By Melanie Galarce
There’s a little spot in Hialeah that is bringing French cuisine to Miami and it’s pretty much all the rage. And yes, you read right – Hialeah. In a city of big names and superfluous restaurants, this mom-and-pop shop in the most unexpected of places is showing all foodies in Miami that great food comes from dedication, love, and a little innovation. At La Fresa Francesa (59 W 3rd St, Hialeah) you’ll find a French fare with a Miami influence and I can’t get enough.
Menu highlights: I kicked off this French extravaganza with Baked Vacherin, which is really a way cooler, tastier version of French brie with shallots, white wine, and honey. Vacherin is a high fat, creamy, soft, and decadent cheese that will melt in your mouth and make you feel completely unapologetic about eating an entire portion as an appetizer.
Of course, any mammoth serving of cheese must be followed by more cheese. I opted for the Bacon-Wrapped Dates fourme d-ambert with blue cheese because, why not? The naturally sweet date got a pungent contrast from the blue cheese, which was unexpected surprise that made me love this place just a little bit more. It’s all about the little twists and turns, diversions from the traditional dishes, that make them feel new and fresh.
Finally, because I married a Chilean/Argentine, there’s an unspoken ‘must’ in our relationship that one of us will try the steak option. In this particular case, it was the Hanger Steak with arugula, parmesan, and 25-year aged balsamic. This tender piece of meat was effortlessly set atop delicious, rich risotto, and the portion size was just perfect.
Standout dish: The one dish that still stands out as the night’s mega star was the 15 Oz Pork Chop with black wild rice and fennel. The owner gave us the heads up that this would be cooked to perfection, which sort of worried me at the time because the expectations were set so high, but she was right on – and in retrospect I love that she was that confident about what’s coming out of her kitchen. It was cooked impeccably. With a delicious thin crust and juicy meat, this is the sort of special that needs to become a permanent fixture on the menu.
Are we boozing? We most definitely are. After all, this place is reminiscent of a French vacation where the wine flows generously. You’ll find a variety of French wines available and can even take a bottle home with you since the restaurant has recently renovated its space to include a quaint market with French favorites at your disposal. Also, did you know that the owner is certified by the International Sommelier Guild and Court of Master Sommeliers? Impressive.
Check this place out if you like: French cuisine. Remember that time we told you about Downtown Bistro? La Fresa Francesa has that same French charm to it. If you’ve also checked out Le Provençal in Coral Gables and dug it, you’ll be into La Fresa.
Mel’s take: I’ve been a fan of La Fresa Francesa since it humble beginnings. I love its unassuming location, the ambiance (live French music was playing on the Wednesday night I went in for dinner), and most importantly the food. It’s a place that has enough magic to take you someplace else…specifically someplace in France where the wine is abundant and the food is divine. Isn’t that what we all wish we had on a dinner date? If you haven’t already, run to La Fresa Francesa for brunch or dinner.