the aforementioned 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 housemade 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 at Annabelle Brasserie. Examples include 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). On the lighter side, you’ll find seared branzino accompanied by a mélange of Provençal-style vegetables napped in parsley oil ($34) and seared Ora King salmon perched on a bed of Puy lentils, an AOC-protected product grown in France, cooked in a mushroom jus ($42).

End your meal with chilly cafe liégeois, made with cool sweetened espresso, scoops of vanilla and coffee ice cream, and copious amounts of whipped Chantilly cream and crème anglaise ($12). Or try the beautifully caramelized tarte Tatin, made here with Granny Smith apples and topped with a dollop of crème fraîche ($14).

Annabelle Brasserie is lcated at 811 Buffalo Park Drive, Suite 100. The restaurant is open Mondays through  Thursdays from 7 am to 10 pm, Fridays from 7 am to 11 pm, Saturdays from 8 am to 11 pm and Sundays from 8 am to 9 pm. Self and street parking are available in the large 14 acre Autry Park development, as well as valet ($7).

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