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Flora & Muse – FAIL. Kim Chau saves the day.

October 10, 2010


Big Fat Fail.

I don’t often venture to the west side unless I’m compelled by food and family.  Today, I had big plans to pack up the kid and the car, pick up my parents and treat them to a beautiful breakfast at Flora & Muse, a European-inspired cafe and flower shop in City Center.  I’ve been eagerly anticipating a meal at this place for the last month.  On paper, it seemed everything I could want for breakfast:  scrumptious pastry counter, breezy outdoor seating, and an enticing menu (mascarpone filled crepes, Spanish benedict with spicy lamb sausage, french press coffee…).  We arrived at 9 a.m. and were seated at a table on the shaded patio near the fountain.  And that was the highlight of our meal.  Our waiter looked like he just rolled out of bed and was nursing a bangin’ hangover.  I was tempted to pull up a chair and offer him some of our coffee – but after we ordered we didn’t see him again until he came with the bill.  We ordered milk for Genghis and expected Houston’s finest milk since it took so long to get to the table.  After all that waiting, Genghis didn’t want anything to do with it.  Turns out the milk was sour.  We flagged down another waitress who looked like she was pissed as hell to be working on a Sunday morning.  I told her the milk was sour and asked for a different glass of milk.  The following conversation was straight out of the twilight zone:


Me:  Excuse me.  This milk is sour.  Can we get another glass of milk, please?
Her:  Do you want different milk?
Me (pause):  Yes.  Something that hasn’t gone bad.
Her:  Right, but do you want different milk?
Me:  Yes.  You see, that milk is sour so I don’t want the same milk, I want something different.
Her (sighing deeply and looking briefly to the ceiling):  Right.  But do you want something different?  What kind of milk do you want?
Me (thinking, I know orangutans share 99% of our DNA, so am I talking to one right now because this really shouldn’t be this difficult):  Do you mean 2%, whole milk, or skim?
Her (nostrils flaring):  Yes.
Me (horns emerging from my forehead):  Why don’t you just bring me whatever isn’t sour.

Apparently, they must have had to wait for the milkman to come because we didn’t get our milk (the non-sour variety) until the end of our meal.  And I’m pretty sure Orangutan probably spit in it.

Meanwhile, my dad ordered pastries from the patisserie.  He actually went to the counter and pointed at the pastries he wanted.  Someone allegedly wrote it all down because it would have been too logical to just put them on a plate as he was picking them out.  We expected the pastries to arrive soon after but we had to ask for them three times throughout our meal.  They finally came out as my mom and I were finishing our meal.  Orangutan brought out the pastries and…wait for it….they weren’t what my dad ordered.  Nostrils flaring, she walked away in a huff and we never saw a damn pastry for the rest of the meal.  Besides the almost comical service, the food was a huge disappointment.  My Spanish benedict came with hardly a lamb sausage, the tomato salad was poorly dressed and the potatoes were undercooked to the point of being inedible.  Genghis spat out my mom’s crepe.  What kid do you know spits out sweetened cheese and strawberries on a thin pancake?

We salvaged our morning with a trip to Target for some toothpaste.  $200 later, all was right in the world again.  (How does Target do that?!  I go in to grab one or two things and the next thing I know I’m mortgaging my house to pay the bill.)   My  mom suggested we really get the day back on track by getting something in the form of noodles.  And that’s how we ended up at Kim Chau.

Note: this is a picture of Kim Chau's Bun Bo Hue. I didn't quite get around to taking a picture of my bun rieu oc - I was too busy eating it.

The original Kim Chau is on Long Point and they recently expanded to the new location on Bellaire and Boone.  There’s tough competition on that corner for Vietnamese food, but I hope they survive because this is the Bun Bo Hue I essentially grew up on.  My mom would order a big pot for special occasions and we would eat it for days, with me and my brother fighting over the last bowl.  The bun bo hue at Kim Chau is still pretty good.  However, I’ve been ruined by ReRe’s version, the broth so richly flavored with oxtails and lemongrass, that it’s set an unreasonably high standard for me and my relationship with bun bo hue.  So today I opted for the Bun Rieu Oc, crab and shrimp paste vermicelli noodle soup with snails.  Most places are skimpy on the snails, but I was digging up snails through the broth even after my noodles were gone.  Big chunks of stewed tomatoes and airy crab clouds swam in the broth, made slightly pungent with shrimp paste.  I did miss the fried tofu and split water spinach that is usually served with bun rieu, but I savored every bite.  Even through Genghis’ three tantrums and spiking of straws, bean sprouts, soup spoons and everything else within reach of his grubby little hands.  Serenity now.


From → Food

  1. tran permalink

    kim chau is my favorite place for bun bo hue…in fact, it’s my mom’s choice over her own.

  2. tran permalink

    and what an AWFUL trip to flora & muse. i’d forward that review to them if i were you. seriously.

  3. Oh dear! That sounds like OUR trip to Flora & Muse right after they opened! I attributed the God-awful service to their just having opened, but clearly it’s endemic. We didn’t get our ICED TEA until right before we left!!!! How hard can it be to pour tea?!! And they were so slow taking our order that I thought we would NEVER eat – and I was starving!! At least they weren’t snippy, but it was almost comical how dysfunctional it was. I sure hope they get their act together because this place could be awesome! The concept and the building/decor are great…they just need to focus on service and food now.

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