Brasserie Cassis – French Obsession
By Arianna Johnson (Columnist-in-training)
Brasserie Cassis | 387 S Oyster Bay Rd. | Plainview, NY 11803 | (516) 653-0090
I am obsessed with all things French: the language, the country, the attitude, Marie Antoinette, and, most importantly, the food. Julia Child, who I also have a slight obsession with, brought the simplistic elegance, and ridiculously delicious, essence of what real French food is all about to the American audience. It wasn’t just the hoity-toity, über expensive fare that most Americans thought it was; it is really about the ingredients and the fatty, acidic, pure flavor of exquisite French dishes.
A restaurant that produces the true definition of French cuisine is Cassis in Plainview, New York. Everything about this place feeds my French obsession, figuratively and literally. On a really nice afternoon or evening, Cassis adorns a few tables onto their “patio” (which is really just a sidewalk adjacent to a parking lot of the shopping center where they’re located). This isn’t as romantic as what I imagine sitting on the streets of Paris is like, but the whole fresh, casual French setting is still there. When you walk into Cassis it feels like what I dream a brasserie or bistro in France would be. Quaint tables, wrought iron chairs, white tablecloths, situated on a white tiled floor; the bar is a long stretch of dark wood with Stella Artois on tap and the disposable paper menus adorably wrapped around a white napkin.
Every time I go to Cassis and I open up that menu, it’s as if I am opening a treasure map full of culinary goodies; it makes me giddy. On my first visit, I was there with my Aunt for lunch. I ordered the chicken sandwich, not thinking much of it, despite my aunt’s ravings about the place; after all it’s just a chicken sandwich with cheese and mushrooms on French bread, right? Wrong! So very wrong! It was the best chicken sandwich and pommes frites I have ever had. The chicken was moist, the Brie cheese was gooey and melted, the mushrooms filled with flavor from the shallots and sherry they were cooked with, and the bread was so fresh, it was to die for! The pommes frites were also cooked to their thin-crispy-yet-still-tender-inside perfection, accompanied by house-made mayonnaise.
The bread alone is worth going for. Every time you sit down at Cassis you are served a piece of warm, fresh baguette along with cold butter and Pâté. It is so hard not to fill up on their bread because you just want to keep slathering butter and Pâté all over the spongy inside and crunch down on the crusty outside. You can’t stop asking for more with your meal, because what better to soak up the rest of that delectable garlic butter from your escargot or the scrumptious broth from your moules than more baguette? My favorite part about going to Cassis is coming up excuses to keep eating ample amounts of their bread.
After every meal, I am always stuffed to the gills, but I still manage to eat dessert. I absolutely love their Crème brûlée. It is not overly sweet, the custard is set just right, not too loose or sponge-like, and they never burn the sugar to an inedible, displeasing state. Crème brûlée is one of my favorite desserts of all time, but I have discovered something else on Cassis’ menu that is equally as satisfying and also a bit whimsical. Lemon-mint petit Madeleines with warm caramel and fresh whipped cream on the side for dipping. Every time I order these my patience and anticipation grows thinner and thinner from pure excitement. These little pillows of joy come wrapped in a white napkin to keep them warm. Unwrapping this napkin is like unwrapping a present on Christmas morning. Once you pop one of these little treasures into your mouth you can taste how light and airy they are and how refreshing the mint and lemon are. It seems like the only indulgent part about them is the caramel they are dipped in.
I have gone to Cassis many of times, and each time I have never been disappointed. It is my go-to special occasion restaurant. I get elated when I get to go because I know I will have a wonderful meal in a cozy restaurant. No matter what I order, I always go back to that first chicken sandwich I had there. I remember how it changed my thoughts on what a chicken sandwich should be. I will forever compare that chicken sandwich with every other chicken sandwich I will ever eat, because in my mind it is perfect. I remember taking that first bite and my eyes widening at the delightful shock of how delicious it was, and how wonderful the herbed, creamy, meaty flavors came through. In addition, my search for the perfect French fry, or pommes frites, has ended. Cassis’ pommes frites are never soggy or over salted; they are just what you want: a skinny, crispy piece of potato. I hope that Cassis keeps on feeding my French obsession, literally and figuratively, for a long time to come because my life would be slightly empty without it.