Gusto Bistro's owners and pastry chef hail from Paris, and they incorporate regional French influences from Provence and Brittany into their Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Dishes are served "in a setting that's less about 'dinner' and more about sitting around shooting the breeze with your mouth really full" according to Thrillist. To jumpstart conversations, the bartenders pour glasses of wine from a list that emphasizes Italian regions and varietals and includes a collection of French and New World bottles. In the kitchen, chefs artfully decorate small plates with arrangements of seasonal fruits and vegetables, French cheeses, or beef carpaccio. Pastry chef Manuel Bengochea brings meals to a sweet finish with a wide variety of homemade French desserts.
Around the dining room, brushed-nickel lamps and black-and-white-tiled floors create a sleek, modern look, while lime-green drapes and a kaleidoscopic assortment of cushions add splashes of color. Large, decorative wine labels hang above the bottle-lined shelves, warning diners about the walls' sulfite content.
The culinary talents at Oliver's Bistro serve up continental fare in a modern, sophisticated setting. Patrons can peruse the extensive menu on the outdoor patio, or they can sit inside while taunting birds through the mod eatery’s glass walls with the all-American breakfast featuring two eggs any style, home-fried potatoes, and a choice of apple-wood-smoked bacon, ham, or sausage ($8.95). Twirl tines around the country spaghetti with spicy italian sausage, packed with crisp pancetta, roasted garlic, potatoes, grape tomatoes, and extra-virgin olive oil ($13.95) during lunch, or nosh on the roasted-chicken rollatini with spinach, asiago cheese, and a side of mashed potatoes ($16.95) for dinner. The grilled tilapia topped with capers backstrokes through warm brown-butter vinaigrette ($17.95) alongside a school of other fishy dishes.
Surrounded by romantic red velvet arm chairs and glamorous images of Audrey Hepburn, the interior of Voulez Vous Bistro is an experience for the senses. Chefs prepare classic French dishes, such as escargot simmering in a fragrant garlic-butter sauce, tender, slow-cooked boeuf bourguignon, and paper-thin crepes filled with homemade ratatouille. The pastry chef also prepares pretty Parisian-style sweets, including torched creme brulee, dark chocolate mousse, and berets made out of marzipan.
Leafy palm trees and a canopy of umbrellas hang over tables outside both of A la Folie Café’s locations, setting the stage for low-key dinners of baguette sandwiches, sweet and savory crepes, and French cheese plates. Plates of niçoise salad, chocolate croissants, and buckwheat pancakes stuffed with brie add a refined air to meals, as do the gentle strains of French music and the rich taste of French wines. Visitors to the secluded Espanola Way restaurant dine amid pillowy cushions and couches and the leafy greenery of the garden seating, and those who stop at the Purdy Avenue location can expect breathtaking sunset views, even in the morning.
Panizza Bistro woos patrons by serving up warming breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tapas in a friendly, casual atmosphere. Enter cozy confines influenced by Italy, Spain, and Argentina to send your taste buds on a sensory and passport-free excursion. Sample rise-and-shineables such as the ham, cheese, and egg croissant (small $4.90, large $7.40) for a cheerful wake up that's less disturbing than being tickled by a rooster. Daytime diners can nosh on light tapas such as the roasted red pepper and feta cheese crostini ($6.90), or sink their teeth into hearty mouthfuls of Argentine lomito sandwiches filled with grilled steak, ham, cheese, and eggs ($8.99). Continue snacking South American–style with flavorful empanadas ($2), or take a pleasantly dry paddle across the pond with Italian fare including pizzas and pastas. Carnivorous diners can sample Mediterranean-inspired meaty plates such as grilled steak sautéed in gorgonzola sauce and crowned with a tempting toupee of crushed nuts ($14.90). Finish with sweet homemade flan ($4.50), or raise a mug of hot café Panizza fortified with cream, Tia Maria, and Baileys ($4.90) to toast old friends or initiate a liquid food fight in honor of the winter solstice.
The sun rarely sets on the Balans empire, which includes casual brasserie-style eateries throughout the London and Miami areas. With eclectic, globally inspired cuisine, the menu at the Lincoln Road location spans borders just as easily. Latin, Asian, and European comfort foods harmoniously wend throughout the selections, although local favorites such as Florida crab and grouper sandwiches hold a revered place among the specialties. The flavor profiles here go so far as to cover curry, gnocchi, hummus, baby-back ribs, and jambalaya—taking the something-for-everyone approach to a refined level.
Remaining open until as late as 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings, Balans features a high-ceilinged dining room that skews heavily toward the modern. Stately touches—including the large, framed mirrors behind the bar and the opposite wall of banquettes—lend a bit of classical elegance, although the backless bar stools, and gleaming pendant lamps contribute to the contemporary vibe. Beyond the front doors, the restaurant features a handful of outdoor seating, which Gayot hailed as “Lincoln Road's most prestigious patio from which to people-watch.”