Stephane's opened last Sunday in the space previously opened by Copper Canyon. Copper Canyon was a dark, woody type place, reminiscent of Houston's; Stephane's is big and bright. From the outside and within, Stephane's is an impressive looking restaurant, from the onyx at the entrance to the oversized booths for 6. The design is typically French, with low backs which don't provide much privacy. The bar area is raised with big faces on the ceiling and 3 big TVs.
The hostesses here are very friendly; they tried to seat us in the bench seating in the middle of the room with plenty of booths available, so we asked for a booth; she had to check to get permission, but then showed us to a booth. One thing I noticed was that the oversized booths were largely parties of 2, while a big party of 6 was sitting in the middle; as if they're saving booths for VIPs or something. But there were no VIPs there on this evening.jump-->
When Stephane's first opened, they didn't tell you the dinner prices; the menu on their web site had lunch prices and there was a note that "Dinner Prices may be higher", which of course they were. They also have a Fixed Price Lunch for $19.90, except that it doesn't include dessert (dessert is $5 extra). So you can get a salad, some mussels or chicken and dessert for only $24.90, as if that's some sort of deal.
We started out with some pretty good bread and butter. I wasn't doing carbs so I just had a taste; the bread was good.
They've been touting their mussels on their website and facebook page, as if mussels are some sort of unique dish; as if every good restaurant in south florida doesn't also have mussels. So I definitively wanted to order mussels. The menu is quite large and complicated, so it took us a while to decide on what to order, but we ordered the mussels right off while we pondered. We ordered the Mussels Provencal ($15/lb); they came out a short while later. We were given 2 big metallic dishes for the shells, but no bowls or plates to actually eat the mussels.
The big cast iron pot was cool, but the problem was that all of the good stuff was at the bottom of the pot so that half of the mussels were sitting on top with no broth, tomatoes or herbs. We only had our bread plates, so we pretty much had to eat one at a time. This should really be served in a wide plate so you can scoop up the sauce.
An issue that I had was that 8 of the mussels were closed hard; an indication that they either weren't cooked long enough or that they were dead; i'm guessing the former. Regardless of the reason, mussels shouldn't be served with so many closed. One or 2 is expected. 8 is unacceptable.
Overservice annoyances started here, as every time someone walked by the table they offered to take the food, even though it wasn't even half eaten yet. More on this later.
While we nibbled on the mussels, we decided to just get some apps. I'd had an oversized lunch at La Bamba and my hunger hadn't quite yet returned. I ordered the crab cakes ($13) and my date ordered the Mozzarella Di Bufala and Tomatoes, which is listed as a tartare. I don't think she realized that it wasn't the typical stack, because she looked surprised when it was put in front of her.
I felt bad as she picked at it. As you can see, they didn't even take the seeds out, and there was hardly any cheese. The tomatoes tasted no better than plain tomatoes; a good version of this dish will have seeded tomatoes infused with flavor, and the pesto had no pop either. It was just a sad dish; a heap of diced tomatoes remained on her plate as she set her fork down.
Meanwhile, I apparently had a similar look on my face as my "crab cakes" were put in front of me. These were the subject of our first disagreement; I called them crab balls, and she said they reminded her of tater tots. What annoyed me was that the pictures they posted on Urban Spoon showed 5 cakes that seemed bigger than these; the picture had a nice garnish missing in real life. I paid the dinner price, so why only 4 cakes on their 3rd day open? Cakes this small have too much crust per cake; they didn't seem very crabby. They were similar to the crab cakes I had at Carrabba's a couple of weeks ago, and at a restaurant like this, that's a disappointment.
While we dined I was constantly looking around to see the reactions of other people, and also to see what the bar scene was like. There was no bar scene; the 3 TVs were all showing the same thing; model shoots; models doing runways; I really can't think of anything more pretentious.
We were still hungry at this point, but we weren't willing or interested in trying anything else. I was ready to go, but my date looked so hungry; I suggested she have some more bread, but they'd taken away the butter knife. So we decided to sample a dessert. The server attempted to explain everything, but it was too complicated, so she brought us a menu. I was just having coffee, so I yielded my opinion. She chose the Sister's Tatin, which is an upside down apple tart.
They brought out our coffee, and it was then that I noticed that they'd taken my napkin, as well as most of our silverware. The table clearing here was overdone, and asking us how everything was in between bites was an intrusion on our privacy. There's a fine line between a server making sure you have everything you need and downright bothering their guests. Asking to take away half eaten dishes and removing silverware before you're done using it also crosses that line.
We did both agree that the coffee service dishes were cool and interesting. Unfortunately my coffee was delivered with skim milk; I asked for some cream and it seemed to take a while for her to get it.
By the time the dessert came out, we were fully expecting the unexpected, and we weren't disappointed. Expecting some sort of tart, what we got was very well cooked apple slices over some soggy, inedible pastry.
As I took my first bite, of course the server came over and asked if I liked it. "It's Sweet", I said, and she bounded away as if detecting my annoyance. When I went to the restroom she apparently came over and asked my date if that meant that I didn't like it. I'm glad I missed that exchange.
We both agreed that the ice cream was good; I don't think I've ever had dessert when I was that hungry before so our taste buds were fresh.
The bill came and the good news was that we didn't get charged for the water service. Neither of us were drinking, so $68 for what we had seemed like a lot; about $20 too much. Note that they add the tip to the bill, so don't over tip. 15% for parties of 1-4, and 18% for groups of 5 or more.
A few weeks back, Stephane's did an announcement that they'd be giving away 10 dinners, and that you had to give them your email and Like their facebook page in order to be considered. They emphasized that you had to like their facebook page to win. The problem is, there's no way for them to know if you liked their facebook page or not. We asked them to post the winners on facebook and they blocked the account. They keep posting about rosy "reviews" in Miami, why do Miami pubs care about Boca? More deception.
Stephane's is a beautiful restaurant; the problem here is the policies. The deceptive pricing, smallish portions,the forced gratuity and the trickery used to get you to their facebook page just leave customers with a bad impression; this is the kind of restaurant you expect to find in a big city, but not in the land of Cheesecake Factory. I might be able to overlook such things if the recipes were unusually good, but in discussing the dinner with my date afterwards, we both agreed that we had nothing here that was close to outstanding.
They have an iPad gimmick, you can peruse the menu on the ipad rather than the standard paper menu. The iPad will give you a perfect wine pairing for the dish you choose; based on their other policies I'm going to guess that they're not going to recommend anything that's very wallet friendly.
Sometimes the specific details don't really matter; the only thing that matters is the feeling you get from a place. I couldn't wait to get out of Stephane's. You can take that for what it's worth.
**Stephanes now posts their menus without prices. They do everything wrong; I'm surprised anyone goes there.
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From: Marianne R
The restaurant is beautiful, but the portions are too small and the prices are too high. The prices on their website are NOT the prices at the restaurant. If you spend $50 per person and want to stop off for pizza on the way home, something is wrong.