Beau Monde

624 So. Sixth Street
(215) 592-0656

A Breton Creperie is to South Street as yodeling is to e-mail. This astonishingly quaint, fabulously fireplaced, atavistic restaurant is surrounded by martini bars, tongue piercing parlors and spiked-leather stylishlessness. Notwithstanding, it is not beside itself. One enters its foyer to smells of heated savory and sweet crepes being griddled. Eyes focus upon a sparkling tiled mantle and hearth within which rest logs ablaze. A five-stooled antique mahogany bar appears to one's right; huge paned-glass windows surprise you at your left. Grainy wooden tables rest under panels of golden glossy wallpaper, dazzled by murals of branches of verdant trees, plum and peach fruits and winding olive vines. The balm of Brittany embraces you.

Salads of extraordinary size should begin your meal. They arrive on enormous white platters which are swaybacked in their middles from the load of ingredients. The Seared Tuna Salad ($8), for instance, contains limitless quantities of mixed field greens, amongst which hide capers, black olives, grilled scallop wafers, shrimp nuggets, basmati rice specks, quartered hard-boiled eggs and crusted croutons. The edges of the plate vertically display three-inch-long tuna slices spread in the fashion of a child drawing the lines around a gorgeous sun.

The tuna is purple but for its edges, touched by toastiness. Sushiphobes, fear not! The taste is that of a steak, velvet and redolent of garlic: London broil from the sea. Allow the full length of the tuna to enter your mouth, then poke at and snatch a forkful of wet Caesar-dressed greens imbued with seafood chunks. Add the latter to the melting tuna on your palate, and permit your tongue to frolic. If you can finish the entire menagerie, for the rest of the evening (and well into the next day), your exhaled breath mirrors the intensity of springtime breezes in Northwest France.

I cannot help but mention the Soup a L'oignon ($5) served here. "Traditional" is too subtle a phrase to describe the concoction prepared by Chef David Salama. French toast and globs of emmanthol cheese bob and weave in a broth spectacularly scented by roasted onions. The liquid, clear amber and tealike, is hot at lips. It is initially inhaled rather than sipped; and as its temperature tempers on the large soup spoon, your eyes close and your throat gulps involuntarily. Grappling with the cheese is part of the fun. Bearded attorneys should beware the thin expanding wisps of emmanthol that can line your face like tinsel.

Now for the best. You are asked to create, for your entree, a crepe in any combination your heart desires. Beau Monde has two kinds of crepes, "ble noire," which is formed of buckwheat flour, and "froment," whose essence is plain wheat flour usually reserved for sweets. All are cooked on imported iron griddles called "biligs" with the use of a wooden spreader, the "rozell," and a sharp wooden spatula, the "spannell," so says the menu.

Since attorneys often think of themselves as Creators, the design of the innards of a crepe ought not be an ungodly task. Predetermined points for charge are suggested for ingredients and sauces. Pick from, inter alia, roasted leeks, sauteed or creamed spinach, wild mushrooms, ratatouille, Andouille sausage, smoked trout, cured ham, shrimp, Coquilles Saint Jacques, Coq au Vin or Beef Bourguignon. The latter three (at $9.75) are supremely satisfying and toothsome. All are served on round white plates upon which rests a purposefully square crepe. A dollop of the package's contents is presented at the center on top, so that the waitperson knows which goes where. Voila.

The Coq au Vin appears as one cuts through the thin buckwheat layer exposing chicken stewed in red wine, baby onions, mushrooms, carrots, and applewood-smoked bacon. "Allons enfants de la patrie," you begin to hum. The Coquilles crepe is filled to sensuous seams with scallops and chives, engulfed in a seafood sauce the color of a Brigitte Bardot bikini. And the Beef Bourguignon one is burgeoning with beef braised in burgundy, mushrooms, carrots, tomatoes and leeks.

The earthiness of this blini makes you murmur, "Let them eat cake! . . . Off with their heads! . . . Apres moi, le deluge!"

Desserts will be served in sweet wheat crepes, or, if you prefer, in martini glasses. Fresh Squeezed Lemon and Sugar ($5) crepe is so simple, its stunning. Apricot Compote with Chantilly ($6) in glass presents the silky skinned fruit gurgling in melted sugar, floating under a plump carnation of frothed chantilly. Chocolate and Grand Marnier ($8), lit at tableside, is as rich an aftermeal treat as you'll ever encounter. The chocolate is steamy, creamy and soused. A rumor of orange becomes a hint as the chocolate coats your senses.

Amidst the fairly priced wine selections is La Playa Merlot/Chile 1995. An oversized Manhattan glass is used in lieu of a wine goblet. This Merlot ($22) oozes in its flattened circumference with nuances of plums and chocolates, and is lovely with the robust meal.

Good news is to be celebrated; one should start in a "Beau Monde."


Copyright 2004 Richard Max Bockol, Esq. Back