The Place: Bagatelle means “a light courtship or trifle” in French, but Bistrot Bagatelle is more of a truffle. Facing Collins Park, the outpost of a small chain with locations in St. Tropez, Dubai, Sao Paulo, New York, Rio and Punta del Este offers French and Mediterranean dishes. It becomes a party place after 9 p.m. complete with customers dancing on banquettes under crystal chandeliers, a DJ and grooving bartenders. If you order a large bottle of champagne it will be poured by a server in costume, perhaps the Pink Panther, Wonder Woman or a fireman. The dimly lit space is Euro-chic with white walls, framed posters of famous people and white tablecloths.
The History: The first clubby French bistro was opened in 2008 in New York by French business partners Remi Laba and Aymeric Clemente of Essence Hospitality. French executive chef Matthieu Godard designs and crafts the dishes on the menu. He studied culinary arts in his native Rouen in Normandy, then spent five years as a Club Med chef before driving to Marbella in the far south of Spain to invite himself to work with innovative Chef Ramon Freixa (he got a job). A year later he flew to New York and knocked on the door of Chef Daniel Boulud, got hired and followed him to Miami to become executive chef at DB Bistro Moderne. He then was recruited by the owners of Bagatelle before it opened a year ago.
The Food: The seasonal menu has some dishes that stay. Start with loup de mer (sea bass) tartare with a layer of crème fraiche, Meyer lemon, little gem lettuce and American caviar or soft French-style gnocchi made with pate a choux (flour, butter and egg dough) in black truffle sauce with aged Parmesan. There’s also pizza with crème fraiche, black truffle oil and smoked scamorza cheese. Entrees include horseradish-crusted halibut with roasted beets, potato puree, blackberries and a bottarga croquette with salt-cured mullet roe; honey glazed duck breast with root vegetables and enoki mushroom tempura; and filet mignon with barley risotto and trumpet mushrooms in red wine reduction. Or order Le St. Tropez seafood platter with oysters, littleneck clams, mussels, tuna tartare and shrimp, or upgrade to the Le Sobe to add King crab, Scottish salmon and jumbo lump crab salad. End with a pear tart with orange and Amaretto ice cream, good with a sip of Cognac. Then dance the night away.
You Didn’t Know This: Scamorza is a pasta filata or spun paste cheese made from stretched curds that are marinated in its whey for acidity, then kneaded, formed into balls, tied around the middle with string and hung to ripen for two weeks (called “strangling” the cheese). The pear-shaped, semi-soft white cheese, which has a texture similar to firm, dry mozzarella but is more elastic and stringy, is made in Apulia and Campania. The name scamorza is thought to come from the phrases capa mozza or testa mozza, both meaning “severed head.” This explains the use of “scamorza” in Italian to call someone a “fool” or “idiot” who has lost their head.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food blogger and writer and creator of Mermaid Sea Salt and Indian Spiced Toffee, available at Cream Parlor, 8224 Biscayne Blvd.
The Place: Bistrot Bagatelle
Address: 220 21st St. (at Collins Avenue), Miami Beach
Hours: 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, Sunday brunch noon-6 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers $14-$36, seafood platter $85, entrees $18-$69 (for a whole truffle roasted chicken that serves two to three), desserts $12, brunch favorites $18-$36