On the Menu is a Davie gem

 

Locals might remember Victoria Williamson as the owner of Churchill’s, an over-the-top British restaurant in Cooper City. She left the restaurant business for catering more than a decade ...

By Rochelle Koff | rkoff@MiamiHerald.com

Locals might remember Victoria Williamson as the owner of Churchill’s, an over-the-top British restaurant in Cooper City. She left the restaurant business for catering more than a decade ago, but now she’s back, at a charming 75-seat French bakery and bistro in Davie.

On the Menu is easy to miss on the first floor of the Atrium Centre, but you can’t overlook the rows of gorgeous pastries displayed at the entrance along with imported gourmet goodies like mustard, olive oil and chocolates. It’s tempting to plop on one of the white couches and dive into a chocolate croissant, but there’s more to explore.

You can start your day here with a croque madame sandwich (ham, Swiss, béchamel sauce and sunny side-up egg), lunch on a chicken panini (or, starting next week, savory crepes) and come for a supper of escargot or duck confit.

On the Menu is a gem for the area, with quality cuisine at reasonable prices. The most expensive dish is $26, and entrees include warm bread, soup or salad and, generally, a side or two.

The cheerful, casual dining room is done in vibrant coral hues and colorful prints, with Edith Piaf and other French singers providing a sultry recorded background.

The menu is French bistro with Spanish and Italian touches courtesy of Williamson’s husband, Pascal Sanchez Santini, a Parisian of Italian and Spanish heritage, and Italian-born chef Giuseppe DeRobertis, who cooked for two decades in Montreal.

It’s a friendly place, but service was initially slow, with waits for dirty dishes to be cleared and the check delivered. It was much better on a second visit, and while there’s still training going on, our meal was well-paced.

Starters include classics like garlic-buttery escargot Provençal, nestled between layers of puff pastry and plated with sautéed mushrooms. Other hits include plump mussels in a heady Spanish-style sauce of diced tomatoes, white wine and fish stock and lightly battered, fried calamari with a kicky cocktail sauce.

Entrees come with a refreshing spring-mix salad with tomato wedges, julienne carrots and a flavorful balsamic vinaigrette or superb French onion soup. It arrives bubbling hot, with just the right amount of melted Gruyère and milder Swiss, and you can taste the sweetness of caramelized onions in the deep, beefy broth with bits of baguette.

One of our favorite entrees is juicy, pan-seared pork tenderloin smothered in a creamy peppercorn sauce and plated with golden brown potato wedges and baked tomatoes Provençal. Flavor-packed eggplant Parmesan, its thin, battered slices layered like lasagna with mozzarella, Parmesan and a sunny tomato sauce, is another treat.

Seared scallops were rubbery on one visit but plump, tender and perfectly cooked on the second, with a crisp, golden-brown edge, set atop a rich beurre blanc. Sautéed spinach and a cold mousseline of turnips spiked with horseradish complete the dish.

A filet mignon special was sizable but not the fork-tender beef you expect with this expensive cut. We were happier with a traditional beef bourguignon over silky tagliatelle pasta.

Finally, dessert. Try one of those pastries or perhaps crepes Suzette (flavorful but on the thick side). Our favorites were a scrumptious bread pudding made with croissants and poached pears ladled with hot Belgian chocolate — delights, like this Davie newcomer.

If you go

Place: On the Menu

Address: Atrium Centre, 4801 S. University Dr., Davie

Rating:★ ★ ★  (Very Good).

Contact: 954-680-7944, www.onthemenucafe.com

Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Prices: Starters $6-$12 (antipasto for two $19), entrees $14-$26, dessert $7-$12

FYI: Beer and wine; corkage $10 per bottle. Free parking. AX, DS, MC, VS.

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