Fresh Look: Bistro Provence’s Fired-Up Dishes A Mix Of Traditional & Modern

Bistro Provence on Houston’s west side opened in 1996 and that makes it a little easy to take for granted. The classical French eatery, run for the past several years by the vivacious Genevieve Guy was first opened by her in-laws, respected chef Georges Guy and his wife Monique. The unpretentious strip center façade belies the homey, rustic appeal of interior wood beams, brick and plaster brightened by yellow tablecloths and French blue napkins.

Genevieve Guy at Bistro Provence
Genevieve Guy, owner of Bistro Provence. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

In the kitchen roars a huge, open wood burning oven. Loaves of freshly baked bread getting toasty on the warming shelf. Those are soon sailed off to a table alongside a ramekin with herbs de Provence in good, dark olive oil. Soon after, a whole branzino with careful slits stuffed with orange slices swoops in for its turn in front of the fire. It emerges with its skin a little more golden and its interior tender and silky.

big woodfired oven at Bistro Provence
Two square loaves of bread sit warm and patient by a wood-fired oven at Bistro Provence. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

On the counter just in front of the kitchen is a big, open-faced peach pie with a thick crust. It’s still early evening so only one slice is missing — so far. The missing slice reveals the interior pastry layers of a well-made dough destined for a lucky table.

Bistro Provence cooking staff
The kitchen staff of Bistro Provence. In the center is the head cook. She and owner Genevieve Guy work together closely on menu development. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

Like time itself, Bistro Provence inches forward, maintaining some traditions while giving the future its due attention, too. It has a female owner and bustling around in the open kitchen is a mostly female staff (something most diners probably don’t know about the bistro). There are frequent wine dinners here and Guy has an exceptional connection for getting recommendations. Her husband, Jean-Philippe, owns French Country Wines. (Jean-Philippe has been involved for several years. Longtime owners Tim Smith and Phyllis Adatto recently retired, just after the wine shop’s 10-year anniversary.)

shrimp skewers at Bistro Provence
Shrimp skewers with avocado and mango with a dab of pesto at Bistro Provence. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

Many restaurants ballyhoo “seasonal menus” but in most European cuisine, including French, it’s not a big deal. That’s just the way you’re supposed to do it. If it’s in season, you eat it. Bistro Provence is currently in the midst of its summer menu and we were invited to come in for a taste. The season calls for ingredients like fresh avocados, mango and shrimp. All these come together in the most complementary way in the aptly named Shrimp Skewers appetizer wherein juicy cubes of mango offset rich avocado and tender shrimp.

Peach Melba at Bistro Provence
The Peach Melba parfait at Bistro Provence. Photo by Phaedra Cook.

The pêche (peach) melba uses summer peaches to ideal effect. Slices line a tall parfait glass with a few scoops of vanilla ice cream while smaller chunks are poached and adorn a fluffy crown of whipped cream. Peach and raspberry are two fruity flavors that go together perfectly, making the vibrant red raspberry coulis drizzled in the glass and on top a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. Toasted almonds are the final touch and the warm, oven-roasted nuttiness is a natural companion for the peaches.

Bistro Provence is cozy and charming. It’s not fancy, nor does it need to be. The value is found front and center in the good fish, meats, fruits and vegetables presented cleanly in honest, healthy forms.

Bistro Provence is at 13616 Memorial. The hours are from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Mondays, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays. Bistro Provence is closed on Sundays. Call (713) 827-8008 for reservations.

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