By Claudia Richter
The best advice when it comes to anything is stick with the classics; they will never go out of style. This philosophy has worked well for David and Sylvain Denis, brothers and co-owners of Le Mistral, the award-winning French restaurant in West Houston. A recent gathering to celebrate the restaurant’s milestone 10th anniversary drew an adoring crowd that relished their favorite classical French dishes while paying homage to their congenial hosts.
Executive Chef David Denis describes his menus as uniquely French and uniquely Houston because he likes to incorporate fresh, locally available ingredients while adhering to a classically French preparation. By making everything from scratch, as he learned growing up helping in his mother and grandmother’s restaurants in France and later after receiving professional training in culinary school, he has never strayed from utilizing his ingredients to the fullest and keeping healthy dishes at the forefront of his kitchen. After becoming the first local chef to receive the prestigious Waterford Crystal Chef of Chefs award at Wine and Food Week’s Wine Rendezvous Grand Tasting and Showcase and the first chef to win two years in-a-row, plus being honored as the best food in Houston by Zagat in 2010, as well as numerous other awards and recognitions, he has earned the right to take a little break. But for Chef Denis, Le Mistral is where his heart is. So much so, that he has added Foody’s Gourmet next door to Le Mistral, to offer many of the restaurant’s signature items, such as breads, pastries, olive oils, sauces, dressings, imported cheeses and of course, wines to pair with any meal. In addition, cooking and wine classes will be offered to share some of Le Mistral’s coveted recipes and cooking methods.
As most restaurateurs know, success such as what Le Mistral has enjoyed comes with having all the elements in place to give diners a reason to keep coming back. Since moving from their original location, a cozy and quaint single dining room, to a spacious new building, Le Mistral offers a variety of dining options to suit any occasion. Upscale, but never stuffy, the beautiful bar, private wine cellar dining area that seats 10 and a chef’s table in the kitchen that seats 12, as well as a banquet room for parties and business events, have made Le Mistral a popular choice for diners in the neighborhood and from the Houston area. Sylvain Denis, general manager and co-owner, presided over the design of the building using his experience as an architect and project manager in France and his extensive training as a Sommelier to build an extensive French wine collection, one of highest rated in Houston and recognized by Wine Spectator magazine with Awards of Excellence in 2009 and 2010.
Signature items from the menu include Salad Mistral with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette, Escargots, Seared Foie Gras, Veal and Spinach Ravioli, Rack of Lamb and Osso Bucco. The lunch menu has a good mix of appetizers, soups, salads, fish, meat dishes and sandwiches and offers an express and business lunch. Sandwiches are served with a small Mistral salad or homemade French fries. Crème Brulee, Chocolate Fondant, Crepes, Tarte Tatin, and homemade ice cream and sorbets are a wonderful finish to any lunch or dinner at Le Mistral. The brunch menu features delicious drinks and specialty coffees and breakfast favorites such as ham and Gruyere cheese crepes with béchamel sauce, homemade buttermilk pecan pancakes and Le Mistral Eggs Florentine plus a complete offering of soups, salads, appetizers, main dishes and desserts.
For David and Sylvain, the plan for the next 10 years is to keep working hard to share their love of food and hospitality at Le Mistral and to help teach another generation the fine art of French cuisine.
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