First Bites

The New LouLou Is Where It At

​​​​As in: LouLou Le Petit Bistro is the answer to last week's Where It At? The plates shown in that post were veal tongue gribiche and a dodine of salmon in tarragon beurre blanc.

In fact, there is a lot of really genuine and well-prepared French fare being served nowadays at the downtown bistro. Yes, the very same place that less than two months ago I panned pretty good.

My review came, unfortunately, after the original chef left and before he had been adequately replaced. Shortly after the column was published, Victor Passalacqua came on board as partner and consulting chef. Passalacqua knows a bit about French cuisine, having trained under the likes of Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse.

Miami diners haven't had a chance to indulge much in Passalacqua's cooking before now, but they have certainly been influenced by his talents: He was partner and general manager of La Dorada (when it first opened and was one of the best restaurants in the city) and also served as GM at Rusty Pelican, Fontana Restaurant at the Biltmore, and the quixotic Don Quixote restaurant in Coconut Grove, which is no longer around.

​First thing Passalacqua did at LouLou's was replace every worker in the kitchen and dining room with pros -- many of whom he had worked with in the past. Passalacqua likewise redid the menu, and with his partners -- Jacques Ardisson and daughter Carla Lou -- came up with attractive lunchtime specials. One such choice is a sandwich with a soup or salad for $9.95. Another brings a choice of soup, salad, or appetizer plus an entrée of fish or meat du jour and dessert for $15. It's a good deal for good food, a great deal for great food. And the food I tried was great.

Swordfish ceviche is presented with a shot glass of fresh lime juice, garlic, cilantro, and the Peruvian rocoto pepper. The flavors were pristine, the price just $7. Salmon dodine was included in the daily special. The fish, delicately wrapped around a julienne of vegetables, was draped with tarragon beurre blanc and plated with red and golden beets and a quenelle of aroborio-and-wild rice with butter, shallots, and red pepper. Pork belly was cooked nice and crisp, and blanched-and-fried frites were just right.

​LouLou Le Petit Bistro has certainly turned things around. This could just end up being the comeback restaurant of the year.

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein