The minute you step inside, you feel that you are whisked away to France. Hear French songbird Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” in the background; see a glittering shoulder-high lighted Eiffel Tower at the entrance, and smell delicious aromas emanating from the kitchen, set back behind the bar to assure not a peep of clatter to interfere with the soft ambiance of this true Parisian Bistro.
The lovely and ‘tres petite’ proprietor, Marie Gattacieca, personally greets each guest at the door as if graciously welcoming them into her home. What a delightful touch, especially since, after all, the eponymous name of her restaurant translates to “Marie’s House.” She guides her guests to comfortable booths along the walls or to neatly-set center tables designed with sufficient spacing to allow for even the most intimate conversations. A simple Toulouse Lautrec print and a design of a chandelier motif decorate the walls. Every thought has been given to provide the perfect, intimate, relaxing, romantic ambiance to the indoor or outdoor dining experience.
Owner Marie, attentive and personable, suggests starting off the evening with a glass of Vin such as “Angeline Pinot Noir” or the Merlot/Cabernet blend “Château Le Lau” from Bordeaux, France or perhaps some bubbly Champagne. The restaurant’s wine list will please even the most strict oenophile, featuring almost a half dozen Champagnes and Sparkling wines, a dozen whites, and more than a dozen reds.
First-timers and seasoned Francofiles alike should try the large Escargots appetizer. The dish has six very good sized snails baked in parsley and bubbling hot garlic butter, each daintily placed in its own little space in a specially grooved plate. Forget the diet tonight—you’ll want to dip the crispy French baguette until every drop of the butter sauce is gone and then cry “VivelaFrance!”
Marie and her husband, Stéphane, who attended cooking classes at the world famous Paul Bocuse Institute in Lyon, France, were both born and raised in the French Alps and share their passion for fine foods. The duo owned an award-winning restaurant in Ocala, north of Orlando, and moved here for “the more vibrant lifestyle of South Florida.”
Their menu offers another typical French treat, Foie Gras, also perhaps thought by some to be a bit daring. If you can overlook the fact that this is duck liver, you will savor the melt-in-your mouth sensations of this creamy nirvana served warm or cold, pâté-style, grandly resting atop a small piece of fresh house-made gingerbread that’s drizzled with a fig and balsamic reduction. Ooh la la! While we’re on the subject of pâté, there’s yet another: TheTerrinedeCampagne, their house-made country-style pâté served with dijon & cornichons, always a treat.
As an inside tip, do not leave without trying the hearty yet exquisite Onion Soup. Even for those who have tasted this traditional staple many times, accept this challenge that none compare to Chez Marie’s. This Gratinée a l’ Oignon is packed with slivers of real onions resting on the bottom and topped with generous Swiss cheese that blankets the bowl and drips down the sides. Délicieux!
Though you could make a meal of these sensational appetizers and soup, it will be difficult to leave now, knowing the rich treasures that flow from that kitchen. Keeping with tradition, try the BoeufBourguignon, served with cubed bites of tender beef stewed in a red wine sauce with healthy carrot slices and pearl onions, or the Duck a l’Orange which features two legs of duck served with a very delicate a l’orange sauce deglazed with Triple-Sec. Again, have the bread basket refilled so you can dip into these luscious sauces! Now, if you are looking for the ultimate gourmet experience, it would be a pity not to try the decadent Rossini Beef Filet which consists of no less than the combination of the most tender piece of beef topped with a scrumptious slice of pan-seared foie gras… magnifique!
For non-meat suggestions try the pan-seared, oh-so-tender sea scallops rest atop a leek fondue deglazed with Champagne and served with a creative little overturned cup-like mound of rice pilaf on the side. The sauces, so much of what takes the time and skill in French cooking, seem to be produced so casually here, like a dance by Fred Astaire whose talent makes it look so easy.
Hopefully you’ve saved room for dessert because there are six choices on the menu, each more attractive and enticing than the next. Artistic as works of art by Renoir, these appealing masterpieces prove the French adage: “The pleasure of the eye foreshadows that of the mouth.” The Crème Brûlée, for example, is a creamy vanilla-infused custard topped with crispy caramelized sugar and served in a white French ceramic baking dish. Traditional Tarte Tatin (the French version of apple pie) is baked upside down and served warm, topped with caramel and, of course, with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and roasted slivered almonds on the side. This, and the Chocolate Fondant (warm chocolate cake) are sure to make you give up the diet till tomorrow and understand why France is the number-one
tourist destination. stb
Chez Marie French Bistro
Polo Club Shoppes
5030 Champion Boulevard, #D3, Boca Raton, FL 33496