French 27 recently opened at 850 Commerce Street in a quiet neighborhood of South Beach, around the corner from Joe’s. It was previously Porfirios.

Billed as a contemporary French restaurant – its name is after the key ingredients used, which come from the 27 regions of France.

A very sophisticated eatery featuring both steaks and seafood, the restaurant is very beautiful and dramatic. White tablecloths, candles, roses, Riedel glassware and decanters, soft music, and attentive, exceptional service. This is a spot to go when you are looking for fine dining, a relaxing or romantic dinner. French 27 has an indoor/outdoor scenario. The outdoor space has a grand piano and a long decorative pool filled with rose petals galore. A video plays scenes of Paris on the wall.

I wish the food would live up to the decor and service. It is not that the food is terrible it just did not wow us. The menu reads like classic French fare, including escargot, onion soup, niscoise salad, duck confit, steak and frites and seafood towers. It all sounds rather good.

Having just come from a French lunch at Le Zoo at Bal Harbour shops on the same day I can make a comparison. Even though Le Zoo is much more casual, its food is cooked to perfection and tastes better. Sorry to be so blunt, but this is true. At French 27 the baguette they served was not nearly as good as the bread at Le Zoo. The steak was ordered medium but came more medium well and was just okay. The shrimp cocktail was a little dry. At Le Zoo the shrimp are fresh, large and perfectly cooked. My seafood trio of crab, lobster and shrimp had a beautiful presentation served in individual shot glasses, but the accompanying sauces were mediocre and the fish did not taste that fresh. My duck confit was a little over-cooked, but tasty (the dish pictured is from the website). The one thing the restaurant excels in are the parmesan frites with truffle oil. They are cooked perfectly and tasted excellent.

For dessert we tried the apple pizzette, which was a take on an apple tartin. It was really anemic looking. The apples were not cooked through and were the same colour as the phyllo dough they were placed on. I think they should have been caramelized first and then placed on the base. I also like a traditional French pastry base, but that is just my preference. All the serving dishes and utensils are modern and chic. They must have spent a fortune on the decor and dishes. But if they want to fill this large, upscale establishment and charge these high prices then the quality of the cooking really needs to creep up a notch. There are other French restaurants in town that do it better. I hope you improve as everything else exceeds expectations.

Happy dining,

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