A gastronomic delicacy popularized by the French, foie gras is highly prized for its luscious decadence. A luxury food item, foie gras is often featured on the menus of the best restaurants in the world, which is why, when California decided to ban it a couple of years ago, an uproar erupted in the culinary world (the law has since been overturned). In Texas, foie gras continues to enjoy great favor among diners and chefs and, as such, there’s no dearth of delightful preparations of the fatty duck or goose liver. Here, Forbes Travel Guide rounds up the top seven versions you’ll find in Houston.
The choice restaurant for Houston’s elite, Tony’s presents an experience in superlative service, food and wine. The menu, a creative collaboration between proprietor Tony Vallone and chef de cuisine Kate McLean, offers staple dishes as well as a chef’s tasting menu. The latter features an enticing pistachio-studded foie gras torchon, topped with broken pieces of brûlée glass and spikes of pear crackling, elegantly plated with a dusting of cauliflower powder and droplets of cauliflower purée — one of the most modern, creative versions of the dish you’ll find in the city.
At Ristorante Cavour, inside Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Hotel Granduca, newly appointed executive chef JohnMichael Lynch offers a gorgeous, utterly delectable pan-roasted foie gras. Served on a beautiful white porcelain plate with scalloped edges, the hot foie gras is placed on top of a crisped round of thin brioche, topped with kumquat compote and finished off with a drizzle of spicy orange gastrique and a sprinkling of cocoa nibs. The spiced acidity of the gastrique balances the tangy sweetness of the compote, providing an excellent foil for the rich fattiness of the foie gras, which is enhanced by pops of texture from the nibs.
BCN Taste & Tradition
At hot new Spanish restaurant BCN Taste & Tradition, where it can take more than a month to secure a reservation for a weekend table, the pan-seared foie gras is incredible. With this popular item that has already emerged as one of the establishment’s signature selections, chef Luis Roger takes a thick-cut, four-ounce lobe, sears it to golden-brown perfection, then carefully plates it over an almost black-colored cassis reduction and sautéed berries, with just a smattering of black pepper and sea salt crystals. The result is a divine piece of culinary art — the cassis reduction looks like an abstract splash of paint while the bright red berries and lobe of foie jut magnificently upward. Roger pairs the dish with a wondrous Jorge Ordonez & Co. No 2 Victoria Moscatel from Malaga, Spain.
Chef Manabu Horiuchi (“chef Hori” to regulars) makes some of the most creative sushi and sashimi dishes in Houston. The same can be said of the way he uses foie gras. Not only is it found on staples such as his popular hamachi with foie gras sashimi appetizer or his foie gras and duck chawanmushi (a Japanese egg custard), but he also serves it on his nigiri sushi. The best incarnation we’ve tasted is his scallop and seared foie gras nigiri sushi, where the marriage of flavors — deep, rich, unctuous foie gras, with plump, sweet scallop — and smooth-silky textures produce bites that are undeniably exquisite.
Foie gras is one of the many things at which the kitchen at Mockingbird Bistro excels. You can request a tranche of seared foie gras with just about any dish at this upscale neighborhood eatery known for its Texas-meets-Provencal-style cuisine. In fact, owner-chef John Sheely’s foie-gras-topped M Bistro burger is one of the spot’s best sellers. Still, nothing beats Sheely’s pan-seared foie gras appetizer, a thick portion of foie gras seared until molten in the middle, and served over cipollini marmalade, sweet potato puree, with crispy pancetta and balsamic reduction.
The chic retro design of Olivier Ciesielski’s eponymous L’Olivier is just part of the reason to visit this fine French eatery. The place also has a strong cocktail program; a marvelous happy hour; a solid, French-centric wine list; and, yes, a wonderful foie gras. Order it, and you will be rewarded with a glistening slab served over a bed of diced caramelized apples and blueberry balsamic vinegar reduction, accompanied by Hawaiian bread toastettes. What makes the dish extraordinary is the fact that Ciesielski uses the fat from the foie as the base for everything — for the balsamic reduction, caramelized apples and for coating the toastettes — to create layer upon layer of exciting flavor.
At this handsome French restaurant designed by the Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, the open kitchen allows each guest to see exactly what’s happening in the kitchen. “Every seat is like a seat at the chef’s table,” says chef Jacques Fox, who puts on great show nightly. When it comes to foie gras, the plated performance gets even better. He’ll pan sear it and serve it with spiced duck breast and quail leg confit over a fig balsamic reduction on his menu standby, Le Canard, La Caille. Then, when he gets creative, he’ll deliver it in different ways — foie gras torchon (cold), foie gras bavarois (cold) and pan-seared foie gras (hot) with a scoop of absolutely divine foie gras ice cream (very cold).