Restaurants / Openings

Nightclub Masters Jump Into the Houston Restaurant Scene with New River Oaks Spot

Late Night Fun Makes the Menu

BY // 06.27.18

Clé Group isn’t afraid to kiss and tell. The hospitality entrepreneurs are scheming to open Bisou, a French-inspired restaurant this fall in River Oaks District. Bisou is taking the place of the Lombardi Dallas restaurant family’s shuttered Taverna restaurant.

Bisou’s name means kiss in French and the new restaurant promises a bold, splashy menu with a “French kiss,” executive chef Frédéric Perrier tells PaperCity.

Think French classics with modern twists — arancini-wrapped escargot in spicy butter sauce, whole roasted chicken and cylinder-shaped crispy crabmeat mac and cheese. Perrier is cooking up lunch, brunch and dinner menus with shareables galore.

Perrier’s wide range of experience brings all kinds of elements to Bisou. The chef’s done everything  from apprenticing under legendary French chef Georges Blanc and Paul Bocuse to serving as the executive chef at La Cité in New York.

As the private chef for the French Ambassador to the United Nations for four years, Perrier’s style evolved. He’s already created Grille 5115, Café Perrier and AURA Brasserie in Texas.

This new Houston restaurant takes the place of Taverna, the first River Oaks District restaurant to close. The trendy Italian spot opened back in 2016 and it shuttered abruptly in June with no explanation.

You could say that Clé Group is ready to give the space the kiss of life again with its newest concept. The minds behind splashy crowd-pleasers Clé and Spire —Andrew Estes, Zack Truesdell, Salim Dekhordi and Dallas Rodriguez— decided it was time to bring their verve to the restaurant scene.

“I think Bisou is an extension of Clé and Spire for us. As nightlife hospitality operators, it just made sense for us to extend our reach into restaurants,” Estes says. And he’s ready for what comes next.

“The food scene in Houston is a very competitive market, the number of great restaurants and great operators bring their A-game,” Estes says. “We think that we’ve got the ability with the same A-game in that space.”

Bisou Goes Beyond a Restaurant

Bisou’s carving out its own niche, fit for diners craving more than a simple, straightforward meal. “There’s not a lot of places where you can have great fun and great food. It’s usually one of the other. We’re a terrific example. Great ambience, great music,” Perrier says.

“Before, I think everywhere you went if you wanted to have fun, you were going to have to suffer eating something average. We’re not in that position.”

Lively nights and brunch bashes are game changers, set to make Bisou stand out from the crowd.

“Our focus will definitely be on the food and the restaurant experience. But I think we’re looking to expand the hours from a normal restaurant. After 10, we may inject a little bit of a DJ,” Estes says. That’s one spin on dining.

You can also take it to the next level the morning after. Things will definitely veer toward Sunday Fundays. “Expect to see people ordering Champagne bottle service doing those brunches,” Estes notes. Clé Group is one of the largest sellers of Dom Perignon in Texas.

“The four partners are all in the club business but they’re all very much foodies and love to eat, and eat out pretty much every day,” Perrier says. “They basically put full trust in my taste.”

His taste is a little bit of everything, influenced as much from his time as a private chef as his time in Houston.

“As a private chef, it was very much old French in a way. But we had so many different people from different countries. We received all the different heads of the nations.  The King of Monaco, the Pope,” Perrier says. “I got to do so many things.”

Everyone had special requirements, from not including pork to avoiding cream and beyond. “It gave me a broader range of cooking over the years,” Perrier says.

And in Houston, foodies wouldn’t have it any other way.  “When you come to Texas, everything is a melting pot,” Perrier says. “And the foodie scenery is changing very much. I like it. I’m rejoicing a little bit.”

His personal fare will skew to the healthier side, subbing some of the French’s flair for butter, cream, and more butter and cream, with olive oil. Vegetarian and vegan dishes will be represented, inspired by Perrier’s youngest son.

“It’s going to be a very accomplished menu. It’ll be a very full menu with a great array of things to please everyone,” the chef says.

With its chef-driven menu and entertainment bent, Perrier and Estes believe Bisou won’t be your run-of-the-mill restaurant. It’ll bring a whole new vibe to River Oaks District, a personal favorite.

“We feel that River Oaks District has become a mecca of high-end shopping and restaurant experiences. We want to be part of its growth,” Estes says.

River Oaks District may have had to kiss Taverna goodbye, but it looks like Bisou is ready to step up.

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