Food Finds: Cafe Azur Launches New Lunch Menu

In the fall of 2016, the building that formerly housed Brasserie Max & Julie gained a new tenant: French Riviera-inspired Cafe Azur. Cool turquoise, crisp whites and colorful paintings replaced the darker, heavier environs of the bistro and brighter (if not necessarily lighter) fare to match.  Helmed by chef Sidney DeGaine and his wife/business partner Maria, the concept also draws from Italian and Mediterranean influences. We were invited to try dishes off the new lunch menu, which officially kicked off this week.

Chef Degaine’s menu incorporates fresh seasonal produce enriched with sauces and added ingredients for texture. Order a glass of something refreshing first—it is rosé season after all—and start with appetizers like grilled butternut squash with pine nuts and melted Taleggio cheese ($11); a French twist on a taco with foie gras, duck confit, duxelle mushrooms and apricot chutney ($15); or fish soup bathed in rich Bouillabaisse broth and a sauce of red chiles, garlic, and breadcrumbs ($9).

Turquoise and crisp whites lend a coastal vibe to the main dining room. Photo by Ellie Sharp

One of the most interesting spins on classic French fare are the fried escargot, which get crunch from parmesan breadcrumbs. The bite-sized goodies are set atop garlic cremé parsley puree which reminds the palate of the traditional “broiled in butter and garlic” presentation ($15).

Three salads beckon with distinct flavor profiles and include heirloom tomato with pine nuts, croutons and basil mozzarella cheese ($15); a smoked salmon gravlax featuring romaine lettuce, yogurt-marinated cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs and ricotta gin dressing ($16); and lobster salad with fingerling potatoes and tarragon yogurt dressing. 

One of three tartines on the new menu, the shrimp variation features sweet-tart grapefruit and slices of creamy avocado. Photo by Ellie Sharp

For diners seeking more than an appetizer but less than a full entree, three tartines (open-faced French sandwiches) fit the bill. Choose from the roasted Prosciutto tartine with tomatoes, parmesan, mozzarella and pesto ($14), the smoked salmon, ricotta cheese and cucumbers option ($15), or the grilled shrimp variation seasoned with cumin and cilantro then layered with avocado and grapefruit segments ($16). If heftier fare is in order, try the beef Burgundy piled over mashed fingerling potatoes with wild mushrooms, gremolata and crispy fingerling potato chips ($23); a housemade veggie and chicken fettuccine; or duck pot pie, which features mashed potatoes, foie gras and duck confit tucked into puff pastry. It’s thinly sliced and not served in a ramekin as one might expect of a pot pie. ($23).

Portioned for lunch, the Beef Burgundy is a mix of creamy and crunchy textures. Photo by Ellie Sharp

End the meal with the new tarte tatin, an upside-down caramelized apple tart ($14) or one of the popular chocolate, pistachio or fruit mousses and ice creams.

Meals enjoyed in the bright and airy main dining room, with crisp linens and beach-themed decor—or on the cozy front patio—might mentally transport guests from southeast Texas to the coast of France. For more intimate gatherings, request seating upstairs or on the balcony, where live oak branches grazing the deck lend a slightly whimsical vibe.

About the author: Ellie Sharp is a food and lifestyle writer and photographer who, in addition to her role as the editor for Zagat Houston, contributes to a range of local print and online publications.

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