Villa Rene Lalique in Alsace, France is the seven room trophy hotel and restaurant of the owner of the iconic crystal brand Lalique. As you can imagine, it has uber luxe furnishings and accessories, from Lalique Maison furniture, the finest crystal glasses and carafes to crystal panels designed by Damien Hirst concealing a 20,000 bottle wine cellar. And then there’s three star Michelin chef Jean Georges Klein who came to Villa Rene Lalique last year and brought his culinary team. Pied a Terre, 1701 James Avenue (T.305-531-4533), tapped Klein’s number two sous chef to do the bi-annual remakes of the restaurant’s menu and, once again, it’s a winner.
Our recent visit to try the new menu is our fifth to this restaurant which could have been plucked out of the French countryside, and it’s probably one of the restaurants we go to the most in Miami. I find it surprising that it’s still relatively unknown here. In fact, Patrick Gruest, the manager and a partner, told us that 45% of his diners are from New York City and only about 20% from Miami.
The new menu is French contemporary classic cuisine – full of flavors yet light, and nuanced, with a hint of Asian influences. Mr. W started with a warm duck and mushroom consommé with petite ravioli of foie gras that was at once elegant, nuanced and flavorful. I opted for the flaky millefeuille pastry of crab laced with zucchini strands with a vinaigrette made from Indonesian Kalamansi vinegar. It was delicate, refined and perfectly teamed with a glass of Muscadet. Difficult to choose which of the two dishes I liked more, or the marinated tuna gravlax style, a welcome change from the ubiquitous tartare. Here the tuna was made piquant with jalapeno pepper with a dash of sweetness thanks to a raspberry vinegar cream.
The entrees were also standouts including lobster vadouvan in a foam like sauce made with preserved lemon, and served with snow pea turnips and Lebanese risotto, much like the Israeli version with the little bubbles.
The star of the day was the hard to find black grouper (the usual is the Florida red grouper) with preserved lemon piperade and lemon hollandaise,an ideal counterpoint, enhancing rather than competing with the flavor of the fish.
Desserts are deconstructed takes on French favorites.
Also new at Pied a Terre is a light “discovery” sampling menu available weekdays. Choose any three from a list of 9 dishes (3 of which have foie gras), and some smaller portions of the dishes on the full menu, plus a choice of dessert for $60 plus tax and tip.
The restaurant has an extensive wine cellar and reasonably priced, starting at $12.50 a glass for a 6 ounce pour or from $35 a bottle.
Appetizers range in price from $15 to $25 (foie gras); entrees from $31 to $52 (veal chop).
When you come on the weekends, allow time for a cocktail in the small bar in the lobby to enjoy the latin jazz duo whose beautiful sounds drift into the dining room as your background music.
Photography by William Oberheiser