DINE WRITE ETOILE’S FRENCH ACCENTS By Janice Schindeler | Photography by Sarah Miller Ribeye UNASSUMING. SELF-ASSURED. AND DELIRIOUSLY, DELICIOUSLY, WONDERFULLY FRENCH. BOTH THE FOOD AT ETOILE CUISINE ET BAR AND ITS STOIC OWNER/CHEF, PHILIPPE VERPIAND, FIT THAT BILL. Four years ago this month, Verpiand and his wife, Monica Bui, opened Etoile in Uptown Park and they have been hard at it ever since. Son of a second-generation butcher, Verpiand has an old-world work ethic engrained in his soul and a love of French food that radiates from every dish. Trained at the French Culinary Institute in Avignon (where he was first in his class), Verpiand worked in Michelin- starred restaurants in France, moved to southern California and, on a family visit to Houston, decided this city was his next challenge. Now he and Bui are on the verge of a new venture, Brasserie Du Parc, in the desirable One Park Place building downtown across the street from Discovery Green. It’s on target to be open for Super Bowl. Of the food, Philippe says, “The same as Etoile, only a little different. Escargot is escargot. Steak frites are steak frites. It has to be right.” In other words, it will be French and it will be fabulous. Also at this new location will be a walk-up sweet and savory crepe window for city strollers, a restaurant inside a restaurant, aptly named Creperie Du Parc. 18 L O C A L | november 16 “I don’t do business partners,” says Verpiand, who with Bui, and his bank, opened Etoile. No investors. “It is better this way. My way.” To ease the workload, he has brought over a French chef who is now learning Verpiand’s style and standards while cheffing at Etoile. While Bui splits her time between supervising construction of the Brasserie Du Parc and running the front of the house at Etoile, Philippe concentrates on the food. Marvelous classical French renditions with slight twists, such as luscious medium-rare rib eye, generous slices fanned over a pool of mashed potatoes with truffles and glistening with a classic and satiny Bordelaise sauce.