First Bites

Bistro Cassis: Quaint Parisian Bistro Cools Down Midtown

Walking into the newly opened Bistro Cassis, you're bound to notice some very authentic French decor touches. Subway tiles, a huge mural of the Paris Metro, and a large chalkboard menu filled with daily specials like coq au vin set the mood.

After all, lunch and supper in France are affairs where wine is drunk and a basket of crusty bread is always on hand. And although French fare has a reputation for being too formal, a meal at a bistro should be classic, soulful, and accessible.

That's what Bistro Cassis sets out to do. Located in the heart of midtown at 3252 NE First Ave., the eatery is part of the New York-based Restar Hospitality Group. It has eight restaurants in New York, including Bistro Cassis in New York City and Huntington on Long Island, but this is the company's first foray into the Miami market. Let's hope more will follow.

See also: Quality Meats Opens Friday: House-Made Charcuterie and Negronis on Tap

The restaurant serves a menu of favorites such as escargots ($12), onion soup gratinée ($9), poulet rouge ($20/29), and steak frites ($25 to $29, depending upon cut), and much of the menu replicates its NY-area namesakes. What makes the midtown Miami location unique is chef Cyrille Bolle's attention to authenticity and his nightly specials.

Bolle prepares an evening dish that would make Julia Child swoon. For instance, on Monday, the chef prepares koulibiac -- salmon and spinach in a puff pastry with beurre blanc ($27). Tuesday's special is foie de veau -- calf's liver Lyonnaise with potato gratin dauphinoise ($24). And Wednesday is reserved for pied de cochon -- braised pork feet with white bean stew. Bolle, who hails from Lorraine, France, near the German border, says Miami diners are, in some ways, more adventuresome than New Yorkers. "Maybe it's the Latin American background of so many people, but a lot of people are used to eating organ meat and trotters." Other specials include duck à l'orange ($29) Thursday and the classic coq au vin for Sunday lunch ($23).

Bistro Cassis also offers good value for your dining dollar. Much like the bistros of Paris, where you can get a nourishing meal and a few glasses of wine for well under 20 euros, a diner can eat without breaking the bank. At dinnertime, bread is served with complimentary chicken liver pâté, and although it's not typically offered at lunchtime, simply ask your server and you'll be presented with a crock of the creamy spread, made in-house.

A half order of mussels ($11) was more than enough for two people to start a meal. Prepared in your choice of sauces, the Pernod with fennel and cream was especially fragrant. Need more bread for dipping? Just ask.

A bottle of French wine can be had for about $30, and a small selection of expensive varietals is available in case you want to splurge. The bistro will also serve cocktails as soon as the full liquor license has been secured, hopefully in the next week.

With decades in the restaurant industry, general manager Horacio Oliveira says the goal is to serve food that's "simple yet very elegant." So far, in less than a week, he's finding repeat customers. "This gives me such a pleasant, comfortable feeling."

Bistro Cassis is open Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss