The French Brasserie Rustique (The French) is a restaurant in Naples, Florida which serves, as the erudite reader may surmise, French cuisine. A brasserie is typically a mid-range dining experience in the French hierarchy of restaurant types, with fine dining and well-trained staff being hallmarks in this type of venue.
The French has been open since the beginning of 2017. Recently, they added a lunch menu. As I had never been here and my dining companion here only for dinner, we decided to give it a try.
The outside of the restaurant is very nicely put together with many tables and patio umbrellas, when necessary, to shield patrons from the sun. The bar area of the restaurant is also open to the outside should you wish to order a beverage. At 1:30 PM, in the middle of July in Naples, it was much too hot, so we decided to enjoy their indoor dining area.
I really liked the open air kitchen. I have said this before and I’ll say it again, I think open air kitchens help diners really connect with their food. The Japanese have been using this concept successfully for many years with their teppanyaki grills.
As a prelude to our meal, we were brought a bread basket with a side of whipped butter with a garlic confit (garlic cloves slowly sauteed in olive oil). This was very nice and a harbinger of things to come.
The menu has many French culinary classics. One of them, the soupe a l’oignon (French onion soup) I had not had in many moons and was curious to try the restaurant’s take. My dining companion and I originally wanted to split a bowl of this. However, seeing me maniacally taking pictures of the restaurant and food, the chef did not want to interfere with the culinary aesthetic of the dish by splitting it and gave us an extra bowl of soup on the house. Bravo chef! Yes, I will work for food. This was one of the best bowls of French onion soup I have ever had. The richness of the in-house prepared beef stock combined with the sugars in the caramelized onions incorporated with the textures and flavors of the baguette slice gruyere topping are almost beyond description. If you go here, order this.
I am a fool for salad Nicoise though for the salad Nicoise aficionado, what constitutes a proper one has been a matter of considerable debate over the years. The salad at the French was very good with composed portions of black Nicoise olives, hard cooked eggs, green beans, boiled potato, tomato, anchovy and grilled tuna topped with a vinaigrette. My only fault with this salad were the tomatoes used in it. They tasted like many hothouse varieties, with little flavor and texture. I left them off to the side and voila, the salad was almost perfect and one of the better I have had. This is something easily fixed.
My dining companion ordered the croque madame, which at it’s most basic is a ham and cheese snack. The restaurant uses brioche bread to make a sandwich with jambon de Paris, a specially cooked ham, gruyere cheese and mornay sauce (béchamel sauce with gruyere)and bake it in an oven. The dish is then finished with fried egg. Plated with some artisan greens, the dish was as beautiful as it was delicious.