This Week's Cafe Review: You Can't Teach an Old Dog Nouveau Tricks at Salé-Sucré

Categories: On the Menu

salesucrecrepe.JPG
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
This crêpe suzette is as traditional -- and as wonderful -- as they come.
Admittedly, it's been awhile since I spent any amount of time in France. I've heard that since I was last there, the dining scene has changed to reflect a more American sensibility and appease tourists. No longer do waiters take themselves a little too seriously and meals last upwards of three hours. Waits are less a quaint cultural difference and more of an inconvenience. Cafés are less inclined to invite dogs to quietly enjoy a latte under the table.

These are notions that haven't quite reached Salé-Sucré, the subject of this week's cafe review. At this small restaurant on White Oak Boulevard, conventional French ways of operating are still prevalent. The waits are long, the service is stoic but pleasant, and the French recipes are about as traditional as they come.

There are no frills at Salé-Sucré, no gels or foams, no intricate platings, no fusions of any sort. It's French food, plain and simple.

I do wonder though if, in an age of constant culinary innovation from molecular gastronomy to the cronut, simple French food will ever be sufficiently interesting again. Of course, it helps when it's prepared well, which is not always the case at Salé-Sucré, but I worry that even the most perfectly cooked steak hache and frites will someday soon cease to impress palates accustomed to a constantly evolving food scene.

Will there come a day when frites are not acceptable without a generous drizzle of sriracha? Must mille feuilles framboise eventually be served with raspberry gel instead of real raspberries? We may not quite be there yet, but it's still oddly refreshing to see Salé-Sucré traveling along somewhat behind the times.

It sounds like an oxymoron to claim that something dated is refreshing, but I like knowing that there are small pockets of tradition in a world racing so fast toward the future. It's for this reason (and because they make amazing bread) that I want Salé-Sucré to succeed so badly. It may verge on boring now, but I feel confident that it could flow seamlessly from boring to traditional with just a little effort.

Yes, I'd like to see the restaurant start relying on better ingredients and get rid of anything canned or frozen, and no, I'm not always able to take three hours for a languid evening meal. But I would love to have the option of solid, traditional French cuisine on a ridiculous, traditional French timeline if I want it. All of the elements are there, so with a few improvements, Salé-Sucré could be a top-notch French bistro of my dreams in a charming little space right here in Houston.

It's sure cheaper than a plane ticket.

Location Info

Salé-Sucré

2916 White Oak Drive, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

My Voice Nation Help
7 comments
Eating Our Words: The Houston Press Food Blog
Eating Our Words: The Houston Press Food Blog

We have no problem with leisurely service. Canned whipped cream and vegetables and frozen fruit, though? That's an issue, especially when the chef clearly knows how to make good food.

Joanne Witt
Joanne Witt

Read the comment and skip the review. There is nothing wrong with leisurely service and solid traditional French food. And for the record I recently lunched there, told them I was in a hurry and they were able to accommodate my request.

nomadsheart1
nomadsheart1

I guess there does come a time when a new critic must be ugly about someplace just to prove that they can be "critical".  Sure, Salé-Sucré isn't the cutting edge of some of the other nouvelle French restaurants in Houston, but it has never pretended to be. And certainly the staff isn't old-world attentive and crisp as one would expect in a fine French restaurant., but this is a neighborhood bistro where the chef is cooking in the back and his team gets the food out with a minimum of fuss.  It is priced inexpensively and no one rushes you. 

There are so many sacred cow restaurants in Houston that deserve to have their bubbles burst that is seems a waste of time to start with the low-hanging fruit.  Just because you can do so without a lot of blowback doesn't make it right; it makes it easy.

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

@nomadsheart1 It's an independent place, and we all root for those. I actually love the look and feel of the place, but Kaitlin's review is spot-on. I, too, found service to be very pleasant. The place is quaint and cute, but the food could definitely be better.

KaitlinS
KaitlinS topcommenter

@nomadsheart1 I'm sorry you feel that I was being "ugly" just for the hell of it, but...um...it's kind of my job. If you read the review, you'll see that I really liked Salé-Sucré, but there's no excuse for a restaurant using good recipes and charging those prices to use canned vegetables and frozen fruit. I'm glad it isn't a nouvelle cuisine type place, but it does need some work to be better at what it's already trying to do.

Houstess
Houstess

@nomadsheart1 I didn't find the prices anywhere near inexpensive, but I went at lunch time.  There was a $15 lunch special that didn't interest me; the menu though was pricey for lunch.  The food was decent, the waiter friendly and certainly unhurried, the parking atrocious.

vonSchlieffen
vonSchlieffen

@KaitlinS @nomadsheart1 

Agreed, there's more exciting traditional French and even some interesting pushing the envelope at places like L'Olivier, Brasserie Max and Julie, and even the new Bistro des Artes from always-returning food scene veteran Georges Guy.

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...