The $20 Master Chef Prix-Fixe Lunch at Philippe

Categories: On the Menu

Photos by Mai Pham
A delightful amuse bouche kicked off our $20 Master Chef lunch
The prix-fixe, or set menu, is a time-honored tradition that originated in France. Pronounced pree-fiks, it's usually a three-course menu with appetizer, entree, and dessert, and the great thing about it is that you can usually get an unbelievable value for the price paid. That's what I discovered when I visited Philippe Restaurant + Lounge last Friday afternoon.

I'd heard about chef Philippe's newly launched "Master Chef Lunch," created after his recent induction into the coveted ranks of the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, or Master Chef of France, a group comprised of about 200 French Chefs around the world, with just 50 in the United States.

For just $20, you get a choice of soup du jour or appetizer, choice of entree, and choice of dessert. I ordered a classically prepared cream of asparagus soup, a beef short rib ravioli provencale, and a pecan pie with chantilly whip cream. My girlfriend ordered a goat cheese and tomato terrine in lieu of the soup, and the same entree and the same dessert.

goat cheese tomato terrine.jpg
My friend's goat cheese and tomato terrine
If it sounds deliciously decadent, it's because it was. You might expect smaller courses on a set lunch menu, but Philippe doesn't scrimp in the slightest. Our meal started with a simple amuse bouche of cherry tomato and mozzarella with a green pesto and droplets of balsamic reduction. I took the little skewer it came on, smeared it in a bit of the balsamic and plopped it in my mouth, letting the flavors "amuse" my senses, as it was intended to do.

I love French soups -- so fine and smooth and creamy. This one was no exception.
My asparagus soup was served in a large bowl, the portion generous enough to make my eyes bulge. The soup itself was perfection, smooth and creamy, on par with some of the best French vegetable soups I've ever tasted. I had the rest of the afternoon off, so I allowed myself to indulge in a glass of wine.

This white wine, chosen by award-winning sommelier Vanessa Trevino-Boyd, was the perfect complement to my asparagus soup.
Sommelier Vanessa Trevino-Boyd was on hand to suggest a Semeli dry white wine from Greece to pair with the notoriously difficult-to-pair asparagus. "It has a slight bitterness on the finish, which will pair well with the asparagus, I think," she said. The white was exactly as she described -- crisp, slightly grassy, with a hint of bitterness on the end -- an excellent pairing for the soup.

short rib ravioli.jpg
The ravioli were beautifully presented in a lavish oval bowl --pictures don't do it justice
The pièce de résistance came next as the ravioli were presented to us in an impressively large, long, oval serving plate. "Wow!" I exclaimed as I eyed the four good-size ravioli, stuffed with braised short ribs and served with fresh peas, tomato confit, olives and garlic and drizzled with garlic sauce. The flavors of the ragout were deep, a melding of heavier strong ragout, with the richness of a good ratatouille-like vegetable flavor, while the ravioli pasta brought the dish some lightness, stopping it just short of being too heavy for lunch. I was close to the limit in terms of being full, but I could not help but clean off the plate.

Pecan pie with creme chantilly.
By the time dessert rolled around, a pecan pie topped with a fluffy dollop of chantilly whip cream and a crispy rectangular tuile that tasted like freshly toasted butterscotch, I was completely satiated. "I can't believe you get all this for $20!" I exclaimed as the chef came by. "We're philanthropists," he replied jokingly, "We're giving our food away." And I would have to agree. $20 for an exquisitely prepared French meal by a Master Chef, in a dining room as gorgeous as Philippe's -- it was almost like he was giving it away.

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Location Info

Philippe - CLOSED

1800 Post Oak Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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conebaby topcommenter

Love the pairing--I seem to recall, from a previous media tasting at Phillipe, Vanessa mentioning that asparagus is challenging to pair. This is one of my favorite spots in town and I've been dying to try the prix fixe lunch menu. Thanks for the reminder, Mai!


If you knew you would be writing about this, why didn't you order different dishes than your companion to get a broader range of the offerings?

Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

 @conebaby Asparagus and artichokes -- all the sommeliers remark on how difficult they are to pair. You should definitely go -- one of the best prix-fixe lunches in town, for sure!

Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

 @LKG1 Thanks for the comment; it's a valid point. In answer, I'm gonna throw this out there an hopefully no one will laugh: it's really hard being a food blogger. I take pictures of food everywhere I go, and sometimes it turns into a story when I don't intend for it to be, and sometimes stories I intend to write don't actually happen.

This was never intended to be food "review," where I would order everything in sight-- more a snapshot of what it's like to order that particular prix-fixe menu. The other main selection was a seafood risotto (excellent by the way!), which we'd both tasted before, and the dessert selection was a peach melba, which I'd also tasted before -- which is why we didn't order it. It should be noted that many prix-fixe menus are totally set -- meaning there is only one choice for appetizer, entree and dessert. Philippe is generous to offer two selections for each course. 

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