Food for Thought

Busy boy: Brownstone chef Olivier Ciesielski plans new eatery on trendy Westheimer restaurant row

Busy boy: Brownstone chef Olivier Ciesielski plans new eatery on trendy Westheimer restaurant row

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Seems chef Olivier Ciesielski has been a very busy boy lately and is about to open another restaurant, this one on Westheimer Road in what is the hottest new restaurant row. Photo by Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
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The Brownston's BLT Photo by Marene Gustin
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So, we slid into the A.C. and looked around. Photo via The Brownstone Cafe/Facebook
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Brownstone is a darling space, with dark apricot walls, objets d’art on the walls, some banquettes, tables and a cute L-shaped bar and open kitchen. Very cozy, very quaint. Photo by Marene Gustin
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Chicken mushroom crepe Photo by Marene Gustin
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Walking in we noted the wonderful patio with its gurgling fountain and cabana tables. Photo via The Brownstone Cafe/Facebook
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It's a Monday.

I was tired of Tex-Mex and wanted to take Dad somewhere new. Sorrel Urban Bistro was my first choice but they weren’t open.

Where to go, where to go.

Wait, the new Brownstone Café is just around the corner from where we live. Perfect.

I’d been meaning to check it out since I heard chef Olivier Ciesielski, formerly of Tony’s and La Colombe D’Or was a partner in the small café in the former home of The Brownstone restaurant tucked away on Virginia Street.

Walking in we noted the wonderful patio with its gurgling fountain and cabana tables.

“This is nice, I’d like to eat out here, sometime,” says Dad.

Yeah, when it’s not 100 degrees outside.

 The namesake L’Olivier will be French, more upscale than Brownstone Café yet no white tablecloths. “Real French onion soup, steak frites and bouillabaisse,” chef says.

 So, we slid into the air conditioning and looked around. It was a darling space, dark apricot walls, objets d’art on the walls, some banquettes, tables and a cute L-shaped bar and open kitchen. Very cozy, very quaint. And not what I was expecting.

Anyone who remembers Beau Theriot’s original Brownstone restaurant — the huge eatery — will be hard pressed to identify this space. Of course, most of the original building is occupied by 88 Keys Piano Bar and The Red Room lounge. So the café has one little corner by the patio. But what a delightful corner it is.

We settled into a table and perused the lunch menu. Salads, hot and cold sandwiches, crepes, pasta and thin crust pizzas. All with a French twist.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Ciesielski, former sous chef of Michelin three-star restaurant Bernard Loiseau who worked in the kitchens of France’s leading pastry chef Yves Thuries, the celebrated Le Crillon in Paris and as a personal chef for the Onassis family in Switzerland before coming to America in 1991, made his mark in Houston with a decade long stint at Tony’s.

But since leaving there two years ago, he’s been flying under the foodie radar.

Not anymore.

“Obviously it’s not Tony’s,” Ciesielski says. “It’s very simple food, most from old family recipes.”

Simple it may be, but divine as well. We ordered the BLT on toasted French bread with avocadoes and the chicken and mushroom crepe. Hard to say which was better, I’ve never had a better BLT and the crepe was the most amazing one I’ve eaten in Texas. There was a nice Sauvignon Blanc and a simple little potato chip appetizer.

That’s’ right, potato chips. But we’re not talking a bag of Lay’s here. These were sliced potatoes, fresh fried and served hot with crumpled blue cheese melting gently atop them.

Oh, and then there were desserts to tempt even a non-sweet toother like moi. A Belgian waffle (from the general manager’s family recipe) topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate plus a sweet and crunchy Nutella crepe.

I am so going back to Brownstone Café. Probably next weekend to check out the Saturday and Sunday brunches. I could eat here all the time.

Er, maybe not.

Seems chef Ciesielski has been a very busy boy lately and is about to open another restaurant, this one on Westheimer Road in what is the hottest new restaurant row. He plans to open  L’Olivier just down the street from hotly anticipated Chris Shepherd’s Underbelly in the old Chances spot (next door to the soon-to-open Anvil sister Hay Merchant beer bar), the Bill Floyd/Bryan Caswell/Robb Walsh vintage El Real Tex-Mex in the old Tower Theatre and the soon-to-be Austin über hip Tyson Cole’s anticipated reimagining of the long-shuttered Felix.

“It’s not competition,” says Ciesielski. More, he says, it’s about synergy, building an eating destination where diners will flock to sample all the eateries.

The namesake L’Olivier will be French, more upscale than Brownstone Café yet no white tablecloths. “Real French onion soup, steak frites and bouillabaisse,” chef says.

The new freestanding building is going up between Numbers Night Club and the new Don Julio’s Mexican Restaurant Cantina (in the old Caffe Bello spot on the curve).

After noshing on chef’s food at Brownstone Café, I can hardly wait to sample L’Olivier.  So when does it open?

“I’m going to say is by the end of the year,” he laughs. “I don’t want to be another Haven.”

Because as Haven’s chef/owner Randy Evans well knows, when building a new restaurant from the ground up you can’t count on city inspectors to plan a grand opening date.

But that’s okay, I’ll wait.