Semilla Reinvents Itself As A French Bistro And Wine Bar

March 13, 2019

Semilla, the popular eatery on South Beach's Alton Road, has rebooted its identity.

Chef/owner Frederic Joulin opened the restaurant in late 2013 as an eatery and bar with offerings that fused French cuisine and locally inspired dishes. As regular customers demanded a larger, constant choice of French signature dishes, Joulin says he decided to focus solely on bistro-style cooking.

Last month, he changed the restaurant's name to reflect the new concept: It's now called the Semilla French Bistro & Wine Bar. Joulin has tweaked the decor, giving the eatery a gently lit dining room brimming with vibrant touches, from the booths and intricate-patterned chairs under wall mirrors, art, and posters to the large bar area and open kitchen that allow guests to see what's happening behind the line.

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Conjuring the perfect French bistro in Miami, he says, became possible because more international purveyors are serving the local market, making better and more exclusive ingredients readily available. "The French bistro style of cooking is all based on the ingredients' flavors; there's no need for a great amount of enhancement," Joulin explains. "It's simple but deeply satisfying cooking. Just food that makes you feel good."

Nath R. Photography
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Born in Paris, Joulin cooked for French President Jacques Chirac for two years and worked with three-Michelin-starred chef Guy Savoy. Joulin's new menu is dotted with classic bistro dishes like foie gras terrine ($21); Gruyère-laden onion soup ($12); and escargots aubeurred'ailpersille, in which the snails are sautéed in parsley and garlic butter and served over bone marrow ($13). There are also salads like burrata and tomatoes ($16) and the endive, apple, Roquefort, and nuts ($13).

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    Main-course options include tuna avocado tartare ($16); duck confit with pomme de terre sautées ($27); and a  French burger with eight ounces of American wagyu beef, foie gras, and truffle mayo ($21). Other standouts include a classic steak au poivre flamed with cognac and prepared tableside ($31) and Mediterranean grilled octopus ($13).

    Joulin also updated the beverage program. Guests now can enjoy an extensive list of wines and champagne from the new wine cellar, where bottles are sold at retail price plus a $10 to $20 corkage fee.

    Happy hour has been extended from 4 to 8 p.m. with draft and bottled beer priced at $5, wine by the glass at $6, and bites like croque monsieur, deep-fried calamari, and Blue Point oysters.

    Semilla French Bistro & Wine Bar. 1330 Alton Rd., Miami Beach, 305-674-6522; Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.