• Wednesday , 18 October 2017

Bryn Mawr’s Cerise BYOB Offers a Taste of Europe in the ‘Burbs

Photos, story by Cassie Hepler

Ben and Elena Thomas, the chef and co-owners of Restaurant Cerise in Bryn Mawr offer an upscale, French feel on an otherwise quiet Lancaster Avenue. Multi-course tasting menus and prix fixe are the key at this BYOB with a large, well-stocked and convenient Wine & Spirits right across the street. Main Line’s dining scene gets a little more love through this husband and wife pair and a little more fresh herbs too from various staff gardens. The feel of a French bistro minus the sidewalk patio culture, it offers the Main Line’s affluent and sometimes sophisticated audience a place to escape – and drink as many bottles as their bellies can hold like our elderly neighbors enjoyed.

Chef Ben Thomas comes with powerhouses under his apron like Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, Sycamore, and Callahan Catering and Bistro d’Hubert in Paris. You can taste it in the sauces. Some of the dishes are a little salty at points, but the never empty glass of water next to your chosen wine just means you become more hydrated. Savoring a leisurely meal, is comfortable and casual in the split-level bistro space that seats 46 people.

First introduced to this space for a friend’s prix fixe birthday party (and her first one ever), Chef Ben Thomas was extremely accommodating with having it on a Tuesday, normally a day off for the chef and staff. (Normal dinner hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 5-10 p.m.; Sunday, until 9 p.m. Sunday brunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.) When we were so very impressed by not only the food, but the service and ambiance of French music floating through the air, we had to come back and Thomas was more than accommodating.

Restaurant Cerise is the center of attention and all eyes on the food through the front window we soon found out.

Restaurant Cerise is the center of attention on Lancaster Ave. after 5 p.m. and all eyes on the food through the front window we soon found out as foot traffic ogled our dishes.

The Restaurant Cerise sign hangs above, with the namesake cherries painted below.

The Restaurant Cerise sign hangs above, with the namesake cherries painted below.

We chose the mafia seat, in the corner next to the wall because it's the best lighting for photos and the best view of the room.

We chose the mafia seat, in the corner next to the wall because it’s the best lighting for photos and the best view of the room.

The view from our mafia seats in the corner next to the wall.

The view from our mafia seats in the corner next to the wall. We arrived fashionably early as usual which is prime time for photo opportunities.

The kitchen is open and theater style so you can enjoy dinner and a show if you wish.

The kitchen is open and theater style so you can enjoy dinner and a show if you wish.

Looking down from the kitchen and second floor, there are noise absorbing panels on the ceiling otherwise it gets too noisy.

Looking down from the kitchen and second floor, there are noise absorbing panels on the ceiling otherwise it gets too noisy.

Going with the theme, we arrived early and popped into the Wine & Spirits next door with time to actually explore, We were in love with this never disappointing Beaujolais with hints of cherry.

Going with the French theme, we arrived early and popped into the Wine & Spirits next door with time to actually explore. We were in love with this never disappointing Beaujolais with hints of cherry.

Restaurant Cerise offers a nice selection of four course prix fixe fall menu for

Restaurant Cerise offers a nice selection of four course prix fixe fall menu for $59 each. We ordered an extra salad and dessert for good measure and to “balance” each other out. The things we tell ourselves…

Even the thick, warm doughy bread was a carb lovers treat, especially when we had to sop up some herb fresh sauce later on in the meal.

Even the thick, warm doughy bread was a carb lovers treat, especially when we had to sop up some herb fresh sauce later on in the meal.

French bubbles seemed in order as well with this light and tangy

French bubbles seemed in order as well with this light and tangy Sofia, forgetting we had five bottles in the fridge at home already.

Picture perfect pairing with our light appetizers and for a cheers to good friends.

Picture perfect pairing with our light appetizers and any excuse for a cheers to good friends.

The chicken liver mousse at Restaurant Cerise

The chicken liver mousse at Restaurant Cerise on two toasted baguettes and arugula, sour apple and pistachio was a tease. We wanted more mousse but it was meaty, creamy and perfection. The salad was nice, tangy palate cleanser.

The kale salad at Restaurant Cerise

We split the massaged kale salad at Restaurant Cerise with feta, raisin vinaigrette and toasted almonds with crispy pieces of kale on top. You could easily convince any kale hater to enjoy this salad.

The pros over melon at Restaurant Cerise

The 24 month prosciuotto di parma over cantaloupe with terragon at Restaurant Cerise had cool, fresh melon with fatty, room temperature meat offered all the melting in your mouth flavors.

The softest ghnocci you will ever have, said our waiter and he wasn't kidding at Restaurant Cerise.

The softest house made gnocchi you will ever have, said our waiter and he wasn’t kidding at Restaurant Cerise. This ricotta and bolognese with pecorino romano was salty, meaty, hearty and creamy goodness.

A lighter seasonal but delicious dish, this spaghetti with scallops was heavenly.

A lighter seasonal but delicious dish, this spaghetti with scallops was heavenly. We suspect oregano, capers and creamed leaks weren’t the only things we tasted in this terrific dish. Even the house made pasta was light and fluffy, the sauce was eaten with more bread. It was either that or drink it!

Not usually on my mind, I went for the

Not usually on radar, I went for the 16 ounce veal chop with roasted garlic, polenta, rosemary and black truffle. Each bite was moist, juicy and more decadent than the last. Enjoying whole roasted chunks of garlic and greens was delightful as well. I could have used less butter and sauce with the polenta however it was swimming in a sea of butter and oils.

A winning staple that I enjoyed last time was bistro filet cooked to chef's selection (the best way to go if you don't mind a pink middle) the Restaurant Cerise

A winning menu staple that I enjoyed last time was bistro filet cooked to chef’s selection (the best way to go if you don’t mind a pink middle) with duck fat potatoes (excellent on their own) covered in blue cheese with walnut (a bit more salty than cheesy) and asparagus at the Restaurant Cerise for the non-adventure types. There are also vegetarian options for each course however we are happy carnivores with canines.

Getting to the point of tipsy and stuffed (usually we hold off on the bread but the sauce needed to be well loved), we switched off to some decaf in what else but a French press. Excellent coffee, cream and company.

Getting to the point of tipsy and stuffed (usually we hold off on the bread but the sauce needed to be well loved), we switched off to some decaf in what else but a French press. Excellent coffee, cream and company.

Bread pudding is perfect for fall and we couldn't resist the ingredients - Restaurant Cerise

Bread pudding is perfect for fall and we couldn’t resist the ingredients – local pears, cardamom, white chocolate and pink peppercorn at Restaurant Cerise. Dipped into the creamy sauce, it was a carb loving dream dessert with a crispy top and creamy middle.

Because apparently we have a chocolate addiction, we couldn't pass up tasting this Restaurant Cerise

Because apparently we have a chocolate addiction, we couldn’t pass up tasting this Chocolate Delight at Restaurant Cerise. A thick dark cocoa layer on top and molasses and hazelnut underneath, the cherry schnapps were my favorite as my guest remembered childhood memories of dark chocolate Easter baskets and was in love.

Restaurant Cerise

Pumpkin panna cotta, the texture of a courtesan’s quivering thigh with all spice and butterscotch surprise at the bottom was our favorite fall dessert treat. The cinnamon tuile and butterscotch bottom put it over the awesomesauce edge at Restaurant Cerise.

Chef Ben Thomas at Restaurant Cerise stops by to say hello

Chef Ben Thomas at Restaurant Cerise stops by to say hello toward the end of our meal while the place is getting packed for late dinner reservations. Best of luck Ben, you have a great thing going here!

Overall we liked the lingering summer items on the menu and the nod to Italy and other parts of Europe on the fall menu. Sometimes you’re just not ready for cold weather! The simple, clean wooden ambiance brings a neighborhood vibe without trying to hard. Cerise has achieved that casual chic feel we would like to see and experience more of in and around Philadelphia.

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