By Caitlin Marino
France has always been on the list of countries I love. I was lucky enough to visit a few years back during a semester abroad and was left feeling even more infatuated than when I was a little girl dreaming of the day I’d finally see the Eiffel Tower. Amongst the many reasons to consider visiting France, I’d undoubtedly put experiencing the native culinary delicacies as reason number one: crêpes, baked cheeses, wine, and let’s not even get into desserts.
Fortunately for Miamians, you no longer need a passport or a nine-hour flight to enjoy a little slice of Parisian heaven. Tucked away at the Bal Harbour Shops, the impeccable décor and intimate ambiance at Le Zoo will make you feel as if you’ve been transported to a charming café on an obscure avenue in the City of Lights. Last weekend, I put on my favorite chic ensemble and headed over to Bal Harbour with high expectations of what was to come.
When you think brunch, you think booze – or at least I do. I was pleased to find out that Le Zoo’s drink menu includes a wide variety of options for guests to choose from, including cocktails, wines, beers, and champagne. I stuck to what we know and love to enjoy for brunch and opted for Bloody Marys. Beautifully presented and with a surprisingly nice kick of spice, I couldn’t just have one.
If Eggs Benedict is not already your go-to brunch option, Le Zoo’s interpretation may just be enough to convert you. Jam packed with flavor, drizzled with just the right amount of rich hollandaise sauce, and accompanied with crisp French fries, this option has the c’est magnifique stamp from me. Although the ham was a bit on the salty side, I’d still recommend ordering the dish.
Holy cheese explosion! Le Zoo did not hold back on offering a generous amount of gruyere for this Gruyere Omelette. I’d normally choose a mozzarella or goat cheese for an omelet, but gruyere might just have become a new Caitlin favorite. Cheese equals happiness for me, so this dish is a total winner.
You’ll never catch me at a brunch and not find me indulging in a platter of French Toast. As so, when Le Zoo boasts on having the “best French toast you will ever have,” I of course had to try it. This rendition includes succulent pineapple slides and savory Chantilly cream. Bold move and very yummy, but I wouldn’t necessarily quote Drake and and say it’s the best I’ve ever had.
I wrapped up the brunch extravaganza with a taste of two of the most exquisite desserts Le Zoo features. First, Profiteroles. This traditional French dessert is the perfect confection of chocolate, ice cream, and praline (almonds and caramelized sugar.) This was my first time trying the dish, and I now wonder why I hadn’t before. The explosion of flavors is out of this world and an absolute must try.
For those who prefer a more fruity dessert, the Meyer Lemon Tart is the way to go. The lemon curd is incredibly rich and the fresh berries complement the dish flawlessly. Both presentation and taste were superb.
Caitlin’s take: If you’re looking for an upscale brunch experience that doesn’t feel like you’re in Miami, make your reservation for next week’s brunch at Le Zoo now. The ambiance is very posh and the service is fantastic. Given that it is located in Bal Harbour, note that the pricing will be a bit on the higher end, but totally worth the splurge as you avoid hopping on a plane and still get the authenticity of a French bistro and its cuisine.
Standout dish: I came to Le Zoo ready to revive the sensory memories of the delicious food tried during my trip to France. What I didn’t expect was to walk away with a new favorite dessert. The Profiteroles is oozing with deliciousness. So much so, that I’d consider making the trip up to Bal Harbour once again just for that dish alone.