When Covid-19 shut down restaurants across Houston, Genevieve Guy thought that might be not only the end of Bistro Provence, but also the end of her time running any restaurant in the city. Bistro Provence was far more reliant on regular customers who wouldn't want to venture out during the pandemic, and getting new customers would be a challenge in a city as competitive as H-Town. She wondered, Could the restaurant survive post-Covid?
So, she made a big decision, ending the 24-year run of Bistro Provence and renovating both the interior and the menu. Now it's Bistro 555, home to a menu that expands beyond Provence and into other parts of France.
Specifically Guy's paying homage to her native Alsace region, which borders Germany and Switzerland, and thus has more of a decadent and pork-friendly vibe. Dishes are typically larger to encourage sharing. Also, the menu will change monthly to best reflect the seasons.
Both sharing and seasonality were on display in a recent visit. As the evening air grew chilly, I enjoyed tender rabbit leg blanketed by oregano mustard sauce, also known as cuisse de lapin à la moutarde. The well-executed and traditional recipe was a perfect match for the refreshed, cozy environs of exposed brick walls and wood tables. The same goes for the towering pork shank with sauerkraut and horseradish, an Alsatian specialty that I can imagine devouring on a cold evening with a glass of Bordeaux.
Starters include frog legs in a rich Riesling sauce that's worthy of your leftover bread, plus rillettes with hazelnut pâté. For dessert, the poached pear with hot chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream really shone.
It'll be fun to see what Guy has up her sleeve for deep winter and spring. Will we see the potato-and-meat-packed casserole dish baeckeoffe, along with cassoulets, in January? Will cheese and fruit boards decorate the warmer months?
What we do know is a new customer base is appearing, trying the new-old digs and varied French menu. A casual vibe takes hold, one more open to sharing dishes and clanking glasses. As people slowly return to restaurants and safely eat together, Bistro 555 is well positioned to be the kind of restaurant folks will want to visit.