I often pine for the friendly little French bistro in my old Manhattan neighborhood, where the owners remembered my name and would pour me a glass of simple cotes du rhone before I even sat down. When I broke up with a boyfriend at the corner table, I had the sad realization that he didn't understand me as well as the maitre d’ did. The food was good but not the best in the city. Not even the best on the block. But I went back time and again because they always treated me like family. Even better sometimes. I get the same feeling at the quaint and quirky H Restaurant in Sunny Isles Beach. It’s an odd duck. (Actually, there's nothing odd about their delightful duck confit salad; it is delicious.)
The waiter -- there seems to be just one -- is kind, confident and casual. And the owners, Gérard Hérrison and his wife, Karin, make you feel as if you had just walked into their living room. I was immediately recognized (by sight, not name) when I rushed in on a recent weeknight, though I had only been there once before. Karin Hérrison greeted me with a smile, a glass of French pinot and an invitation to sample other red wines along with my basket of warm baguette slices and cold butter.
The ingredients here are not pedigreed, the cooking techniques are more rustic than refined and the setting more garage-sale than gorgeous. And prices are quite high for the strip-mall neighborhood (just slightly lower than the much more polished Timo a few doors away). But I will return again and again for The H Restaurant's rare and authentic hospitality.
Ambience: The rough-stuccoed walls are painted a deep magenta red, and the bar is encrusted with stick-on jewels and squares of faux fur. Oversized French court paintings of wigged figures oversee the dining room with sly smiles, while a menagerie of hunting trophies stares out from the back. The tables are clothed in white polyester, and glasses are sturdy cafeteria-grade.
What Didn't Work