Pascal & Sabine

If Pascal & Sabine were in my neighborhood, I would probably eat there a couple times a week. Wonderful decor (who doesn’t like booths?), excellent bistro food, a very good wine list, a fantastic Sunday brunch with live jazz and a really enjoyable staff makes this a favorite at the Jersey Shore.

Pascal and Sabine are characters from French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse’s signature work, The Red Balloon. In the film, Pascal finds a red balloon with a mind of its own that follows him around the city. You’ll see that red balloon outside the doors of the restaurant.

Inside the French inspired brasserie has a wonderful metal topped bar with small red shaded lamps, huge circular dark leather booths and the stunning artwork of Paolo Ventura. There is also an expresso bar at the front of the restaurant.

The bar offers a wonderful selection of bourbons, whiskeys, single malts, tequila and craft beers. Hand crafted cocktails include items like the Red Rum; pilar vanilla rum, red wine, lemon juice, simple syrup, brandied cherries and Peach Bourbon Ice Tea; Bulleit bourbon, peach purée, honey simple syrup, ice tea, mint. There’s also nearly 50 wines by the glass with some excellent choices.

But ultimately, it is the food you go for and it is richly satisfying at Pascal. You can enjoy classic appetizers like French onion soup, escargot and beef tartare, There’s a wonderful selection of charcuterie and cheese and caviar from around the globe. Bistro fare includes Coq Au Vin: chicken stewed in red wine with mushrooms, pearl onions & bacon, with pommes purée; Roasted Breast of Chicken: asparagus, fried duck egg, jambon de bayonne: Steak Frites: pan-seared snake river farms kobe sirloin flap, au poivre, hand-cut frites; Lobster Bouillabaisse; lobster, scallops, shrimp, mussels, bouillabaisse broth, rouille and Moules Frites; blue bay mussels, white wine, garlic, shallots, thyme & baguette.

If you still have room for dessert the creme brulee and the St. Stephen cheesecake;  hazelnut cookie crust with seasonal berries are excellent.

The wine list, with a decided French bent has a nice mix of higher end wines and bottles under $50.

ROMANTIC QUOTIENT: High. Tall , cozy booths envelop the diner and make for intimate conversation.

Small plates and elevated bistro staples are the draw at this French kitchen in Asbury Park, which also serves brunch in stylish digs with a busy bar mixing classic and creative cocktails. ZAGAT