Experience a fresh take on familiar French dishes at Bistro Provence

Bistro Province Interior | Photo courtesy of Bistro Province

Get reacquainted with the new and improved French cuisine of Memorial-area mainstay, Bistro Provence.

“After 17 years, we needed to be better at what we do, without throwing out what people enjoy about us,” says Bistro Provence’s owner Genevieve Guy.

While the restaurant has several regulars who love the Provencal comfort food, the menu had become a bit tired.

All that is in the past. And that’s because Guy had the good sense to hire Cedric Vernin, a wunderkind out of Bourgogne who’s shaking things up – and infusing the French country menu with even more French flair.

A New Spin on French Classics

Terrine de Joues de Boeuf | Photo courtesy of Bistro Provence

Consider, just for a minute, the Terrine de Joues de Boeuf, a classic French regional dish that’s one of Bistro Provence’s new appetizers. It’s rich, but excellent in its execution, the beef cheeks joyously flavored, and accompanied by a Gribiche sauce, an accompaniment that is classically French. The mayonnaise-style sauce pops with a pickled essence, and proves a perfect partner to the richness of the terrine.

Then there’s the Soupe de Poisson “Marseillaise,” a sheer delight of shellfish and tomato broth that puts any of the city’s bouillabaisses on notice: Bistro Provence is a contender.

Taking a Seasonal Approach

One of the things the CFA François Rabelais-trained Vernin wants to do is incorporate more seasonality into the menu, bringing in more locally sourced produce and meats.

Marget-de-Canard- Bistro-Provence-Houston-december-2015
Marget de Canard | Photo courtesy of Bistro Provence

That seasonal approach doesn’t mean that old favorites will leave for good. They might just take on different forms. There’s always been a duck option on the menu – it’s a staple of French cuisine. Yet the Marget de Canard is a gorgeous Tex-French blend of flavors. Honey and lavender are roasted into the bird, creating a delicious dew on the skin. It’s served with sautéed potatoes and is a perfect fall dish.

Meanwhile, Vernin’s Cote de Veau Brillat-Savarin is a stunningly prepared veal chop with a rich mushroom and cognac sauce. It’s hearty and homey, the earthiness of the mushrooms melding nicely into the meat.

And then, there’s dessert. The new Baba au Rhum cake is a rum-soaked expression of delight, while the Tarte au Chocolat et Basilic kicks the predictable chocolate tart up several notches by infusing it with basil, adding a savory element that balances out the sweet richness.

Tarte au Chocolat et Basilic | Photo courtesy of Bistro Provence

“This is the way I cook at home [in France],” explains the newcomer, who’s quickly settling into the rhythm of life in Houston. “Cooking with what’s in season means everything tastes better.”

Humble Origins of a Young Chef’s French Flair

Chef Cedric Vernin | Photo courtesy of Bistro Provence

Vernin began cooking at home because his parents worked, and he and his sister were often left to fend for themselves. He would watch a Saturday TV show hosted by famed French chef Joel Robichon, and realized this was something he wanted to do with his life. Following stints at an inn in Bessenay, France, and as the pastry chef at a 17th-Century castle in the south of France, Château de L’Hoste in Saint Beauzeil, he finds himself here in Texas, where he’s happily doing what he loves.

You can tell when you eat his food. There is a new vibe running through Bistro Provence now. The 40-seat space feels like a great breath of fresh air has come through, delivering a chef who understands the cuisine he’s making not as an academic exercise, but as the very food of home. Vernin’s energy steeps the menu with warmth and a passion for food that should make diners swoon.

Bistro Provence