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A professionally served taste of France makes La Cigale a must try

La Cigale, exterior

Slightly off the beaten path near downtown Delray Beach, La Cigale is largely a terrific restaurant that offers exquisite French-style cuisine and truly professional service.

Located on Federal Highway, two blocks south of the hustle and bustle of Atlantic Avenue, La Cigale hearkens back to an era of fine dining that’s largely vanished from the scene.

La Cigale’s main dining room

Not surprisingly, La Cigale attracts a largely older, moneyed crowd.  That was most evident on a recent visit by the well-coifed women, the elder gents in sport jackets and the women sipping Verve Cliquot Champagne at the table next to mine with their plastic surgery induced faces of Frankenstein’s monster and the scent of Eau du Insecticide (so strong that even our very professional waiter, Alain, commented about it to me). Regulars are greeted by name and hugs.

At weekend dinner, Le Cigale can be noisy, but it’s a happy din that masks the musical soundtrack. Side rooms, often used for private parties, can be quieter, but seem more sterile in terms of décor.

That said, the food here is mostly very good and the service almost impeccable (a food runner mixed up our dishes on one visit and one entrée was delivered with the wrong side).

Sweetbreads appetizer

Shrimp & Scallops entree

Roast duck (Sweet potatoes subbed for winter vegetable hash)

An appetizer of veal sweetbreads was among the best I’ve ever had. You don’t see them often on menus, so I jump at the opportunity to dine on them whenever I spot them. I happily devoured them. There’s also a fine French onion soup and an almost white salad of Belgian endive and arugula. tossed with grapes, Anjou pear, roasted walnuts, crumble gorgonzola cheese and the barest drizzle of champagne vinaigrette.

Among entrees, filet mignon comes out cooked perfectly; roast duck is crisp outside, succulent beneath the skin; an order of three-cheese ravioli is tasty, despite its odd brown sauce laced with truffles and spinach. Sea scallops and jumbo shrimp served with hearts of palm, cherry tomato spinach and a champagne beurre blanc was a tad disappointing. Two sweet scallops and two firm shrimp are all you get on a plate that’s dominated by a bed of spinach atop just a few spoonfuls of Champagne beurre blanc.

The dessert menu, found in a separate book that also lists coffee drinks, brandies and Scotches, is a bit limited, but surprisingly less pricey than the rest of the menu —at about $8 a dish, compared to the $18 salads and $33 entrees. Crème brûlée is silky; molten chocolate cake was moist and flavorful, and two huge scoops of a boldly flavored house-made raspberry sorbet was a fine, somewhat lighter finale.

Le Cigale, however, loses points for its wine service and prices. They get $46 for an $8 retail bottle, while another wine that sells for $15at  retail is similarly priced. The carte de vin oddly lists South African and German white wines under France and Italy. A bigger peeve: the restaurant, I was informed on a recent visit, was out of the two wines I first ordered, a German Riesling and a Cote du Rhone Blanc.  I settled for a relatively insipid Pouilly Fuisse. Note to the wise, there’s free corkage on Wednesdays.

And you can look for discount dining certificates on Restaurant.com or CharityDine.com to ease the hit to your wallet by $25 on a $50 tab (easily reached, of course). That may cover an appetizer and dessert for one.

Nit picks aside, I like La Cigale for its inimitable menu and truly professional service. Had I larger credit line, I could easily become a regular, but I’d skip the plastic surgery.

La Cigale

253 S.E. 5th Avenue, Delray Beach, Florida 33483

(561) 265-0600 

lacigaledelray.com

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