Have you been to the French Corridor? Houston neighborhoods can be so amorphous—who really knows where the Heights actually begins or ends? But the French Corridor is different. It's composed of three adjacent buildings in the Energy Corridor (all located at 1400 Eldridge Parkway), owned by brothers David and Sylvain Denis. It all began with Le Mistral, which opened 15 years ago. Rouge Wine Bar and bakery Foody's Gourmet followed. Yesterday, I spent close to six hours there, experiencing all three.
But as impressed as I was with the pairing of a berry millefeuille from Foody's served with wine director Sylvain Denis' pick of Jurançon Domaine Cauhape, rich with notes of dried apricot and thyme, the nine courses of desserts and wines I tried were merely excellent. And yes, I smiled wide when I saw jars of duck rillettes sold alongside tubes of chestnut cream and lavender-flavored les Anis de Flavigny candies, perhaps the most French triptych of products sold anywhere in Houston. But the $82, four-course Burgundy Truffle dinner at Le Mistral? Unforgettable. I was so full at the end of that mad onslaught that I didn't sleep last night and I'm now making it through the day just on a couple of slices of Foody's chocolate-cherry brioche (the chocolate and sour cherries are of such high quality, you don't really even need the bread), but it was all worth it.
I'm not someone who believes in hanging special dining on a holiday. But if you are in a celebratory spirit for whatever reason, I can hardly think of a better splurge than the meal centered on black truffles originally cultivated in Burgundy and imported by Houston's DR Delicacies. The meal began with an ideally airy, thumb-sized profiterole filled with salmon cream in a pool of pesto. Matters quickly intensified with risotto in truffle cream sauce, served with a mound of lobster. Matchsticks of truffle rested atop the toothsome rice, softening as the sauce mixed with the other ingredients. The Parmesan crisp on the side was just thick enough to sop up the dregs of the sauce.
Ever cut into a pot pie and wished the natural aroma of truffles would exude from it instead of, you know, fat and flour? That was precisely the effect of a rich stew served in a casolette dish and covered in puff pastry that crackled as my spoon penetrated it. With the sound came a warm waft of earth, specifically the earth of France. Clearly, this was no chicken in roux-based cream sauce—instead, within was what appeared to be an entire duck leg pulled into chunks and stewed in a sticky truffle jus with rounds of celeriac.
A cheese course was similarly dense with the precious tuber, with a cool slice of Brie de Meaux stuffed with truffle. The hazelnut notes of the truffle played nicely with a tiny walnut financier that was just sweet enough to sit somewhere between savory and dessert. For those craving more sugar, a small reservoir of honey and candied nuts sat on either side of the long plate.
But dessert was world-shaking. Like the casolette, it relied on a big reveal, this time breaking through the exterior of a chocolate cake to allow a flow of dark chocolate fondant and truffle-scented white chocolate to ooze from within. The scent bloomed as the chocolate slowly melted with a green pool of pistachio crème anglaise. Behind the cake, a single scoop of vanilla ice cream was also perfumed with truffle.
In the case of truffles, too much of a good thing is often too much of a good thing. But in the hands of Maître Cuisiner de France member Denis, too much of a good thing is precisely the right amount.