Upping the ante

French onion soup is rich and deeply savory. It’s incomparably delicious and heartwarming. And it’s this French national treasure of caramelized onion, stock, toasted bread topped with a generous helping of creamy, earthy, nutty-tasting Comte cheese that is one of a number of items that have made its way onto the menu at Cocoplum Bistro & Bar’s winter/spring menu to tantalize and amaze.

With French woman Cecile Cathelin at the helm, I was beginning to wonder when this beloved classic soup would be featured on her menu; the wait is now over.

I could not resist ordering the soup on my recent visit. It was chockful of rich, tender onions. I was amazed at just how much flavor the chef coaxes into it, and delighted in the ooey gooey cheesiness of it all.

Cathelin also features daily specials, so I opted for the whole lionfish with spinach and grits, simply because whenever you order lionfish, you expect a dramatic presentation, and this fish did not disappoint in its dramatic presentation. It was fried whole and served alongside a grits cake like you’ve probably never had before with a slightly sweet taste owing to the variety of vegetables she cooked the grits with, and a heaping mound of spinach, for a delicious entrée.

But the onion soup was also just one among a number of changes to the menu that Cathelin has made just weeks into the new year.

She also features an escargots (snails) cassolette with garlic butter, parsley and baguette, and she doesn’t skimp on the parsley for a strong parsley taste coming through. Of course, escargot is one of those dishes that I must have. And in this day and age, I would hope that escargot isn’t one of those items that people still shy away from.

She also encouraged me to try her salmon coco surprise of salmon gravlax. The surprise was a soft-boiled egg nestled beneath salmon slices atop a bed of spicy arugula with creamy guacamole, pine nuts and beets. Topped with pickled onions to cut through the unctuous fattiness of the dish and earthy lentils rounding out all the flavors, this was indeed a surprising item.

I was most happy to see that Cathelin has added the mahi mahi meuniere, a simple yet flavorful dish of lemon butter, parsley, fennel, and steamed potatoes to the menu, which she offered as a special last year, but I fully endorsed as a meal that should be added to the regular menu.

To be quite honest, I waffled between the mahi mahi and the lionfish, as I recalled how tasty, fresh and light the mahi mahi dish had been before opting for the lionfish special. With the mahi mahi on the regular menu, I can have it anytime I want before the menu changes again.

A rich and deeply savory bowl of French onion soup.

The new menu items also showcase a grilled eggplant with miso tzatziki; roasted cauliflower with chimichurri sauce; light and bright shrimp with olive oil, lemon, crispy sage, garlic and espelette pepper; piri piri chicken with garlic, zucchini, red onions, peppers and French fries; trofie pasta pesto with basil, pine nuts, and parmigiano to which you can add your choice of chicken or shrimp, if you would like protein with your meal.

Of course, I can never darken the doors of Cocoplum Bistro & Bar without ordering my favorite staple – the olive bar (olives, olive tapenade, parmesan chunks and bread). This is one of those shareable items that if Cathelin tried to remove from the menu, would cause a revolt from her patrons.

With the new additions, are menu staples that her loyal customers refuse to allow her to switch out, hence, her daily specials to bring even more variety on a daily basis and to challenge herself, so that she and her team don’t get bored in the kitchen cooking the same menu items every day.

The thing with Cocoplum Bistro and Bar is that Cathelin is not afraid to season her food, and a meal is sheer decadence from beginning to end.

Rack of lamb with sautéed potatoes, eggplant, herbs demi-glace and mint.

The one thing that makes this chef happy is when her clients are able to “taste the love” she puts in her cooking. And she delights in serving up meals with stories behind them from her past. Her joy is when her patrons leave with the feeling that her cooking is personal.

Cocoplum Bistro & Bar is where French and Mediterranean cuisine with an island twist intermingle with Cathelin taking advantage of local fresh products.

With the advent of the new menu, Cathelin has debuted a Sunday brunch featuring what she calls egg mania, a savory corner, island treats and a sugar corner.

Eggs mania, like the name suggests, showcases all things eggs from traditional eggs benedict to omelettes; the savory corner is where you can indulge in items like steak and eggs, croque madame (toasted ham and cheese sandwich topped with bechamel and a fried egg), croque monsieur (the French version of a toasted ham and cheese sandwich), and avocado tartine. The island treats is where the local intermingling comes into play with boiled fish, chicken souse and grits with tuna, and corned beef, which can be southernized with shrimp, if you’re so inclined. And nobody can resist the sugar corner, which showcases things sugar or Nutella crêpes, pancakes, croissant, pain au chocolat (which literally means chocolate bread), madeleines (small rich shell-shaped cake), French toast. Brunch is served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

And then there’s the ambiance. No matter when you visit Cocoplub Bistro & Bar, the restaurant’s décor is always a delight to take in, as it changes to reflect the occasion and season, so there’s always a surprise as you walk through the doors of the restaurant located in the Harbour Green Shopping Plaza, West Bay Street.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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