If an experienced chef can make a restaurant great, diners should prepare themselves for 3x the experience at the new Brasserie 1895 in Friendswood.
Three experienced chefs are in the kitchen preparing what they call French/Modern/American cuisine at 607 S. Friendswood Drive, the heart of downtown.
Lead Chef Kris Jakob shares ownership of the new restaurant with partner, Friendswood local, Sky Lyn Williams.
The menu is reflective of Jakob’s 25 years of experiences and training as a cook in Europe and later, teacher and director at the Culinary Institute LeNotre in Houston. The school’s restaurant was run by Jakob and bears his name, Kris’ Bistro.
Under Jakob’s direction, the Brasserie 1895 menu displays a French/Belgian influence mixed with American Southern selections with hints of Asian inspiration.
The core of the kitchen and Jakob’s design is centered around a wood-burning oven in which breads and pastries are made in the morning, fired up to high heat throughout the day for pizzas and casseroles and then cooled down to braise and slow-roast items overnight for the next day’s menu.
Gibbons, who grew up in Friendswood, ran a bed and breakfast downtown during the 1990s. After she moved to California, she worked on special events with the California Science Center, during its transition into a new multi-million dollar facility. She later worked with the American Heart Association as a fundraiser and assisted with their boards in Long Beach, Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles. She returned to Friendswood and began planning a business involving food.
Together Jakob and Gibbons make a strong team: his with kitchen design and menu and hers with management and environment.
The name is a mix of the two.
Jakob liked the idea of a brasserie, a French word for an unpretentious neighborhood restaurant or tavern that serves drinks, especially beer and simple food.
Gibbons wanted to honor her hometown. In 1895, two quakers, Frank Jacob Brown and Thomas Hadley Lewis felt the area was their “Promised Land.” They negotiated with the owner, Galveston banker J. C. League, for a deed of trust, and on July 15, 1895, they recorded the name of the colony at the Court House in Galveston. They named it Friendswood.
The restaurant is named Brasserie 1895 and its official opening day will be July 15, 2016. At that time the restaurant will host a Founder’s Dinner and will be closed to the public.
When it opens to the public July 16, it will offer lunch and dinner. At the end of the month, brunch will begin and be offered on weekends only.
Joining Jakob in the kitchen are two notable chefs.
An executive pastry chef and nicknamed the bakery magician, David Berg is part of the triad of chefs at The Brasserie 1895. He had been working as the Team Master Baker at the Phoenicia Downtown Houston. Prior to this, Berg has a fine-dining background and spent more than a decade running his own restaurant and bakery in Santa Monica, California before moving to Houston in 2002. In Houston, he taught at a local culinary school and while he enjoyed a diverse career, he has stated that he has also enjoyed teaching and mentoring young bakers.
The third chef is originally from Belgium and a long time friend of Jakob. Christian Echterbille is a certified Belgium MasterChef with 40 years of experience. During that time he has been a chef, educator, mentor and pioneer.
Echterbille has served as an instructor at Houston’s Culinary Institute LeNotre and is a member of Academie Culinaire de France and Village de Chefs Association. He is a Culinary World Cup medalist and coach and a member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs de Belgique.
The three will offer food that not only is fresh but local. Farm to table meat and vegetables are brought into the restaurant at their seasonal peak. Three times weekly, Jakob travels to Galveston to pick up fresh seafood and what cannot be found there, he locates from other fishing areas in the United States.
“One of our farmers raises lambs. He brought a whole lamb to us recently and we started thinking lamb Wellington, ragout, and other uses for the wonderful meat,” Jakob said. “It was the right age, weight, condition, and the farmer delivered it. We will create our food items from what is fresh and available. Even what is considered normal fare will have a new twist to it possibly.”
One example of a staple that is not just the usual, expected item on their menu is chicken fried steak. Diners will not find a simple tenderized beef slice heavily battered and fried but instead, a buttermilk marinated sirloin, cured foie gras cream gravy, tomatillo salsa, potato puree and escabeche of carrot, red onion & jalapeno on their plate.
If not a fan of Texas cuisine like this, diners can order Neopolitan pizza, bronze cut and handmade pasta, fresh off the boat seafood, beef Bourguignon, and much more. Even the chicken tenders are from free range chickens and served with a wonderful seasoning and coating.
A large wine list, 16 craft beers and wine cocktails are available for enjoyment.
The interior is in various shades of gray with lavender upholstered antique chairs. Silverware is a mix of estate sales silver plate with interesting furniture and vintage lighting as part of the ambience.
Two large striking tables made from huge walnut logs with log benches are showcased in the front of the restaurant. Created and built by artist/carpenter Jeff Clements of Lemar, Missouri, the tables were noticed and admired by Gibbons in Missouri as she journeyed to Minnesota with her family. Upon her return, Gibbons commissioned the artist for two and he delivered them to the door of the restaurant.
Diners in large parties up to 10 people will be seated at one of the two tables. They will notice on a closer look that tiny colorful pieces of glass are in the coating filling holes and crevices. The glass is from the Catholic Church in Missouri that burned. Clements’ mom collected the broken glass in the lot where the church had been and Clements uses it in his work.
The large bar as well as other carpentry adornments in the restaurant were all completed by area craftsmen.
Friends and local community members have joined Jakob and Gibbons for dinner soft openings and feedback has been positive.
Brett Banfield, president of the Friends of Downtown Friendswood Association (FDFA), applauded Jakob and Gibbons for choosing the downtown area to start the business.
“The Friends of Downtown Friendswood Association is thrilled about the long awaited opening of Brasserie 1895. We were very excited when Friendswood native Sky Lyn Gibbons and renowned chef Kris Jakob initially chose Downtown Friendswood as the destination to open their first new concept restaurant. Their establishment will no doubt be a huge boost for the area and will lead the way in attracting additional dinning and leisure businesses into Downtown Friendswood,” Banfield said.
Reservations for dinner at the Brasserie 1895 can be made by calling 832-385-2278. Visit the website at brasserie1895.com.
Story by Karolyn Gephart