In a city that can be rainy and chilly, the bistros of Paris are beacons of golden light, soft laughter, and simple food and drink. It is in the cafes and restaurants that everyday life is lived in that golden city.
When terrorists attacked Paris last week, they targeted all the places where Parisians enjoyed their best hours — in music halls, at football matches, and at cafes, thinking that their actions would close down the streets as citizens hunkered in fear. To the contrary, a movement was created. Tous au Bistrot, which means "Everyone at the Bar", calls the people of Paris to get out and live their lives, not letting the terrorists get the upper hand.
It's purely by coincidence, however, that Stephen Starr's French bistro, Le Zoo, opened on November 14, at a time when all the world's hearts and minds are on Paris.
The restaurant, located on the first floor of Bal Harbour Shops, lovingly recreates a bistro in Paris down to the golden lighting, tile floors, and lively buzz of energy. On a recent breezy evening, the patio was alive with people sipping rose and eating steak frites. The licorice scent of Pastis and the clink of glasses filled the air. This is Starr's third brasserie concept, with Parc in Philadelphia and Le Diplomate in Washington, D.C.the first two. The food is classic French fare — nothing too surprising on the menu. But that's the charm of Le Zoo. Though Miami has several decent French restaurants, very few offer the full experience of bistro dining.
A mushroom tart looks like a small flat pizza, but one bite of the creamy mushrooms and the flaky, buttery crust and you'll realize just how decadent each bite is ($16).
Radishes are somewhat divisive vegetables with some loving the crisp, spicy root vegetable and some not. If you're a fan, order this simple dish comprised of different types of lightly salted radishes, accompanied by bread and butter ($10). Make a small finger sandwich or just eat the red globes with your wine. They also make a great palate cleanser between courses, so save a few to munch on during the rest of your meal.
Zucchini blossoms ($18) are stuffed with crabmeat and flash fried tempura style. The blossoms are served with creme fraiche for dipping.
Entrees are filled with favorite brasserie fare like trout amandine ($25), a plump half roasted chicken ($25), and beef bourguignon ($33). Of course, moules frites ($18) are offered. The sweet shellfish are steamed in a fragrant bath of white wine, shallots, and garlic.
Be prepared to share your pommes frites with everyone at the table or, better yet, order some for your friends ($7) so you can have yours all to your self.
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King salmon ($26) is offered up on a bed of red lentils with a tomato vinaigrette.
At a time when we're thinking of Paris, Le Zoo is an appropriate venue to go out with a group of friends, order a carafe or two of wine, and exclaim, tous au bistrot.
Le Zoo is open for lunch Monday - Friday from 11:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. and for dinner Monday - Saturday from 4 - 11 p.m. and Sunday from 4 - 10 p.m. The restaurant is open for brunch Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.