Gallic Symbol

Additional mysteries on the entree list include "Seafood Pasta," void of description in both the fish and pasta departments. A couple of items on the menu are served a la nage, but there is no definition of the term anywhere. (A la nage, by the way, is a hot preparation.)

My way of dealing with such menu omissions, particularly since my waiter was extremely busy, was to take the path of least resistance. I ordered a main course that was described as "grouper with basil-perfumed olive oil ($17)." The preparation was lovely to behold: a Rubenesque wedge of fish, golden in color, surrounded by buttery zucchini and topped with minced basil and flecks of bright red tomatoes. The fish, which had been coated in a light egg batter and sauteed, seemed resistant to the fork when I tried to break off my first piece, but melted in the mouth.

Succumbing again to curiosity, I ordered a dessert called by my waiter "raspberry soup." I had in mind some berry-and-sour-cream version of a Hungarian cold cherry soup, but soup, in this case, was a misnomer. The berries, though not very sweet, rested in a shallow pool of mulled, cinnamon-scented red wine, which benefited them greatly. Other desserts offered at Le Coze are greater extravaganzas than my choice - a flourless chocolate cake with a dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream ($6.50), for example, and the ever-present creme brulee ($5) - but I found the berries a refreshing finish to a lunch about ten times larger than my usual repast. This is also one of the few restaurants in America that makes its own caramel ice cream - a dessert that is unusual in these parts, but the equivalent of apple pie in la belle France.

Brasserie originally meant brewery, but has come to mean a saloon, restaurant, or cafe where beer and other drinks are served along with a limited menu of food. Because of their bohemian ambiance and inexpensive offerings, brasseries were gathering places for journalists and artists. It is said that Nadar, Baudelaire, Courbet, and Manet all discoursed at the same brasserie in the Rue des Martyrs. While I doubt whether my fellow diners with their portable phones perched beside them are scribes or artists, I do know there are artists at Brasserie Le Coze. In the kitchen. Culinary artists. And, oh yes, the French waiters are not arrogant.

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