Overall impression: The red banquettes and oversize mirrors are here. So are the steak frites and the escargots. But as much as I wanted to love this charming, 5-year-old French bistro, I left only liking it. Call it the summertime blahs, but the staff — in and out of the kitchen — seem to be working at half speed.
Ambience: It's all here, from the globe lighting fixtures to chalkboard specials. I especially loved when the red curtain on a brass rod was pulled back to open up the dining room. Altogether, the 7,500-square-foot restaurant has 86 seats, including 35 on the terrace. Unfortunately, I found the dining room extremely warm, which may be Pistache's way of reminding diners of the dismal state of Parisian air conditioning.
Starters: You can't go to a French restaurant and not have Burgundy escargots ($12) in garlic butter, which we sopped up with the fine bread basket. Onion-soup gratinée with Gruyere ($9) was not quite gratinée enough, with three slices of baguette floating atop a surprisingly mild-flavored broth. Duck foie gras terrine ($26) was more gelatinous terrine than luscious foie gras, but it was wonderfully presented with toasted brioche and cherry compote. I was also put off by the $26 price tag. Steak tartare ($14) was gray and sludgy and a little heavy with capers. I not only prefer a coarser grind, but I want it served a few degrees colder than at Pistache.
Entree excellence: Classic coq au vin ($24.50) was beautifully served in its own white casserole dish, with almost too many potatoes. My serving was a leg and a thigh. The red-wine-braising liquid was thankfully well skimmed of fat. Steak frites ($27.50) was described as "house cut steak." I'm never sure why French restaurants operating in the United States don't just serve a simple strip steak or rib eye. The steak was tender, but the fries were greasy. Same went for the pommes frites that accompanied the hamburger (or is that hambur-JAY?), a tasty and simple USDA prime beef patty dressed with romaine, tomato and onion on a toasted brioche bun. Sweet potato and coconut mahi-mahi ($26.50) is a nod to South Florida, but this piece of fish was overcooked and a little too fruity.
Sweet! Lemon cheesecake ($8.50) had an almost caramelized char to its top. It was delicious. Pudding Breton ($7.50), the classic brioche bread pudding, was near perfect with just the right amount of rum and raisins and creamy creme anglaise. Crepes Suzette ($8.50) didn't make it to the table soon enough after being ignited. The result was a sugary, soaked pile of French pancakes.
Service: Efficient, but not always there when we wanted.
Liquid assets: Wonderfully concise wine list with an emphasis on value. Between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. on Fridays in the bar, glasses of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label cost just $8.
101 N. Clematis St., West Palm Beach
Cost: Expensive-very expensive
Hours: Dinner daily, lunch Monday-Saturday, brunch Sunday
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Conversational
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Street and valetCopyright © 2015, South Florida