To say that Chef/Owner, Mark Papera, of Fricassee French Bistro is excited to return to Montclair would be an understatement. When he heard that his original restaurant (Epernay) was up for sale, he moved lock, stock, and barrel, from Ithaca, New York, purchased the business, and immediately started the transformation. In a little less than a month’s time, he (and his merry band of family and friends) brightened the interior, overhauled the menu, installed new furnishings, and reestablished his NJ roots. Whew! Most restaurants take six months for that kind of work, but Mark had been itching to return to NJ for two years so he was eager to get it done.
I had never been to Epernay when Mark was the original owner, but I did visit the second incarnation a couple of times. Unfortunately, I was less than wowed. So when I heard that Mark had returned, I was curious.
You’re probably saying to yourself right about now, “OK, but what about the food?” Let me sum it up this way: in two weeks, I have been there three times and each visit was sublime. If you read my posts regularly, you know I am not given to superlatives often, so if you are a lover of French bistro cooking, read on.
In those two weeks, I have probably tried almost 50% of the menu, thanks in part to Mark’s hospitality. Foods that I was a not particular fan of before are now on my “must have” list. These include the delectable mussels, swimming in a white wine-garlic-herb broth that just begs you to sop it up with good bread (from Balthazar) or slurp with a spoon. In fact, I liked these so much that on my second visit, I had the mussels for my entrée with plenty of bread, and a lovely Cameron Hughes Lot 259 Riesling.
|Dreamy mussel broth|
Also on my list of new favorite foods, Mark’s roasted beet salad, which is comprised of mixed greens, roasted beets, goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and a sherry vinaigrette. The salad tasted like summer with herbs of mint, parsley, and basil.
Mark also does a classic frisee salad, which was heavenly. Frisee lettuce with generous bacon lardons and bleu cheese, croutons, mustard vinaigrette, topped with a poached egg, which envelops the salad perfectly when pierced.
|Cotes du Boeuf|
|Wild Mushroom and Truffle Mac 'n Cheese|
|Herb Crusted Tuna|
|Crispy Skin Salmon|
Dessert does not take a back seat here! Fricassee serves a classic tarte tatin topped with vanilla ice cream, a light lemon tart with raspberry sauce, profiteroles, vanilla crème brulee, and chocolate mousse. I have tasted all but the profiteroles and I must tell you that while they were all delicious, the crème brulee was exquisite. Probably about the best I’ve ever had. And the chocolate mousse is a very close second.
Fricassee embodies the true essence of a French bistro – casual atmosphere, good service, outstanding food. I, for one, am glad that it’s close by. Say “oui” to Fricassee!
Fricassee French Bistro
6 Park Street
Open Monday-Saturday, 5:00-10:00pm