La Cigale Wine Bistro Marseillais: Cous Cous, Merguez, Chicken, and Lamb Starting Today

T​hierry Bossa, from Marseilles, France, has stamina. He has had to deal with a difficult landlord, an un-helpful lawyer and a change of chefs. What else is new in the restaurant business? But, he hasn't given up yet and the future is looking brighter ... slightly. About seven months back, Thierry took over a space in a small but well visited mall in the Upper East Side that has morphed many times. The Chop Shop is still there, but Le Cafe, which seemingly thrived, bringing in fun bands, cheap eats, free Internet access and plenty of innovative art is now just a memory. Segafredo Mozzarella and Wine is taking over the space soon.

Bossa put in shiny new wood floors himself, painted the walls and fixed up the kitchen just like he always dreamed: clean, open and efficient. Then came the taxes, licenses and tons of other bills that he never knew existed. Still he forged on, relentless in his battle to bring a tiny bit of French nourishment to the Upper East Side.

His menu at La Cigale is reasonable and interesting. The leek soup as well as the oignon (onion) soup is priced at $6, and it's good. His salads are copious. The Niçoise salad is tasty, fresh and crispy, (Thierry hates wilted salads) and includes chopped lettuce, thick slices of fresh tomatoes, potatoes, French green beans, black olives, chunks of tuna, sliced hard boiled eggs, a drizzle of EVOO and thin slices of onions for $12.

"Even if I have to prepare four different salads for the same table, each salad gets my attention and is prepared individually for each client," said Bossa.

Appetizers include fried calamari, beef carpaccio, octopus Provencal and tuna tartare. Main courses have some interesting dishes such as swai, a very tender pan-fried sweet fish, that is sprinkled with lemon juice ($17), and an entrecôte served with his "secret" sauce for $24. Sides are extra, if they are not included in the menu, but well worth it. My swai was accompanied with a mash potato mound that was smooth and very hefty. We had no room for dessert although his menu offers crème brûlée, napoleons, chocolate mousse and lavender cake served with pistachio ice cream.

Starting today, Thierry will also serve a couscous, merguez, chicken, or lamb at lunch and dinner. He swears that the merguez is the real thing from North Africa. Also expect to find Canard comfit and a Marseillais staple: Shrimp Provencal, with sauteed shrimp in EVOO, olives, garlic, fresh chopped parsley, and (here's the yummy) a hint of pastis.

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