Sometime in the middle of my dinner at Bisou last week, at about 8:30 p.m., the volume of the booming club music grew louder. I might have been in conversation, or even mid-bite, but it was plainly obvious to my ears.
That's very intentional here.
"If you come to eat at 6 in the evening it's going to be your classy, elegant, nice restaurant that has great food," said Zach Truesdell, one of the partners who opened this River Oaks District spot. "But if you come in at 9:30 or so the volume of the music is gonna be louder. The tempo of the music is gonna be bigger."
The partners—Truesdell, Andrew Estes, Salim Dehkordi, and Dallas Rodriguez of Clé Group—know what they're doing here. Set in a regal, black-and-white spot that in no way resembles its former tenant Taverna, Bisou has well-defined people-watching spots: the main bar, the private booth, a long chef's table underneath a photograph of models dining Last Supper-style, the middle of the large dining room. And it was there during my visit that a birthday party commanded that area. For vibe alone, Houston's social scene has a new destination.
"You're gonna get that high-energy feel when you come in there at 10 at night," said Truesdell.
But you can't have a restaurant without food, and Bisou has a master chef up its sleeve in Frédéric Perrier. Formerly of Cafe Perrier, the executive chef presents a menu that picks from cuisines across the world, adding a French twist. For example, starters dance from pork dumplings with pork belly to hamachi with pan-seared foie gras.
The latter was the finest bite during my visit. The dish deceptively recalls Nobu's yellowtail with jalapeño, but Perrier uses apple and a masala reduction. The generous slice of liver rounds out the appropriately autumnal flavor profile, and it couldn't be a better pairing for the mild fish.
Otherwise, Bisou may do well to temper the experimentation and focus on technique. A deconstructed salmon and cucumber roll was presented on a crusty crouton that made it taste much more like a bagel with lox, while its avocado reduction mimicked guacamole. A lobster risotto rightly starred in a dish with an otherwise standard flounder. For dessert, a lemon panna cotta was far too bitter.
The cocktails are fun, and the champagne list has some heavy hitters ($15,000 for large-format Ace of Spades, anyone?). And during my visit, guests were liberally ordering bubbly to toast to the new spot, or life, or whatever it was that day that made them smile. The foundation is set for Bisou to be a strong part of the River Oaks District; we'll see where it goes from here.