Ready to brush up on your French? This week's lesson is restaurant categories, courtesy of two new entries to the local dining scene. We're all familiar with "restaurant" and "bistro," of course, which were long ago adopted into the English lexicon, and which are ably represented by a number of area establishments serving French fare.
Coquette (4351-119 The Circle at North Hills; 789-0606; www.coquetteraleigh.com), which opened late last month in North Hills, is the first restaurant in the Triangle to bill itself as a brasserie. Like the bistro, the traditional brasserie is an establishment that serves inexpensive food and drink.
But while the bistro is typically small and by definition serves wine, the brasserie can vary widely in size and -- if it remains true to the "brasserie" name, which means "brewery" in its original sense -- serves beer. It may or may not serve wine.
Coquette scores on all counts. The taps dispense half a dozen beers, all of them Belgian or French. The exclusively French wine list offers 120 selections, 14 by the glass. And the menu serves up a broad sampling of traditional fare, from rustic cassoulet and coq au vin to lavish seafood platters to bistro classics such as steak frites and charcuterie plates. Daily "plat du jour" offerings cover the culinary spectrum from Tuesday's pan-roasted snapper with Riesling sauce to Sunday's veal blanquette.
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The dining room delivers beaucoup brasserie atmosphere, too, from embossed tin ceilings to black and white tile floors to zinc bar to chanteuse singing on the stereo.
That should come as no surprise, given that Coquette is the latest enterprise of the Urban Food Group, which has given us such stylish eateries as Frazier's, Porter's and Vivace. Coquette is open for lunch and dinner daily. Sunday brunch service will be added this weekend (Nov. 9), and breakfast service will follow next week.
Up for a few more vocabulary words? In Cary, the owners of La Farm Bakery (4248 N.W. Cary Parkway; 657-0657; www.lafarmbakery.com) have announced plans to expand their boulangerie (bakery) and pâtisserie (pastry shop) to include a café. Not café in the American sense, mind you. We're talking French café, the kind that serves coffee and croissants (to name just one possibility) for breakfast, croque madame for lunch, tartines (open-face sandwiches) throughout the day, and light fare in the evening -- with wine, of course.
Owner/master baker Lionel Vatinet and his wife, Missy, are creating a dining room (and what café would be complete without sidewalk tables?) and additional kitchen facilities by expanding into the neighboring space in Preston Corners. I'll have details when the café opens early next year. Meanwhile, the boulangerie and pâtisserie are open for business.