By David Minsky
By Jen Mangham
By Bill Wisser
By Laine Doss
By Bill Wisser
By Dana De Greff
By Laine Doss
By Zachary Fagenson
The bread doesn't resemble real French bread, though. We were given a basket containing those par-baked, reheat-and-serve-as-fresh-from-the-oven rolls that are soft, warm, and nowhere near as good as a regular old crunchy-crusted baguette.
Chicken soup started us off warmly (as opposed to hotly), a shallow bowl plump with moist morsels of meat and pasta rings in a robust, not fully heated broth. A salad with chévre chaud brought a short cylinder of cold goat cheese atop field greens slicked with textbook dijon vinaigrette. Country pâté was coarse but tasty, and one of the only items on the menu that requires any culinary skill to prepare.
I have written in the past of having been the only instructor in the esteemed history of the French Culinary Institute in New York who didn't speak French. So help me: What is the translation for "boring selections?" Of the dozen or so entrees, about half are composed of grilled chicken breast surrounded by one sauce or another. Other options are grilled salmon, grilled lamb chops, grilled steak, a few pastas, shepherd's pie (?), and bonne nuit Irene. Prep time in this kitchen must mean turning on the fryer and grill. I understand that the point is to keep the fare really basic, but can't they make a terrine or two, or roast a chicken, or at least broil a leek?
419 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Region: South Beach
Cafe Maurice, 419 Washington Ave, Miami Beach; 305-674-1277. Open for dinner daily 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
Steak-frites is the best thing we tried, an assertively seasoned strip steak (not rib eye as the menu suggests) sided by a gooseneck of white cognac-pepper sauce and skinny Mickey D-like sticks, but crisper. A breaded chicken cutlet came too darkly coated outside and pinkly undercooked within. Mashed potatoes were soft and milky, but not nearly warm enough. The pasta tubes in our penne Provençal came tossed with too complicated a tangle of mushrooms, tomatoes, asparagus stalks, and all sorts of dried herbs. Noodles were not just overcooked, but then singed brown, presumably when sautéed with the accompaniments.
They don't exactly knock themselves out on dessert here either. On a Friday evening, the choice was tiramisu or ... tiramisu. You'd think if they were offering just one option they'd at least make it a French one. Another visit brought crême brùlée and "le flottante," the latter turning out to be not liqueur-sprinkled sponge cake with jam and nuts, as the name would imply, but rather oeufs à la neige, which are whipped, sweetened egg whites poached in milk and pooled in custard. Both desserts satisfied, but neither exhibited the warmth of having been freshly prepared. Since baking doesn't seem to be this chef's forte, it might not be a bad idea to offer a small plate of French cheeses. I've heard it said that a few worthwhile samples of such reportedly get imported here from there. At least they pour some wines from France, and the concise list is kept affordable (glasses starting at four dollars, bottles at fifteen dollars).
Cafe Maurice's finer attributes become apparent later at night (it is open until 5:00 a.m.), when a vibrant cabaret scene is likely to break out, with singing, swaying, and dancing to Gypsyish music. Like at Hofbräu Beerhall, food quality is something of an afterthought.
Hofbräu Beerhall Miami, 943 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; 305-538-8066. Open for lunch and dinner daily, 11:30 a.m. to midnight. Cafe Maurice, 419 Washington Ave, Miami Beach; 305-674-1277. Open for dinner daily 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.