www.pascalmiami.com If the Red Sox can beat the Yankees, isn't it time Pascal's on Ponce breaks the ten-year reign of Norman's as our anointed best restaurant in the Gables? Yes, you're right, that isn't a very good reason to crown Pascal Oudin's establishment. How about this: As Mr. Van Aken has been spreading his empire wider, he's been spreading himself thinner, and while his flagship establishment still thrills with gastronomic high-wire acts, Pascal's brings a more personal, down-to-earth perfection to the table (especially because the chef/owner is always in the house, as is his wife Ann-Louise, who manages the front with charm and aplomb). Mr. Oudin opened this small, intimate eatery in 2000, after having honed his flair for fine French cooking at the Grand Bay Café. You won't be wowed by any architectural achievements on your dinner plate, but the updated, understated country French cuisine is, in these parts, without peer. Don't take our word as gospel? The Muscovy duck terrine, served over mesclun with apple gelée and fig compote, will book you as a believer upon first bite. So will a simple salad of organic greens, pink grapefruit fillets, and an herb-perfumed sherry vinaigrette. Main courses such as Atlantic salmon baked "en croute" with lobster, shiitake mushrooms, and lemon confit; a medallion of veal loin with porcini ravioli; and a classic pan-roasted grouper meunire will make you regret not having visited Pascal's sooner. The food sounds and looks simple, but the dishes are labor-intensive in an invisible, classic French manner -- Lord knows how long it must have taken to make that Muscovy terrine. Distinctive vintners dot the exceptional wine list, and a full-service bar has been added. A smartly selected cheese plate, and desserts like pistachio crme brùlée, tarte Tatin with vanilla bean ice cream, and the sensational signature bittersweet chocolate soufflé will likely have you second-guessing us for not having bestowed this honor upon Mr. Oudin's restaurant years ago.
Readers´ Choice: Houston´s