It’s been months in the making – the early efforts of Philippe Restaurant + Bar must qualify as one of the most extended “soft openings” in human history – but the newish restaurant in BLVD Place helmed by “French Cowboy” Philippe Schmit finally got the sendoff it deserved this afternoon and evening.
The food served at the party was, in some ways, simpler than that served in the restaurant – starting with the wildly popular grill station on what amounts to the patio. The crowd was a who’s who of Houston, including two big names who helped give the restaurant its dramatic look, architect Shafik Rifaat and designer Lauren Rottet. All thrilled to skewers of meat, chunks of delicious cherry sausage and meaty pork ribs drenched in BBQ sauce that got all over your clothes.
In the waning light of a lovely Houston spring afternoon, the downstairs bar just inside from the grill station was a mob scene. Much catching up among friends and business associates was going on, a lot of it powered by Chef Philippe’s white sangria made with champagne. The stuff came from a spiggots atop countertops here and there, and now I definitely want a full one for my house.
Music would be essential to the French Cowboy’s vision of things – and for the grand opening, that meant ever-torchy Houston songbird Kristine Mills. Early in the party, she sang mostly jazz and standards upstairs in the main dining room. But as the sun sank right along with the guests, she grabbed her guitar and moved downstairs to the lounge.
For Philippe himself, the party was a case of no rest for the weary. When he wasn’t schmoozing regular customers, he was fretting and fuming over food and service issues that no eyes but his even noticed. And when he wasn’t fretting and fuming, he was submitting to yet another media interview.
Though hundreds arrived and departed on their own schedule, and some barely pulled up before the party was scheduled to be over, eventually most of these people wanted dessert. And that meant stepping up to this impressive display in one of Philippe’s private dining rooms. The goodies were arrayed atop a mirror, meaning you had to see yourself each time you went back for seconds. You assured yourself with each caloric bite: This guy can only grand open once, right?