The River Oaks Shopping Center space that held Tony Mandola's Gulf Coast Kitchen for over 20 years is now a construction zone. But 13 months after signing on to take over the location — and with only a month until opening — Charles Clark and Grant Cooper are dishing about the new Brasserie 19.
19 is the fourth concept by Clark and Cooper, who have found runaway success with Ibiza and Catalan. Named for its prestigious River Oaks zip code, Brasserie 19 follows the formula of Catalan, focusing less on familiar dining genres and instead bringing in a high-caliber chef to make the menu his own.
In the case of Brasserie 19, the chef (and new partner) is Michael Gaspard, who earned his stripes in Chicago both under chefs like Don Yamauchi and Sarah Stegner. Gaspard also served as executive chef at The Pump Room before joining Pappas as the executive chef for its prestigious wine room dinners.
Gaspard is planning to take the traditional French brasserie menu and modernize it with local Gulf flavors and seasonal ingredients.
"You think about traditional brasserie fare like cassoulet, and it's so heavy and full of butter and cream," Gaspard says. "I want to do a modern take, make it lighter ... My food has been described as feminine because it's delicate, it's about finesse."
To enhance the brasserie atmosphere Clark says he is raising the ceilings to make the space more open and adding white and gray tones, antiqued mirrors and woods, leather banquettes, an art deco chandelier and an expanded white-marble bar that seats 26. There will also be a huge eight-foot dedicated oyster and raw bar tucked in the back corner, inspired by New York's Balthazar.
There will be table linens, but there will also be butcher paper — a sample of the upscale-downscale mix the partners hope to create.
"We don't want this to be a place you just come on anniversaries and your birthday," Clark says. "We want this to be the kind of place you can come three, four times a week."
The trio are already talking about recreating the concept around the country — Dallas, San Antonio, Nashville and Atlanta are on the radar. Of course Houston has to come first — look for Brasserie 19 to open in late April.