Nothing says “bienvenue” like a familiar face. Local Francophiles have been awaiting the opening of Fricassée French Bistro since news broke that Mark Papera, the original owner of Épernay, had come back to reclaim the space at 6 Park Street, Montclair.
Papera opened Épernay in 2000. In 2006, Papera sold and moved to Ithica, NY where he opened two restaurants, Dijon, a bistro, and Mustard, a comfort food restaurant. This past January, Papera learned that Épernay was for sale, and Papera decided to come back home.
Papera has renovated and reinvented the space a bright and airy, yet intimate bistro, with white table cloths, chairs upholstered in a Paris motif, and art depicting Parisian scenes.
Last week, Mr. Hot and I indulged in a thorough preview tasting at Fricassée. We began with a serving of crispy Pomme Frites ($5) sprinkled with salt, pink, white and black pepper, and served with a flavorful garlic ailoi. Then, we enjoyed rich Chicken Liver Mousse ($9) served on garlic toasts, with a few cornichon.
I’m convinced that there’s no better way to eat your greens than with bacon, eggs, and cheese. The Frisée Salad ($11) at Fricassée is chock full of big bits of bacon, blue cheese, croutons, and topped with a poached egg. Along with the delicious Balthazar bread Papera serves, it’s a meal in itself. We also enjoyed the fragrant, caramelized Onion Soup ($7) topped with Gruyere.
In my time, I’ve pulled quite a few mussels from a shell, but the Fricassee mussels are, without contest, the most herbal and fragrant yet. The sauce is made with white wine, garlic, cherry tomatoes, thyme, basil, and mint. The herb sauce is so good that customers of Papera’s previous restaurants would take it home to freeze for later use.
Next, we enjoyed a few entrees from the sea, like an Herb Crusted Tuna ($25) served on a bed of warm green lentils, and a delicious Crispy Skin Salmon ($23) with warm white beans, chorizo and a mustard cream sauce. We also had the Pan Roasted Sea Scallops ($25) with Brussels Sprouts, caramelized pearl onions, and baby carrots in a Bordelaise sauce, as well as Sauteed Shrimp ($24) on a delicious bed of barley salad, with root vegetables that are not to be missed!
Of course, what would our meal be without a little confit? The Duck Confit ($24) served atop pumpkin and blue cheese risotto with crispy sage and walnuts was savory, rich and very filling. The Hanger Steak Au Poivre ($24) with haricot vert and frites (although ours was served with short rib and blue cheese mac n’ cheese) was tender, buttery, and highly recommended.
Fricassée will offer Plats du Jour. Monday will be Chateaubriand, Tuesday – Cassoulet, Wednesday – Bouillabaisse, Thursday -Cotes du Boeuf, Friday – Pot au Feu, and Saturday – Boeuf Bourguignon.
There are also several varieties of Gratins de Macaroni, like Champignon ($18) with wild mushroom and truffle, Legume ($17) with mixed vegetable, and others.
Assuming that you’re still hungry, Fricassée also offers delicious desserts like Lemon Tart, Creme Brulee, and gelato. Remember, Fricassée is a BYOB.
Make your reservations today- I predict Fricassée will be the place to dine tonight and many nights hereafter. Welcome back, Mark!