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With French cowboy's help, couple brings touch of Paris to Houston bakery, where everything's made from scratch

With French cowboy's help, duo brings touch of Paris to H-Town bakery

Flo Paris
Breton biscuit with chocolate mousse, orange and caramel.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Flo Paris
Dany Srour, left, Florelle Salibi and Rabih Salibi will open Flo Paris next week.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Flo Paris
Curing the salmon that tops this simple salad takes 48 hours.  Photo by Eric Sandler
Flo Paris
Srour's chocolate mousse cake is "three star Michelin." Photo by Eric Sandler
Flo Paris
Flo has a clean, modern look. Photo by Eric Sandler
Flo Paris
Turkey pesto sandwich on house baked bread. Photo by Eric Sandler
Flo Paris
Crepes are designed to be a substantial portion. Photo by Eric Sandler
Flo Paris
Flo Paris
Flo Paris
Flo Paris
Flo Paris
Flo Paris
Flo Paris

Two doors down from a Subway seems like a pretty unlikely place to find a taste of Paris, but a new cafe aims to change that.

Meet Florelle and Rabih Salibi. The couple moved from Paris to Houston 14 months ago so that their children could play basketball. As they watched their son Gabriel, a 6-ft, 6-in. shooting guard, win a state championship at Westbury Christian, they began to contemplate a business built around Rabih's 26 years of experience in the restaurant business. 

"We make it from the scratch, everything," Salibi explains. "I think this is the difference between us and other French bakeries. What I serve to people is the same as what I eat."

Rabih tells CultureMap he began to study the Houston market. "For me, there is many French bakery, and it works. But when you go inside and start tasting a French specialty, I’m sorry, but it’s not authentic."

Seeing an opportunity, he and Florelle began to develop their casual cafe, which Rabih named Flo Paris after his wife. When it opens this week (either Monday or Tuesday), Flo will serve crepes, sandwiches, salads, quiche, breads and pastries during breakfast and lunch to Galleria-area office workers and nearby residents. 

"We make it from the scratch, everything," Salibi explains. "I think this is the difference between us and other French bakeries. What I serve to people is the same as what I eat."

For example, Salibi uses a 48-hour process for the cured salmon in a simple salad. He then slices it thinly and serves it over a bed of arugula and fennel and garnishes it with cherry tomatoes that are infused with a little olive oil.

A vegetarian crepe is filled with feta, onion, tomato and lettuce. Similarly, Flo will roast the turkey for a turkey pesto sandwich, which is served on multi grain bread that's baked in-house. As seen in the pictures above, Flo focuses on presentation as much as flavor. 

"We are working not only on taste but even on the shape, the design," Salibi says. "This is very important for me. Food, first of all, you must see. Second, you must smell. Third, you have to taste."

Modern look

Flo has a modern look with bright white tables, red and white chairs and a marble serving counter. The wall contains images of Paris, and shelves along the serving line will feature French products for sale. 

 Srour may be the real hidden gem. Schmit rates his chocolate mousse cake, which features three kinds of chocolate on a almond dough cake, "three star Michelin."

 The Salibis also have some additional help in the form of pastry chef Dany Srour and Houston's famous French cowboy Philippe Schmit. The chef says a mutual friend approached him about helping with Flo's opening. He's been helping Salibi tweak recipes and will be working on the line while the restaurant's staff completes its training.

"I’m still at Drexel in the evening, but an opening takes a lot of organization," Schmit tells CultureMap about his decision to assist with Flo. "They’re nice people from France. I was just finishing the Master Chef. It was good timing for me." 

Srour may be the real hidden gem. A childhood friend of Salibi's, he moved to Houston after spending the last several years in Virginia. Schmit rates his chocolate mousse cake, which features three kinds of chocolate on a almond dough cake, "three star Michelin." Similarly, another cake that blends the familiar combination of chocolate and orange gets some unexpected crunch.

Ultimately, Flo will produce fresh baguettes throughout the day and a variety of sweet and savory croissants. 

With a relative dearth of places that make French pastries for a city of its size, Flo is well-positioned to become a destination for diners who crave authenticity. Salibi feels confident enough about his products that he's already has his sights on Common Bond, the city's most well-regarded bakery.

"I think he will be my competitor. That’s it," Salibi says. "Don’t tell me about another bakery. I will tell you. Common Bond, I respect him." 

If all goes according to plan, Common Bond will have to respect Flo, too.