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Also delicious were spinach-and-pine-nut pies made with strudel pastry, and hot, wonderful, crisp-on-the-outside,smooth-inside French fries, both of which were served as accompaniments to the main dish but may be ordered separately. Other side dishes include salads, cheeses, broiled tomatoes, and fettuccine with tomato and basil, at prices ranging from $3.50 for the potatoes to $8.95 for the pasta. Don't be tempted, however, to go to Cassis Bistro and order just the fries and spinach pie - the restaurant requires a $15 minimum per person.
My dining companion chose the Cornish hen, and I was anxious to see what the French chef would do with this non-French bird, which is a crossbreed of Cornish gamecocks and Plymouth Rock hens. Served whole, the plump bird was surrounded by a ring of alternating zucchini strips and green pepper slivers. The juices were sealed inside by a crust made from Dijon mustard mixed with a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar and an overall sprinkling of mustard seeds. The experience was a far cry from that which my dining companion had some time ago when he had attempted to prepare his own, supermarket-bought hen and complained incessantly thereafter that there hadn't been two bites of meat on the bird's bones.
Desserts are typical for a bistro - custard, tiramisu, profiteroles, chocolate mousse, meringue with fruit sauce, fresh strawberries, and assorted ice creams and sherbets - but thoughtful nuances abound. The custard, for example, is spiked with anise, and the tiramisu features coconut as well as chocolate. Too full to endure anything very rich, we shared raspberry sorbet ($5). The icy fruit blend was incredibly refreshing, and was bursting with the sweet berries.
As an alternative to the souffles found at most of Miami's French restaurants, the Cassis chef, if given 24 hours' notice, will prepare the tour de force dessert of Genoise, a baked Alaska flambe with Grand Marnier, brandy, egg whites, and ice cream. For those who prefer to sip their desserts, the restaurant also offers five liqueur-spiked coffees, concoctions worthy of the ancient alchemists who accidentally invented the liqueur. (Try the Monte-Carlo, a libation of grappa, dark Sambuca, coffee, and whipped cream.) For those who prefer to toast after-dinner with something simpler, Cassis Bistro features 36 rare brandies, aged bourbons, grappas (including Cristal grappa for two at $39), eau de vies, and liqueurs.
While it's difficult for a restaurant to distinguish itself on crowded South Beach without some sort of gimmick, Cassis Bistro is relying on the old-fashioned virtues of kitchen skills and excellent service. This restaurant's only gimmick - a mixed bag of customers - has come to them. Call it classy classlessness. Even the dozen or so Harley-Davidsons parked outside on the night we visited, in pastel hues of blue and pink and lavender, made a stretch limo parked nearby look commonplace. Leave it to the French to bring us together under one restaurant roof.