Petit Rouge

 

Fabulous service and polished French dare in North Miami.

Petite Rouge
This dish shot of Saumon Tartare with capers, onions, eggs, creme Fraiche, and cavier. Photo: Carl Juste.
 

Victoria Pesce Elliott

With just two dozen seats tightly packed at dark walnut-tone tables on a terra cotta floor, North Miami newcomer Petit Rouge is as cute as a champignon. Owner Neal Cooper, who won many loyal fans during the past decade and a half with Neal’s Café and, later, Il Migliore, has made French fare approachable and affordable even for those who may not know a lardon from a lasagne. Cooper excels at turning out gorgeous, generous portions of well-executed food without rough edges, and he offers a greatest hits of French bistro fare. In addition to onion soup, moules frites, escargot, foie gras, salmon tartare, steak au poivre, sole meuniere, duck confit and roasted chicken, he also includes crispy veal sweetbreads and sautéed calves liver. Add such standard Americanized hits as Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, meatloaf and macaroni and cheese.

Ambiance: The setting is a classic Hollywood version of the perfect little French bistro. The walls are eggshell white, accented with red and black and dotted with gilt-framed mirrors and sweetly Gallic artwork. Daily specials scrawled on a blackboard over the open kitchen are recited with flair by a team of briskly competent, black-clad waiters while diners fill the room with bubbly chatter. Impeccable serves bring baskets of hot and crackly baguette sliced and served with generous pats of sweet butter and are quick to refill a water glass. They are also surprisingly knowledgeable about everything from the French-focused wine list to the delicious desserts.

What Worked

  • Homey half a -roast chicken partially deboned and served with gorgeously crisped caramel skin flecked with lots of finely chopped herbs
  • Crispy, salty, perfectly sliced and almost greaseless frites thick as cigars
  • Decadent tarte flambé – a sort of flaky, thin Alsatian-style flatbread baked with a smattering of crème frache, sweet onions and tiny cubes of bacon
  • Thin, juicy skirt steak covered in sweetly sweated shallots and a mellow red wine jus
  • A narrow slab of trout topped with tiny croutons and capers, is a winner
  • Plump salmon in a Provencal sauce of tomato and garlic
  • Pristine coffee service- heady Illy brew served steaming from individual French presses with pitchers of real cream
  • Rich, smooth vanilla petit pot du crème
  • Flourless chocolate torte topped with fresh berries
  • Buttery apple tarte
  • Lick-the-plate-clean profiteroles doused in creamy chocolate

 

What Didn’t Work

  • Recommendable but not transporting salads with fresh greens and lightly distributed dressing lacking that magical French touch
  • Flabby duck confit
  • Pricey, pencil eraser-sized escargot served sans shell with hardly a whiff of garlic in a custardy parsley butter sauce
  • Duck rillettes – a fist-sized mound of shredded white flesh with all the personality of deli chicken salad

 

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