Call It Delicious

Consider the crêpe a universal food delivery system.

In Italy it's called crespelle; in China, pok pang. In Mexico it's the tortilla; in Vietnam, banh tranh. In India it's chapati; in Ethiopia, injera.

No matter what you call it, this humble mixture of flour and liquid -- sometimes with yeast or butter or oil or egg -- is an ancient and much-loved way to transfer protein from plate to mouth.



Now consider Crêpes & Company.

This delightful little Coral Gables restaurant is all about the humble crêpe -- a delicate, nutty-tasting, pleasingly chewy delivery system for a variety of lovingly and expertly prepared proteins.

And though it's also about value -- $12 and change gets you a delicious and substantial crêpe plus a lightly dressed salad of feathery baby greens -- it's not some cheesy, riff-on-a-cheap-theme kind of eatery, but a serious, elegantly attired restaurant that can compete with some of the best in town.

The latter becomes obvious as you step through the front door. Real thought and effort went into creating a room that looks more stylish than it must have cost. Orchids spilling out of conical glass sconces line a burnished-gold wall; museum-style wire carriers hold large black-and-white prints on another. The floor is distressed concrete, and a small bar with a marbleized counter fills up the rear. In the midst of all this budget chic is a lone incongruous note -- a tabletop Coke machine, its garish red, white, and chrome bulk a turd in the proverbial punch bowl.

No matter. Scan the small wine list (it won't take long -- there are only a dozen or so) and perhaps settle on the 2003 Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, a pleasant and accessible wine whose soft Meyer lemon acidity and $20 price tag make it a worthy complement to just about anything on the menu.

Before you order, also consider your appetite. Portions range from large to "I think I'm going to need a truss," so splitting an appetizer or starting with soup or a simple salad might be your best bet.

The pumpkin soup, for one, is quite good. Thick and filling but not overly rich, it comes with a scattering of crunchy pumpkin seeds and a swirl of tangy crema. A salad of shrimp, corn, avocado, tomato concasse, and hearts of palm tossed in a fragrant basil dressing is even better and is easily enough to satiate two. The kitchen might consider substituting the mushy hearts of palm for something else, but otherwise it's a sparklingly fresh ode to summer.

The freshness and simplicity of the day's special -- tagliatelle with seafood marinara -- was almost stunning, the kind of dish that could force many of South Florida's allegedly Italian chefs to retire and take up selling insurance.

The light, lovely marinara was made from barely cooked-down fresh tomatoes strewn with shreds of aromatic, licoricelike basil. The shrimp, bay scallops, and calamari (without the advertised mussels) were carefully cooked and tasted brightly of the sea. The tagliatelle crêpes cut into long, wide strips were a hearty foil to the delicate sauce.

On the other hand, if you have your heart set on hearty, ordering one of the restaurant's signature food delivery systems filled with rich, savory Moroccan-style veal should give you plenty of cardiac satisfaction. Made a touch on the sweet side by caramelized onions and black and golden raisins, it's a meal in itself.

For dessert consider ordering one of everything. Then order the crêpes filled with Cointreau-orange mousse in a bittersweet chocolate sauce; with its creamy-dreamy mousse and bracingly intense sauce, it's as close as you can get to divinity without actually dying.

Call it whatever you want, but call Crêpes & Company a local restaurant treasure.


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