Patrick Gruest, General Manager at Pascal's On Ponce from January, 1996 to June, 1998, is getting ready to debut Senses Brasserie on Brickell Key this coming November. This is not new for Gruest, who has opened two restaurants of his own and two for national chains. He has been enjoying fine French cuisine since he was a young lad: "I had my first 'orgasmic' experience at Fernand Point when I was 6...I still remember the dish." The chef at Senses will be partner Fabien Micard, presently the sous chef at Pascal's. Micard used to own two restaurants in Champagne, France, where he is originally from.
Senses is being called a "contemporary European bistro.". "Many people don't have any idea about the French cuisine from today -- light, tasty, looking simple, just enhancing the quality of ingredients. A minimum of butter and cream. For this reason, I don't want to be labeled 'French.'" He goes on to say that they will be using "spices from around the world. Szechuan pepper with fish and chicken. Traditional Moroccan spices with lamb. Fresh lemongrass and ginger in a fish dish influenced by Vietnamese cuisine. It will not be fusion cuisine."
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The Brickell Key eatery will also feature a raw bar, seafood platters, a charcuterie sampler, "and sometimes more traditional dishes like Veal Blanquette. It will be a relatively short menu that changes often." Appetizers will range from $9 to $14; entrees $18 to $25; desserts $4 to $10. The average check, according to Gruest, will be $19 for lunch and $45 for dinner -- wine included. There will be two hours of complimentary parking.
Senses, housed in a 3,303 square-foot space (designed by architect Andre Aisner), will include an art gallery and a wine shop. The wines will come from the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Australia, and New Zealand -- "small producers, unusual appellations...our goal is to get the best values and quality of typical wines for the appellation or origin. We will deal with fifteen-plus importers/distributors." The price range will be from $14 to $300 -- "but mostly in the $15 to $75 range." Wine prices in the restaurant will be the same as in the shop, with a reasonable corkage fee added. "A bottle of real Champagne from France should go for $50 or $55 in the restaurant," says Gruest, adding that he isn't quite sure so many months away "due to the weak dollar."
So mark the calendar: November. That leaves Gruest and Micard plenty of time to line their ducks up (with orange sauce, of course).