Stephen Starr’s New Star in Bal Harbour

By Angela Caraway-Carlton

0116 Le Zoo-9Famed Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr, whose restaurants include trendy Buddakan and Morimoto in New York, is quickly becoming a major player in the South Florida dining scene. Following the success of his first three restaurants in the region – Steak 954, The Continental and Makoto – the big-time restaurateur has now opened Le Zoo at Bal Harbour Shops, and it is très magnifique!

The French-inspired restaurant, playfully named after a fictional place on the French Riviera, is located in the former Brasserie La Goulue space. The outside patio is reminiscent of dining at a dreamy sidewalk bistro in France, while the quaint interior is dotted with vintage items and the ceiling is made of wine corks.

I had just returned from Paris a few weeks before I dined here, so the bar was set high. Even though it was a warm night, I couldn’t pass up the chance to put the French onion soup to the test, and the velvety broth was just as good as (if not better than) the ones I’d sampled throughout France.

Of course, the French love their bread and pastries, so the Mushroom Tarte, a puff pastry stuffed with mushrooms and truffled pecorino, is a must-try. It was delicate and flaky, and each bite was bursting with flavor.

Another must-try appetizer is the escargot: creamy with a parsley-garlic butter sauce with a slightly nutty flavor. You will want extra bread to soak up the sauce. Again, many of the starters are rich and filling, so choose wisely.

The menu offers numerous traditional French entrees such as steak frites and beef bourguignon, but our waiter suggested the Steak au Poivre, a pepper-encrusted NY strip accompanied with a cognac demi-glace sauce. Wow! The spice of the pepper and the sweetness of the glace was a great combination, and I couldn’t stop dipping my steak in the sauce.

Every evening, the restaurant offers a different special, from coq au vin to lobster risotto. My husband ordered the risotto, which was perfectly cooked with fresh, juicy lobster.

South Florida is lacking French restaurants, and the delicious Le Zoo is a welcome addition to the foodie scene. As the French say: “Mangez bien!”

Le Zoo, 9700 Collins Avenue, Bal Harbour  305.602.9663 | lezoo.com