First look: George’s in the Grove

George's French bistro in Coconut Grove.
George's French bistro in Coconut Grove.

The goods: At first glance, Georges’ in the Grove may seem to posses all the ingredients of a quintessential first date restaurant – French, pricey and boasting an extensive wine list to help break the ice – yet, quiet, romantic dinners for two aren’t necessarily their specialty. It has nothing to do with its location on Commodore Plaza, just a stone’s throw from college hangout Mr. Moe’s, nor is it due to a lack of quality food. But, it does have everything to do with the unapologetically loud, show-stopping and downright lovable owner, George Farge.

As the previous owner of Coconut Grove favorite Le Bouchon Du Grove for 14 years, Farge knows what his customers want. “It’s all about a show for my people in the Grove,” says Farge. “It’s all about fun.”

It’s show time as soon as your table is ready. An animated Farge will cue the music (think 90’s Euro dance) and lights, grab his microphone and, in his best announcer voice, call your party to be seated. Talk about an entrance.

The décor, for the most part, is warm and contemporary – dark wood tables, deep purple leather benches, fresh orchids and displays of fresh olive oil and pastas along the walls. The space gives a more adult feeling than his previous eatery, but in no way absent are hints of Farge’s quirkiness. The remaining wall space above the open kitchen is lined in chalkboard, where, in addition to the day’s specials, you’ll find Farge’s doodles about soccer: “Zidane Forever” and “Italy, we do not forget” referring to when Italy beat France. We’re guessing the disco ball hanging in the place of an opulent chandelier was also Farge’s idea.

The grub: Keeping it authentic, Farge brought over Chef Bruno Galli from France to conceptualize and execute the moderately sized menu. Although the cuisine is a mix between French and Italian, the duo is keen on using local ingredients, especially local seafood brought in by the nearby marina.

Hopefully you remember what you learned in high school French class, because you might need it to read this menu. Start off with the Bacalao Beignet in a Creole sauce, better known to his groupies as George’s Fish Fritter. If you’re in the mood for something not so heavy (and something not so expensive), try the Duck Confit pizza – an interesting take on the classic, topped with onion jam, aged gruyére cheese and shitake mushrooms. A local favorite is the Steak au Poivre, a center cut filet mignon with green peppercorn in a brandy reduction sauce, accompanied by creamy potatoes au gratin and roasted vegetables.

Regardless if you’ve made room or not, indulge in the Nutella Pizza – the name says it all. To resist from falling into a food coma, order the Big Bowl Café au Lait.

In addition to lunch and dinner, there’s brunch on the weekends featuring favorites with a creative twist, like Eggs Benedict topped with smoked salmon or bacon, a Creole omelet and a variety of pancakes and French toasts.

The verdict: Dinner at George’s may not be on your slow-economy budget, but it’s a rare combination of a good time, meticulous service and delectable dishes. Farge will tell you himself, “If you don’t like, you don’t pay.” We doubt you’ll find that to be the case, but it’s worth putting him up to the challenge.

George’s in the Grove, 3145 Commodore Plaza; 305-444-7878