Cassoulet Touloussain, named for the city in the south of France, made up for the setback. Over the centuries this traditional bean casserole has inspired odes from poets -- Franc-Mohain even wrote a recipe for cassoulet in verse -- and Les Halles Miami's version, vibrantly flavored with a variety of meats, onions, and carrots, showed why. A stew similar to the Brazilian feijoada was rife with white beans fortified with hearty duck confit, buttery pork cut from the rib, and a whole peppery sausage. Steaming, with a delicate crust formed from the slow-cooking beans and flour-dipped meats, this cassoulet really was inspirational.
Sadly, desserts were not. The menu advises patrons to ask about "our homemade desserts," but we were left cold by the typical selection of tarte tatin (apple tart), mousse, and flan. I'd be remiss if I didn't laud the creme de caramel, which was silky smooth under a candied crust. But I'd love to see some light French pastries, even the standard ones -- cream puffs, napoleons, eclairs -- offered at the end of this filling meal. A selection of fresh fruits and cheeses might be another way to close.
One misconception about dining that I'm always battling is that a meal must be fancy in order to be worth the hassle of going out. Les Halles proves a fine point: The simplest meals are frequently as richly satisfying as the ornate ones, and you don't have to dress up for 'em.
Les Halles Miami
2415 Ponce de Leon Blvd, Coral Gables; 461-1099. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to midnight.