Leave it to Houston entrepreneur Steve Zimmerman to buy an elegant mansion built in 1923 for oil baron W. W. Fondren and recognize the possibility for French flair to flourish in Texas. Along with boutique hotel suites and a bar, Zimmerman has created a refined restaurant here that caters to local moguls at lunch and those who have romance, rather than finance, on their minds for dinner. The cuisine is French Riviera with a modern influence, plus wild game for a decidedly Texas twist. Before or after dinner, check out Le Grand Salon, a magnificently restored ballroom from the French country estate of the Count and Countess Greffulhe, with oak panels carved in 1715 for French royalty. Le Grand Salon was a setting of the highest fin de siecle society, hosting guests including Czar Nicholas II of Russia, Enrico Caruso, Marie Curie, Richard Wagner and Marcel Proust.
The lobster bisque, topped with crabmeat and a touch of brandy, might just be the best on the planet.