Sage Bistro, Merrick Ave, N. Bellmore, NY (casual french)
Who knew this lovely little gem was only 10 minutes away and has been sitting there for 5 years and I never knew it! You would never know by its location, non-descript exterior and sedate interior that the food would be so good, but on a recent
visit to Sage Bistro, I was pleasantly surprised to find that much of the food was fantastic.
We walked in early and were warmly greeted and given a lovely table by the window. The decor is somehow odd for a French restaurant these days, with very little decoration, half wood, half sage colored walls, copper pots. Thats about it. Then you get the menu and it offers a substantial selection of French delicacies.
Last night I ordered their "flat-bread special of the day," Duck Confit, carmelized onions and melted gruyere cheese. It came out on a wooden plank, straight from the oven, and every bit was a bit of heaven. The duck was pulll-apart tender, covered with sweet carmelized onions, tempered by the bite of a sprinkle of gruyere. This was a very good start. We also tried the pecan crusted seared scallops served over apple parsnip puree & sateed spinach. Delicious.
On Friday night, the special is Boullibaise - here mixed seafood, (clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, fish and potatoes in a saffron fennel broth). It was absolutely luscious and the broth so full of flavor you wanted to eat it with a spoon. You should check out the other nightly specials posted on their website, which include the classic Duck a' l'Orange, Coq au Vin, and Paella. You can always get the Mussels and frites here, and steak frites, and no French restaurant would be complete without Escargot a la Bourguignonne. I had the Braised lamb Shank in a rosemary au us, served over vegetable risotto. I've rarely had lamb shank cooked so well and flavored so delicately. I did not need to use my knife. The risotto was also cooked right, and filled with fresh vegetables that were soft and tender, but had not turned to mush. It was perfect.
The staff was personable and friendly, and the service was prompt and efficient. The only negative mention I have is that the desserts were not exactly up to par. But after that lamb, I was too full to care.
Mr. Velasquez, from El Salvador, knows how to cook French, and we are going back here.
Brasserie Cassis, Woodbury Rd., Plainview NY (mid-range French)
A step up from the Sage Bistro, I would reccommend Brasserie Cassis, a casually elegant restaurant. Here, when you walk in, you are transported to a Parisian cafe, with the rich woodwork, beautifully
simple chandelliers, matching lighting on the walls, posters of the City (yes, Paris) and elegant glass and mirrors. The tables are beautifly set along a red banquette, with tops of marble. Its a lovely little get-away. Not fancy, just simply elegant.
The staff here is a bit more straight-laced and efficient, and I'm guessing you wouldn't want to show up with sneakers and risk a frown from the maitre'd. The wait-staff however are pleasant and accommodating.
Ok, the food makes all that worth it. Once I see Cuisses de Grenouille (sauteed frogs legs in garlic & butter) I know I'm in the right place. They were a wonderful treat, and no, they do not taste like chicken! They are sweet and tender and look a bit like wings. The escargot were sweet and garlicy and soft like butter. Also notable on the appetizer menu are the Salad Nicoise, and the Tarte a' l'oignon et Fromage (onion tartwith goat cheese and tomato).
There are daily specials of the classics like Trout Almondine, Coq Au Vin, Duck a l'Orange, Cassoulet, & Boulliabaisse, depending on the day of the week. I had the Magret de Canard Cassis (pan roasted duck breast with creme de cassis, shitake mushroom duck confit) and it was wonderful. The pan roasted pork chop with sherry glaze, applewood smoked bacon, potatoes, squash and almond brown butter was also good. You can also stop in just for a burger or sandwich if you wanted, but the selection is limited.
This is a lovey place with a great atmosphere and very good food, that it a bit high priced. I know its beautiful there but $17.00 for a blue cheese burger is a bit much
La Marmite, Hillside Ave., Williston Park, NY (upscale French)
La Marmite. Its elegant, traditional and definitely not casual. Its a bit pricey, but for most people its a special occasion place. For me, I try to make up special occasions just to have a reason
to go! La Marmite is what you think when you think French Elegance, white tablecloths, maitre'd in a black suit, waiters in black and white, Silver silverware and real china.
You are escorted to your table and your chairs pulled out for you and you are given an opportunity to sit a while and peruse the extensive wine list. The appetizer menu is typically French, mostly raw bar on the cold side, and mouth-watering on the hot side: La Marmite seafood crepe, with shrimp, crab & mushrooms in lobster sherry wine sauce; Escargot sauteed in wine &shallots and nestled in a fondue blend of cheese & herbs and baked to perfection. The soups and salads are classic, and their baked French Onion is the best.
When you get to your entree, skip the pasta and go straight to the Chef's Special, Crisp Long Island Farmhouse Duck, served with corn muffin stuffing, or the Bouillabaisse, this time in a saffron-tomato broth. If you want to go really traditional, the Ris De Veau 'Sweetbread' served with pearl onion, mushroom and cognac sauce flambe' is a sight to behold. Another option (not for me) is the Foie De Veau (calves liver) saute with crisp bacon and onions. You also have your selection of fish, steaks, chops and chicken.
Don't make your final decision until you hear the specials, and when they have the lobster pictured below, get it. If this is how the French eat lobster all the time, I'm moving!