The goods: The French have invaded Miami. From newcomers like Caviar Kaspia and Au Pied de Cochon in South Beach to Petit Rouge in North Miami Beach, you don’t have to go far to your fix of duck confit and moule frites. Adding another French connection to the Miami dining scene: Lemon Twist, a warm neighborhood bistro in Normandy Isles. You may already be familiar with the restaurant – the original Lemon Twist opened in 1998 and was owned by Eric Omores of Bash and Nikki Beach fame where it quickly became a Francophile hangout. In 2006 the restaurant was sold and turned into a sports lounge until this past October when restaurateur Alain Suissa (Grass Restaurant and Lounge) renovated the space and once again gave the city a Lemon Twist.
Ambiance: The spacious dining room with its French knick knacks, Moroccan cushions and polished wood bar feels like it’s been around for ages, in a neighborhood-haunt kind of way. The casual atmosphere is perfect for an easy dinner of bistro classics or a romantic date – just make sure you have plenty of time as service can be absent-minded at times.
The Grub: Traditional French brasserie cuisine. Directing things in the kitchen is Chef Franck Hierholzer, a native of Lyon, France. You’ll find some unfussy dishes common across France but harder to find in the states, such as Loup de Mer Provencale en Papillotte (sea bass baked in parchment paper), pot-roasted chicken and Escargots de Bourgogne, prepared with garlic, parsley and butter. Prices are a tad high given the modest surroundings – starters average about $10 and most mains are $16-$20.
If you’re lucky, dinner will start with a complimentary round of namesake Lemon Twist cocktails, made with vodka, triple sec and lemon juice, a refreshing way to start the evening. From there move on to classics like steak tartar or endive salad with Roquefort cheese. The roasted duck with turnips and figs is a hearty main for a cool winter night while the mushroom ravioli bathed in a cream sauce hits all the right carby notes.
Desserts include a serviceable crème brulee, bananas flambee and fondant au chocolat, better known as the ubiquitous molten lava cake.
Verdict: While this spot won’t win any award for creativity, the straightforward Parisian-style bistro is already a neighborhood favorite.
Photo: Greg Clark.