100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 33, Moules Congolaise at Jeannine's Bistro

Jeannine's Bistro 001.jpg
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston® issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.

By now, hopefully everyone knows the story of how Jeannine's Bistro came to be: Where Vinoteca Poscol now holds court was once Cafe Montrose, long the only Belgian restaurant in town. Its owners divorced and the restaurant closed in 2008, but -- as with all things -- out of that destruction came creation: Two beautiful new Belgian restaurants were born. Catherine Duwez revamped The Broken Spoke with new partner Roy de la Garza, while Andrew Klarman opened Jeannine's Bistro with his sister, the eponymous Jeannine.

These days, Duwez has moved on to a Belgian cafe all her own in the former Dharma Cafe space -- Cafe Brussels -- and Klarman's own spot has blossomed into a bistro so successful that it had to expand into the space next door to accommodate all the diners that crowd the place each night. While Cafe Brussels is getting its sea legs, I've been getting my moules-frites fix at Jeannine's Bistro, where the frites aren't quite as excellent -- but the mussels themselves are far better.

The mussels treatment I'm most in love with right now is the moules congolaise, which steams the mussels in a barely creamy broth of coconut milk, tomatoes and spices. It's a bit spicy, with licks of paprika and chipotle coming through the broth, and the fat, juicy mussels do an excellent job of soaking up the rich flavor of the stuff.

You'll have plenty left when the mussels are gone, however, and you can do one of two things with that broth: You can dip your frites into it, although I'd recommend using the housemade mayonnaise for this instead. Or you can do as my waiter recommended one afternoon as he packaged the excess broth, onions and various other vegetables to go: "Boil some shrimp in it," he instructed. "This stuff is too good to waste."

Indeed, the next night I had some truly excellent Gulf shrimp congolaise -- all thanks to Jeannine's. And the best part? The whole package, frites and all, is only $12 at lunch.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac
No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's
No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets
No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito
No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery
No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar
No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch
No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito
No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F.
No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe
No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers
No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay
No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe
No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño
No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen
No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme
No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts
No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House
No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux
No. 80: Dahi puri at Shiv Sagar
No. 79: Aporreado at Los Corrales
No. 78: Oxtail francobolli at Aldo's Cucina Italiana
No. 77: Tonkotsu at Cafe Kubo's
No. 76: Spinach danish from Angela's Oven
No. 75: Pupusas at El Petate
No. 74: Pheasant dog at Sammy's Wild Game Grill
No. 73: X-Tudo burger at Friends Pizzeria
No. 72: Esparragos gratinados at Tintos
No. 71: Gua bao at Yummy Kitchen
No. 70: Geisha dog at Happy Endings
No. 69: Oyster po-boy and gumbo at Goode Co. Seafood
No. 68: Ceviche at Sirena Seafood
No. 67: Caldo de mariscos at Taqueria Arandas
No. 66: Banana pudding at Pizzitola's
No. 65: Fried catfish and gumbo at Cafe-A-La
No. 64: Soft-shell crabs at Banana Leaf
No. 63: Macaroni and cheese at Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse
No. 62: Torta burger at El Gran Malo
No. 61: Black bean burger at Ziggy's
No. 60: Parillada at Pampa Grill
No. 59: Peanut butter and jalapeño jelly burger at Wicked Whisk
No. 58: Eggplant involtini at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino
No. 57: Lone Star dog at James Coney Island
No. 56: Sushi at Sushi Miyagi
No. 55: Palestinian chicken at Al Aseel
No. 54: Roast beef sandwich at Local Foods
No. 53: Mexico City plate at Molina's Cantina
No. 52: Tacos at Brothers Taco House
No. 51: Branzino at Lucio's BYOB
No. 50: Beef sweetbreads at Feast
No. 49: Golden Doomba Special at the Rice Box Truck
No. 48: Malted waffle at City Cafe
No. 47: Banh mi bo kho at Cafe TH
No. 46: Chicken fried steak at Triple A
No. 45: Larissa plate at Harry's
No. 44: Spaghetti carbonara at Coppa Ristorante Italiano
No. 43: Wings and grits at The Breakfast Klub
No. 42: Frito pie at C&D Burger Shoppe
No. 41: Pollo con mole at El Gallo de Jalisco
No. 40: Fried avocado taco at H-Town StrEATs
No. 39: Rigatoni in bolognese sauce at Paulie's
No. 38: Chorizo kolaches at Peña's Donut Heaven
No. 37: Sashimi at Dadami
No. 36: Half-pound burger at benjy's
No. 35: Fried chicken at Haven
No. 34: Whole-fried speckled trout at Liberty Kitchen

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Location Info

Jeannine's Bistro - CLOSED

106 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Vinoteca Poscol

1609 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Broken Spoke Cafe - CLOSED

1809 Washington, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Cafe Brussels

1718 Houston Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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Moules Congolaises?  Perhaps more appropriate at a Congolese restaurant.


 @AdAbsurdum Perhaps you should google "Moules Congolaise", where you would see it on on other Belgian, as well as French  restaurant menus, not  "Congolese".



yumyum1 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Hi Katharine, it's Jeannine. I just wanted to thank you for a great review. We are proud of the Moules-Frites we serve in many different sauce options, as well as the rest of our menu. Just once though, I'd like to see a review on us, where we're not being compared to other Belgian restaurants in Houston. I don't see that so often in other restaurant reviews, be it Chinese, Mexican, Italian cuisine, etc., as it always seems to be done with us. We've been open just over 3 years now & the old stories are redundant at this point. If people don't know that info by now, w does it really even matter? I feel that we, as well as the other places deserve to be reviewed on our own merit, without the continuing comparisons. With that said, thanks again for a great review, and a great big thanks to all of our terrific patrons, who have made us what we are.


I was poisoned not once but twice eating mussels at the new Cafe Brussels, so my go-to is now Jeannine's Bistro. I will try this version next time, sounds wonderful.

(Although thoughts of the Belgian Congo remind me of the Rumble in the Jungle when Foreman trained with a German Shepherd by his side, thus alienating the locals even more, as the Belgians had once used the breed to keep the natives well under thumb.)


 @flaubert You're not alone in your perils flaubert; if the Yelp reviews can be believed about Cafe Brussels, there is a good bit of some bug going around that place. Maybe a spicy dose of chipotle from this Congolaise recipe would remedy that.

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