Pascal’s on Ponce: Haute Cuisine

It is not a large place — maybe 14 tables — and that is part of its charm. Pascal’s on Ponce is an intimate, romantic space with quiet lighting and soft music, where the emphasis is on quality, not quantity. And that quality — the haute French cuisine of Chef Pascal Oudin — is unmatched anywhere else in the city. Since the year 2000, Oudon has been the Gables’ king of sophisticated French cooking, garnering a loyal clientele.

Pascal's on Ponce
Chef Pascal Oudin has been the Gables’ king of sophisticated French cooking for over 20 years.

Pascal’s pedigree itself is impeccable, starting with his award at age 17 as the “best apprentice chef ” in all of France. Before running the kitchen at Coconut Grove’s five-star Grand Bay Hotel in the 1990s, he was mentored by legendary chefs Alain Ducasse and Roger Vergé, among others.

While Chef Pascal does change his menu, he does so with caution, so as not to enrage his stalwart clientele. His crispy duck confit, for example, cannot be removed without “my customers coming to hang me,” he says. “They won’t hear of it.”

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Since well-prepared duck is one of the hallmarks of French cooking, we tried the confit ($43.95), a Moulard duck leg brined and then cooked in duck fat for several hours at a low temperature. It is subsequently chilled, then pan-fried to crisp the skin. Ours was served on a bed of spinach sauteed with mushrooms in a wine-reduction sauce. One taste and you know why it’s a customer favorite.

We also sampled a porcini mushroom soup, infused with white truffle oil and bits of foie gras ($24.95), which could not have been richer in flavor. Even their mesclun salad with champagne vinaigrette ($19.95), enhanced by beets, pears, and Forme d’Ambert cheese, was brilliantly fresh and perfectly dressed. We also raved about the beef tenderloin, topped by escargot Provençal ($51.95) and plated like a Mondrian composition with a few stalks of asparagus, a square of potato, and a toothsome Bordelaise sauce.

Hallmarks of French cooking: duck confit (left) and chocolate souffle (right).

But what would an evening of fine French dining be without a superlative dessert, which in the case of Pascal’s is one of his souffles. Most popular is the Grand Marnier ($19), a muffin-shaped cloud of baked egg wonderfulness made creamy with a warm, sweet sabayon sauce. We ordered instead the chocolate souffle, so light and fluffy it could have been served to Louis XIV. Like the rest of the menu, this is food fit for a king.

Pascal’s on Ponce
2611 Ponce de Leon Blvd.