Bisou (read as bee-sue, French for “kiss”) replaces Taverna next to Steak 48, but a comprehensive remodel has obliterated all traces of the former tenant. Local firm Studio Five Design has utilized a variety of elements to give the space a luxurious feel, including marble floors with brass inlays, black glass columns, and vintage-looking exposed speakers.
Clé Group partner Zach Truesdell tells CultureMap that he and his partners intend for the restaurant to stand on its own, but some connections between the properties are inevitable. A few employees such as hostesses and bartenders overlap, and the partners have purchased a shuttle that will service all of their properties, whether that’s ferrying a group of coworkers to Bisou for lunch or a birthday party from Bisou to Spire.
“Our goal is to be considered a restaurant. Like, ‘wow, that food was great. I enjoyed going there.’ Where everybody we know wants to have their birthday here,” Truesdell says. At the same time, they won’t ignore the lessons they’ve learned about creative a lively experience.”
That experience manifests itself in a number of ways. The volume on the custom sound system will get turned up on Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday brunch promises to be lively; Truesdell describes it as “La Strada with bottle service.”
Speaking of bottles, Bisou shares a fondness for champagne with its sister concepts. The restaurant stocks the usual vintages, as well as some spendier items — all the way up to $15,000 for a three liter bottle of Armand de Brignac, better known as Ace of Spades.
“If somebody on a Friday night decides they want to buy four bottles of Dom, we’re going to do a little show for them, but we won’t be pushing bottles at the tables,” he adds.
Chef Frédéric Perrier helps give the restaurant culinary credibility. A native of Lyon, France, Perrier is best known for Cafe Perrier, the Galleria-area restaurant he owned with Truesdell 20 years ago, and Aura Brasserie, the French-inspired restaurant that he operated in both Missouri City and Sugar Land (he sold it two years ago). Like chefs Philippe Schmit (Philippe) and Philippe Verpiand (Etoile), he holds the prestigious title of Maîtres des Cuisiniers de France (Master Chef of France).
“I love Houston. It took me awhile to get used to it. I came in ’97, (and) it’s changed big time,” Perrier tells CultureMap. “Now I like to call it home. It’s been very good to us.”
Bisou describes itself as serving continental cuisine. In practice, the French-influenced menu touches on a wide of options: everything from classics like butternut squash risotto, roast chicken for two, and seared flounder with lobster risotto to more eclectic fare like hamachi with seared foie gras, escargot with bone marrow, and pork belly with pork dumplings. The lunch menu keeps things a little simpler, with a focus on sandwiches and salads designed to appeal to Galleria-area office workers and River Oaks District shoppers.
“Continental cuisine is like American cuisine, kind of global,” Perrier says. “Chefs from Switzerland, chefs from France, everybody’s got their own idea, but at the end everybody put a little twist to what they do. When you get to Texas, they like a little spicy, a little of this, a little of that. I personally love it.”
Truesdell adds that he and his partners expect Bisou to provide service that rivals what’s offered at nearby restaurants like Steak 48 and Le Colonial. Managers bring experience from upscale restaurants Katsuya and Nobu.
“When we have our meetings at Clé and we’re talking about service with our staff, we’re using Pappas Steakhouse as an example,” Truesdell says. “Welcome people. Tell people thank you when they leave. Get to the table within a minute. Get to know people’s names when they’re getting drinks at the bar.”
The Clé Group certainly knows how to attract a crowd. If Perrier's food and the restaurant's service match the attention to detail put into Bisou's design, it could emerge as the city's next see-and-be-seen hotspot.