Friday, August 16, 2013

Review: Etoile Cuisine et Bar (Burger Friday)

Okay folks, before I begin, I want to say that I am borrowing an expression that the prolific Houston Food Critic Alison Cook has used to describe her Friday Expeditions to enjoy different kinds of burger joints and non-burger joints with great burgers all over creation.  This two word phrase, which to my knowledge is not trademarked (please correct me if I am wrong), has been Tweeted, Facebooked and tossed about by Foodies, Fooders, Food lovers and typical Houstonians all over thanks to Ms. Cook.  I'm using it in this context for 2 reasons:  first because I enjoyed this burger on a Friday and second because the place I enjoyed is way more than a burger joint.  However this place has a superior burger--one that has led to another adjustment in my Top 20 Houston Burgers, because it's just that wonderful a burger.

The place I'm going on about is Etoile Cuisine et Bar, located in Uptown Park, billing themselves as purveyors of fresh, authentic French Cuisine.  However, I did not partake of any Coq au Vin. Escargot, or Ratatouille, nor did I enjoy any Nouveau Cuisine for a repast.  Nope.  I came here for the burger that several of my fellow burger buffs said like Barney Stinson is Legen-Wait for it-Dary!!!

First a little info about Etoile per their website:
The owners of Etoile, Chef Philippe Verpiand and Monica Bui, have created an inviting, warm European environment where fine French food is front and center. ”We want to dispel the notion that French food is heavy and pretentious,” says the team, recently transplanted to Houston from San Diego, where they owned the famed Cavaillon restaurant. Everything about Etoile, from the inviting outside facade to the intriguing interior design to the high quality service, is meant to convey a feeling of truly being in France. With Chef Philippe’s take on a seasonal menu using a French technique, it’s a place where fine food lovers come together, not on a special occasion, but to enjoy every day.
I examined their lunch (le Dejune) menu and no question there are a number of mains that made my mouth water from reading (The Seafood Risotto: salmon, scallop, shrimp, mussel in a calamari stew with paella rice; or Duck Leg Confit with caramelized onions, fingerling potatoes, port wine demi-glaze, organic spring greens).  However, I was here for the burger, feeling a tad out of place in my cargo shorts and tie-dyed Bucc-ee's shirt, but dagnabit, I was going to have their burger.  I took a seat at the bar and was served my beverage promptly.  I scoped out the restaurant after my order was taken, noticing the clean design, the wine on display all over, the very nice, higher end table linens and the European style table setting for the cutlery.  Before I knew it, lunch was served.  In fact, I was amazed at how fast my medium burger came out.  Fast French Food, who'd have thought, eh?

This burger is fairly simple--house ground beef using two different cuts of meat (I know this because Chef Philippe came by the bar and told me so), served on a house baked Brioche bun, with a generous amount of melted Gruyère cheese above the patty, and tomato confit/mixed greens below it.  The frites were served in what resembled a small kettle on the side with a mild horseradish mayonnaise--NO CATSUP!!!  After sizing up this 8 oz burger, snapping a few photos and tweeting a pic to an impatient person who didn't see the burger when I first said "Burger Friday" (just kidding, Chuck!), I took a first bite and chewed, slowly.  The meat was buttery, a bit salty, a true medium (hot pink centre), had a decent amount of ooze, but was well contained within the Brioche bun.  The cheese was salty, creamy, had a slight bitter aftertaste (as I usually get with a Gruyère) and worked in contrast with the meat.  The tomato confit was fresh, a little sour and the greens were crisp.  The whole thing worked together like a well rehearsed symphony.  A true French take on the American Classic and definitely worth  the traffic fight to Uptown Park from Westchase.  The frites were good, but really, this burger would have been just fine without them.  I did like the horseradish mayonnaise, and I loved the fact that the meat was ground in-house, and the bun was baked in house.  Some places claim to have a Brioche bun but it comes out more like Challah bread, which is still good, but is less dense and has a very different texture.  This was the genuine article and held the burger together well from start to finish.

It was the later part of lunch and the crowd was thinning out as the staff was preparing to shut for their break between lunch and dinner.  I am proud to say that I wasn't hurried, the staff did not act like I was putting them out and I was made to feel quite welcome despite my casual attire.  All hallmarks of good service, and suffice it to say, I will be coming back to try their more Traditional French fare and posting a follow up at that point.  I will also add that I've had to reshuffle the top 20 Houston Burgers--sorry Brick House, but you're out.  Everyone between 6 and 14 are all dropping one slot and Etoile is taking the number 6 spot.

Report Card for Etoile Cuisine et Bar:
BEEERRR!!!  ERRR... I mean BIÈRE!!! 
     8 oz House Burger: A+ 
     Crispy Frites: A-
     Friendliness: A
     Speed: A+
Atmosphere (See Above): A
     Bar:  A+
     Dining Area: A+
     Kitchen: Incomplete (Did not see)
     Men's Restroom:  Incomplete

Overall Grade: A+

Etoile Cusine et Bar is located at:
1101 Uptown Park Blvd
Houston, TX 77056
(832) 668-5808
Open 7 Days a week
11:00 AM – 3:00 PM, 5:00–10:00 PM

Eat Happy, Y'all!!!
Manger Heureux Vous

Etoile Cuisine et Bar on Urbanspoon

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