By Maureen Daly Special to The Desert Sun March 24th, 2004
November 29, 2016
It would seem perfectly in place located Seine-side on The Left Bank section of Paris, or on an avenue near the flower market in Liege, Belgium.
Pomme Frite is also right at home on South Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, where it has been a busy bicultural cafe for about five years.
There are several good reasons why this restaurant, a showcase of owner and chef Jean-Claude Constant, is a special experience.
It is located in midtown Palm Springs in a prominent spot on unofficial Restaurant Row, among other popular restaurants. Thus, Pomme Frite shares the excitement of bright lights, sidewalk and street side traffic and general mood of tourist trade hoopla.
There is outdoor and indoor appeal in the tiny open-air terrace that seats about a dozen and inside space for about three dozen more. Walls are brightened with framed posters of the famed resort town, Spa, Belgium, and other travel memorabilia. A corner kitchen offers a peak at the busy chef plus an enticing waft of fresh foods.
The beer and wine list includes domestic and imported. Tables are set with good cutlery and linen-style napkins, with butcher paper over the linens. Service is good-natured and speedy.
Serving hours are 5 to 11 p.m., with lunch on Saturday and Sunday only, noon to 4 p.m., with reservations taken.
Prices are reasonable and even with the seductive menu, lunch without bar service averages about $11-$12 a person, and dinner, without bar service, comes to about $25.
Besides soup of the day and an excellent oven-baked French onion soup, one can enjoy a delicate saffron cream soup, served with whole mussels.
A pair of salads, out of four offered, are Belgian endive and radicchio, with green apple, candied walnuts, blue cheese and shallots; and salad with poached egg and crispy bacon on a bed of baby chicory, arugula and tangy peppercorn dressing.
More than a half-dozen appetizers, with the customers’ favorite a roasted beets and goat cheese Napoleon prepared with sliced red and yellow garden beets, sliced and layered with sharp, smooth goat cheese with roasted red bell pepper vinaigrette.
Extra special in its careful preparation is French country pête with cognac and pistachios, served with cornichons, onions and fresh country bread.
The fish and seafood menu features tiger shrimp and sea scallop pasta, sand dabs amandine, sesame-crusted ahi tuna and a great California bouillabaisse with salmon, cod fish, shrimp, scallop sand mussels in a saffron broth, served with croutons and saffron rice.
We ordered two pounds of steamed black mussels from Maine, tender and juicy in the shell, served with crispy Belgian fries on the side. The mussels are prepared to diner’s choice: Provencale, saffron broth, curry and cream, garlic and cream and several other combos.
Entrees most ordered from the meat and fowl menu: Half a roasted chicken with lemon garlic sauce and New Zealand lamb shank with shallots sauce, white bean casserole, garlic mashed potatoes, sautéed jumbo pork chops with vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes and braised coq au vin.
A top Belgian choice is Flemish style carbonnade of beef, a rich, velvety prime beef stew, long-simmered in Belgian beer, served with crispy fries.
Desserts are house-made and almost too good to share. One of chef’s specialties is crème brûlée, a different flavor each day, announced on a blackboard just above the kitchen pass-through. On a recent Saturday night we were lucky enough to read: “Crème brûlée Grand Marnier.” It was highly flavored, silky smooth with a shell-like caramelized top and delicious.
Maureen Daly is a novelist and freelance writer based in Palm Desert. She can be reached at P.O. Box 3875, Palm Desert, CA 92261