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Step through the doors of the The Brasserie (1312 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville Beach, 249-5800, brasserierestaurant.net), located in a strip mall just a half-block from the beach, and the sophisticated ambiance will tantalize. A large bar offers live music nearly every night, and a lounge-like reception area is separated from the main dining area with sweeping floor-to-ceiling sheer white curtains that are punctuated where they meet in the middle with an Old World wrought-iron gate. The open-area dining room features painted concrete floors, enough space between tables to allow intimacy at each, and high-backed black leather banquettes that ring the perimeter.
But this spot isn’t all show and no substance. At The Brasserie, fine French cuisine is the main attraction, and the surroundings merely set the stage. The restaurant is owned by commercial real estate developer Ed Ash, who brought on key figures in the kitchen—most notably, chef Guy LeRoy (who has departed following the restaurant’s opening ) and chef Pom Souvannasoth (formerly of Pom’s in San Marco). Chef Pom primarily handles front-of-house management at The Brasserie, taking over the kitchen on Thursday nights for the restaurant’s weekly French Asian night.
Service is attentive, and well-informed. Our server and chef Pom urged us to try the popular calamari appetizer, frito misto ($10), featuring crispy fried calamari and rock shrimp with cilantro aioli. Though the restaurant is proud of that crowd-pleasing dish, we steered away from the ubiquitous calamari and opted instead for the duck confit cassoulet ($9), a classic, labor-intensive French dish consisting of luscious duckling legs baked with a white bean stew and topped with toasted bread crumbs. The dish was a rare treat—true French cuisine at a beach restaurant—and best when accompanied by the hot crusty rolls that begin each meal at The Brasserie. For other Francophiles, The Brasserie also offers escargot with prosciutto, mushrooms and vol-au-vent, a puff pastry.
After the server’s suggested wine selections impressed, we allowed him to guide our other choices. The classic coq au vin ($18) was perfectly and traditionally prepared with red wine sauce, pearl onions and mushrooms, though the fingerling potatoes that accompanied it lacked a distinctive flavor. The salmon “moutarde” ($21) was baked in a mustard chardonnay cream sauce, and the flavors blended nicely; the mustard did not overpower the salmon’s bed of broccoli and creamy whipped potatoes.
For dessert, the apple tarte tatin ($6), featuring caramelized apples on pastry, caps the meal with a traditional French offering—one that is best enjoyed à la mode.
1312 Beach Blvd.