Review: Bistro Cassis

The Scene

Charmant. It’s the best and only way to describe the first impression of this Parisian nook in Huntington’s downtown area. From the red awning that pops from the sidewalk, marble-treated bistro tables, warm yellow walls, soft globe lighting, and retro French art on the walls, every detail is cozy and European-reminiscent.

Black aprons on the servers, mustard in jars with tiny spoons, cozy banquette or dark wooden chairs for seating, and a tiny but serviceable bar in a narrow space further added to an urban sophistication far more suited to Brooklyn than Long Island. An upscale but mixed group of diners–from families with children to groups celebrating occasions to friend-dates and real dates–also solidified the “not in Kansas anymore” city feel. Romantic, cozy, and traditional in a chic but not ironic way, the fact that the brunch menu included a mimosa or Bloody Mary, plus coffee or tea and starter pastries, put it on the fast track for a home run.

The Food

I’d been following this restaurant on Instagram, Twitter, Yelp, and Facebook for years and just hadn’t had the time (nor calories!) to treat myself. So you can imagine the delight we felt when a member of their team reached out to me to invite us to try the brunch for ourselves! From the images and the menu, plus the rave reviews of past diners, we knew we were really in for something special. We’re thrilled to report that it absolutely did not disappoint.

Restraint was the name of the game here, and we never once regretted having our busy server take away the condiments basket since every single thing was seasoned as much as it needed to be and not a pinch more. Nothing we had wasn’t balanced. That’s not to say the food wasn’t flavor-packed, though. There was a richness to every bite of the savory items that satisfied deeply, and for every umami-packed punch, there was a palate-cleansing neutralizer that helped us reset. Smart combinations, good ingredients, and discipline all come together in this brunch menu.

  • Bread was an unexpected treat. A pastry not unlike a cornetti, denser than a croissant and very lightly glazed with something sweet (honey?) was a semi-hollow, flaky, buttery bite of happiness. Also served was a crumbly muffin that we suspect was made with cornmeal that was baked with dried fruits like craisins folded into the batter. I loved the texture of this heartier, distinctly unAmerican muffin. We’re used to light, fluffy, super-sweet muffins with slightly sticky tops, but this was a wonderful contrast, featuring a dry top, heavy and dense crumb, and an earthiness that kept the sweetness of the fruit in check. The American in me, however, did find myself wondering if it’d be better with butter, but with milky coffee to add richness to the pairing, I actually didn’t miss it.
  • We started with the Croque Madame, a key component of our brunch strategy for that afternoon. Enchanted by the version we’d had in Cannes, we’d been looking for a replica here on Long Island for quite some time. Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite it … but that by no means did that mean it wasn’t delicious. It was excellent. Alternating layers of melted Gruyere cheese and Parisian ham made each half look like a compressed cake, beautiful in its creamy white and rosy striation. The bread was toasted flawlessly, with a little bit of crunch and no detectable grease whatsoever. After all, this is no diner grilled cheese. No, this was a restrained fork-and-knife sandwich on oversized, slightly sweet (brioche, claims the menu?) bread slices that made for the ideal vehicle with which to sop up every drop of luscious runny yolk from perfectly over easy eggs. The accompanying fries and simple salad made this a ridiculous value for only $14.
  • It was the black truffle Hollandaise that sold us on the Eggs Florentine, and the noticeably large specks of shaved truffle in the sauce instilled confidence that we definitely made the right decision. That, and the fact that we’d already started with ham and eggs in the Croque Madame! The eggs were again cooked without fault; the yolks spilled open in a mesmerizing viscous cascade over sauteed spinach which, in turn, was topping toasted baguette slices versus English muffins. There was not a trace of vinegar in the flavor of the poached eggs, and amount of sauce was generous. Two slices of bacon and sausage, plus a potato cake, accompanied, making it so that the meat of the standard Benedict was not missed. As a huge proponent of adding vegetables to breakfast, this made it a win-win.
  • Our neighbors next to us had the traditional Eggs Benedict, which looked like an excellent execution of a typical favorite. Again, meat and potatoes came with it, as with everything on the brunch column of the menu (as opposed to the lunch section, which the Croque Madame fell under), which is unusual for this protein-packed dish. Once more, the value of what you get for the single price is without question here.
  • We couldn’t stop eating the Vegetable Layered Crepe. Apparently, Bistro Cassis does anything in layers well. Adorably miniature crepe rounds alternated with generous portions of sauteed spinach, caramelized onions, and mushrooms that swam in a sea of gooey Gruyere cheese. Topped with a toasted crepe and baked together in a cast-iron skillet, this is as decadent as any vegetarian breakfast can get. Of course, with the sausage and bacon default side, it becomes an omnivorous dish, but these omnivores had no complaint. In fact, being able to top each bite with a cut of meat made each bite even more a treat–more so than if it were all mixed together and luck of the draw if you pulled a piece of sausage or not. However, meat options are available on the menu (chicken and spinach, shrimp and leeks, etc.) if you want to veer more strongly toward the carnivore spectrum. We had not a single complaint about this unique presentation and dish, though, and again, were surprised by its lack of oiliness despite the use of fatty cheese and butter. Magic is afoot here.
  • Homefries are served as compacted cakes of chopped potatoes, lightly fried for a little crunch and color, serving as a polite supporting actor. They’re more of a palate cleanser here, seasoned in a balanced manner but not trying to take up too much space on stage to better allow the rest of the food on the plate to shine. Excellent restraint in the kitchen lets you better enjoy your main rather than filling up on starch.
  • I loved the option of a simple side salad of barely-dressed fresh mesclun greens versus a starch. The substitution yielded a generous half-plate full of perky greens in a simply delicious and apparently dijon-influenced vinaigrette. It’s actually quite European and very authentically French to serve salad with heavy brunch-style fare, and the clean flavors of the baby leafy greens cut through the richness of the entrees wonderfully well. This was the absolutely perfect sidekick to the layered crepe.
  • The French fries or pommes frites were not hand-cut, but with that comes several benefits: consistency, uniformity, and much less grease. These thin-cut fries were like a crisper version of fast food shoestring fries and, believe it or not, even more consistent from fry to fry. Served hot in a paper-lined tin bucket with a ramekin of ketchup, they’re nostalgic and addicting without being oily or too salty.

The Drinks

  • Coffee or tea are offered in the fixed price of the brunch entrees. The coffee is served in a cappuccino-sized cup and is unlimited. In fact, they’ll bring you a metal teapot full of the good black stuff piping hot so that you can continuously refill your fuel. A medium-bodied roast with nice toasty, nutty notes, it went well with everything we ate.
  • One mimosaBloody Mary, or glass of juice is also included in the cost of brunch. The pours of bubbly are generous, and the Bloody Mary is the same size as a tall bistro water glass.

I loved …

  • The exceptionally remarkable value. We were impressed that for just $20, you get a pastries, coffee/tea, AND and alcoholic beverage or juice, plus two meat sides and potatoes with your generously sized entree. This is one of the best values we’ve seen for a classy brunch on Long Island!
  • The fixed price. It makes it easy for a group to go out and split a check among themselves, and it’s such a nice, even number.
  • The option to partake in a non-all-inclusive menu.  You can add on French favorites like French Onion Soup, treats like a goat cheese and onion tart, or sharable snacks like classic bowls of mussels … or cut costs by ordering a la carte entrees like quiche, sandwiches with fries, or a big salad.
  • The diversity of the menu. This is a true brunch, where lunch and dinner foods are as available as egg dishes. There’s such a wide range of selections to choose from that the only complication is narrowing it down to a single entree. Everything sounds delicious, giving me reasons to return to try other staples like the Pain Perdu, pancakes, frisee aux lardon salad with a poached egg (!!!), French omelettes, and the quiche and onion tarte mentioned earlier.
  • The big portions. You get much more than you’d expect for the price and the ambiance, and it’s a pleasant surprise to find yourself facing a towering plate with lots of accompaniments when you’re served.
  • The atmosphere was utterly charming and escapist. They really captured the kitsch of a French bistro without making it feel contrived.
  • The classic traditionalism. With everyone trying to be trendy, hipster, to catering to a hot new gimmick, it’s nice to find a restaurant that’s dedicated to sticking to its original inspirations without any sense of irony. You’ll find all your favorite French staples here, and they’re unapologetic about it … as they should be!

Bistro Cassis55 Wall Street, Huntington

  • Days: Sundays
  • Times: 11 AM – 3 PM
  • Menu: Static, seasonal
  • Type: A la carte, $20
  • Promotions: Complimentary Mimosa, Bloody Mary, or juice, choice of bacon or sausage, coffee or tea, and homestyle potatoes included
  • Yelp Reviews | My Review – Outstanding
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