Not to be over-eager, but can we start at the end, s’il vous plait? It’s just that the sweet endings lovingly prepared by pastry chef/co-owner Ahmed Youbi make waiting the hardest part at the 2-year-old Café Bonjour in South Miami.
Spoiler alert: The couple in the back corner as we first sat down in the unassuming, spare shoebox of a space was our first indication that we may want to start with dessert. Eyelids fluttering, the young woman appeared to be climaxing over a strawberry torte that Youbi had just delivered with relish while her male companion bowed his head reverently over a flourless chocolate mousse cake. Um, we’ll have what they’re having.
Ahmed and Veronique Youbi may be the hardest-working husband-and-wife team in South Florida’s restaurant biz. He arrives at 6:30 every morning to start baking while she works the 7 a.m.-3 p.m. shift as a nurse at Mount Sinai Medical Center before donning her pearls and ballet flats to run the front of house for dinner until 9 p.m. The couple, originally from Lyons, France, owned and operated La Crepe Bistro on Red Road in South Miami for seven years before taking over the former Quiznos spot in a sprawling U.S. 1 strip mall, where there is plenty of parking for a devoted troupe of moms who stop by with little ones for afternoon croissants.
Their modest menu sticks to traditional, affordable French classics, with an occasional flourish, such as the cold mango soup produced recently by Chef Manuel Arredondo, 25, fresh off the cook line at The Biltmore Hotel. (“It’s a combination of our recipes, with his younger touch,” said Veronique Youbi. “We like it when he uses his imagination.”)
Ambience: The only flamboyance here is on your tongue. From its nondescript “French bistro” sign out front to the museum posters on its walls, this neat and tidy, wood-floored café-patisserie keeps it humble. There is no wine menu, although a house red and white can be ordered by the glass. Classical music plays softly from an old-school stereo on a shelf in the kitchen. Soup and quiches du jour appear on a small chalkboard on the wall with daily specials.
- Delicious salty steak frites with a dollop of herbed butter melting over thick slices of beef
- Flavorful, unctuous crispy duck confit
- Airy, sugar-woven desserts that seemingly float above their plates
- A dreamy, fresh-from-the-oven Napoleon – rich vanilla pastry cream and raspberries oozing between layers of flaky puff pastry
- Steak with seared foie gras
- Sautéed scallops with zucchini and peppers
- A lightly breaded calamari appetizer with two sliced lemons and a peppery aioli
- Large salads with touches of fruit and nuts
- Grilled lamb chops, singed with an exterior of herbs
- Superior moist & juicy bone-in chicken breast with a crispy exterior and a grainy mustard sauce.
- Haricot vert mingling with thin, slightly crunchy sautéed zucchini strips
- Cubes of slightly-charred potatoes melded with onions for the hash browns
- Sublime French apple tart – pureed apples spread over a light dough and topped with baked apple slices & a scoop of dulce de leche ice cream
- Sumptuous flourless chocolate cake rimmed with spirals of chocolate meringue on the outside and filled with chocolate mousse on the inside
What Didn’t Work
- A tendency to over-salt dishes