The new bar bites menu at Le Jardinier includes nine different bites such as marinated olives spiced with chili flakes and orange peel ($9) as well as toasted nuts tinged with cayenne pepper and fresh rosemary ($10). (Photo by Alex Montoya)
Served daily, the petit appetizer portions of Le Jardinier's bar bites include a curated selection of wines and beers by the glass, and specialty cocktails. (Photo by Alex Montoya)
Botero’s version of beef tartare at Le Jardinier is topped with rings of pickled onions and purple potato chips. (Photo by Alex Montoya)
Chef Botero is of the mind that every bar menu should have a burger and Le Jardinier's features a diminutive lamb burger served on a fluffy brioche-like bun with melted gruyere cheese, date jam, and topped with turmeric golden yellow-tinged Vadouvan aioli. (Photo by Alex Montoya)
The two-year-old upscale restaurant Le Jardinier, poised in the Nancy and Rich Kinder contemporary wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, arguably has the best views in the city. One can sit perched at its bar (or a cozy table) and marvel at the spectacular Cullen Sculpture Garden designed by Isamu Noguchi and gaze at masterworks of the 20th and 21st centuries from artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin and Joan Miro. All while you enjoy the French-inspired food.
This fine dining Houston restaurant created by Bastion Collection, the New York-based hospitality group, can be a pricey ticket for sure with a prix fix dinner ringing in at $185 per person with additional wine pairings for each course adding another $140 per person.
For those who haven’t enjoyed a meal with its seasonal menus created with Michelin-starred chef and Bastion culinary director Alain Verzeroli and executed beautifully by chef de cuisine Felipe Botero, a new bar bites menu now offers a more approachable price point. Served daily, the petit appetizer portions, curated selection of wines and beers by the glass, and specialty cocktails are more reasonable, particularly at happy hour (Mondays through Thursdays from 5 pm to 6:30 pm) when bar cocktails and wines by the glass are $12 each with beers $6.
Enter either through the museum or the exterior doors in the sculpture garden, and you’ll likely be ushered to the glowing quartz-topped bar, its chairs upholstered in plush sage-hued cotton velvet. Designers Steven Harris and Lucien Rees-Roberts of Steven Harris Architects in New York play up the garden theme inside and out with a color-soaked 10 foot by 14 foot tapestry from Trenton Doyle-Hancock hung atop variegated panels of limbo wood. While overhead an array of Akari lanterns designed by the aforementioned Noguchi cast a subtle light.
The bar bites menu at Le Jardinier includes nine different bites such as marinated olives spiced with chili flakes and orange peel ($9) as well as toasted nuts tinged with cayenne pepper and fresh rosemary ($10). Each of which would go well with a glass of 2022 Domaine Pichot Vouvray or a 2020 Famille Perrin Cote du Rhone.
I enjoyed the cocktails. The papillon is one of Le Jardinier’s seasonally inspired cocktails on a menu that will rotate frequently. Made with vodka, velvet falernum, butterfly pea gin, orgeat and pineapple juice, you can try it accompanied with Botero’s version of beef tartare topped with rings of pickled onions and purple potato chips.
Chef Botero is of the mind that every bar menu should have a burger and his features a diminutive lamb burger served on a fluffy Parker house bun with melted gruyere cheese and date jam, and topped with turmeric golden yellow-tinged Vadouvan aioli made with a blend of robust toasted spices from madras curry to coriander and cumin. This special burger runs $32.
What’s a burger without fries? In this case, you can choose from pommes dauphines ($12) tender fluted puffs made with mashed Yukon gold potatoes blended with pate au choux, the egg-rich twice-baked pastry base. Or perhaps let the chef’s Colombian-born background inspire you to try his yucca tots ($28), Botero’s playful take on tatar tots topped with crème fraiche and a dollop of Kaluga caviar.
Nibble on Le Jardinier’s artisanal cheese selection ($17) or end on a sweet note with a spoonful of crème brulee made with bitter orange ($12) or a classic baba au rhum with fresh pineapple and mascarpone Chantilly ($12) drizzled tableside with rum.
Le Jardinier is located at 5500 Main Street at MFAH. It is open from 5 pm to 9 pm Mondays, 5 pm to 10 pm Tuesdays, for lunch 11:30 am to 2 pm and dinner 5 pm to 10 pm Wednesdays through Saturdays, and 11:30 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to 9 pm on Sundays.