Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fricassée French Bistro / Montclair, NJ

Photo Credit: John Lee / Black Tie and Flip Flops

Fricassée French Bistro

6 Park St.
Montclair, NJ

French cuisine
Open Monday-Sunday, for Dinner, 5:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Open Monday-Friday, for Lunch, 11:30 AM - 2:00 PM
Reservations suggested for weekends

Open 7 days a week
BYOB with a wine store right across the street
Covered Patio dining in good weather
Municipal parking lot

We went to Fricassée on a Wednesday night, arriving early as is our practice so we could talk to our waiter and take pictures without causing a scene. Since this is a French restaurant, we thought we might need a bit of help with the menu, although it turned out that all items on the menu come with English descriptions. Our waiter was very helpful in answering our questions about various dishes. We don’t know of another French restaurant in the area, so we are happy to have this one. The French, as you know, are famous for their cuisine.

Owner / Chef Mark Papera is homegrown having grown up in nearby Verona, NJ. He is a graduate of the prestigious Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration with a concentration in Food and Beverage. He gained experience in several French restaurants in New York City. Then in 2001 he opened Epernay in the same spot where Fricassée is currently located. He sold the restaurant in 2006 and relocated to Ithaca, NY, where he opened a French Bistro called Dijon. After selling that restaurant, he returned to his roots. Luckily, while he was searching for a location for a new restaurant, he learned that Epernay had closed and was available for a new occupant. He grabbed it. After renovating the kitchen and dining room, Mark opened Fricassée in February 2013.

The bistro is small and cozy with some banquet seating as well as free-standing tables. There is additional seating in the overlooking balcony area. We enjoyed the simple but attractive decor with its art deco floor in black and white and the attractive place settings including linen table cloth and napkins.

The menu is limited but changes seasonally. Also the chef offers Plats du Jour (a special for each day of the week). We began with an order of Fricassée of Escargot (pictured above) which was served very attractively and included shelled snails, shallots, garlic, and herbs in a pastry shell. Very good! We couldn’t resist an order of Pommes Frites to share. While french fries usually accompany an entrée, here they are served as an hors d’oeuvres. They are homemade, nicely seasoned, and served with an incredibly good mustard garlic aioli. Even with two of us we couldn’t finish our pommes frites though we very much wanted to as they were delicious.

For entrees one of us chose the Wednesday Plat du Jour. Wednesday is Game night and this Wednesday it was a buffalo steak, a dish new to both of us. It was nicely seasoned, done just right at medium rare as ordered, and accompanied by assorted root vegetables. The game dish changes each Wednesday. The other diner went with her favorite from the Epernay days, a Roasted Free Range Chicken. This was crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside and was served with an elegant mac and cheese and glazed vegetables.

For dessert we indulged in Profiteroles. Since this dish includes two generous-sized profiteroles, we opted to share. First there’s a homemade puff pastry shell. That’s cut open and filled with vanilla ice cream. Then a delicious chocolate sauce is poured over the top and sprinkled with slivered almonds. To tell the truth, we were a little sorry we’d decided to share as both of us would happily have devoured a second profiterole.

Fricassée is a delightful French bistro and a terrific addition to Montclair’s hopping restaurant scene. We've been there before and we'll be there again.