Although West Palm Beach's Pistache French Bistro is best-known for its classic Parisian cuisine, not many people are familiar with the longstanding restaurant's chef de cuisine, Isaac Cerny.
Along with the newly renovated bar and refreshed look, the restaurant has rolled out new cocktail and bar-bites menus. And, according to Cerny, you can't visit without a taste of the new foie gras pommes frites.
Cerny — who learned much of his skill under Cafe Boulud's Zach Bell — presents his own take on traditional French cuisine, with a slightly modern edge. That translates directly to those pommes frites.
In addition to a list of newly crafted cocktails, the bar menu now offers something truly comforting: a do-it-yourself "Frite Sheet." The interactive bar menu that allows guests to create their own specialty pommes frites (French for French fries) with a list of mix-and-match toppings like au poivre, smoked paprika aioli, sherry vinegar, harissa cream, black truffle, or roasted garlic.
The most serious pommes frites combination is the foie gras, what Cerny says is a decadent combination of seared foie gras, toasted pistachios, and a ruby-red-cherry gastrique.
In celebration of the new bar, we recently caught up with Cerny for a closer look at what makes Pistache one of Palm Beach County's more original dining destinations.
Name: Isaac Cerny, Pistache French Bistro chef de cuisine
Hometown: Jupiter, Florida
Education: Florida Culinary Institute
New Times: What inspired you to begin cooking professionally?
My wife. When we met, she was going to school to get her master's degree. I was very inspired by her hard work and dedication. I had no career of my own and decided to go to culinary school.
What’s the first important meal or dish you remember making?
I catered a baby shower when I graduated culinary school. It was for 40-plus people, and I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t realize the amount of effort that went into it. I got a lot of help from my friends, and we made it happen.
What’s your favorite dish on your menu right now?
My favorite dish on the menu right now is our pork shank. It's not your typical French dish, but it uses a lot of French technique. It's great for sharing — or not sharing, if you’re really hungry. It definitely has a "wow" factor when it hits the table.
Do you have a favorite dish at another restaurant?
I recently went to Grato and tried a bunch of different dishes. The roasted clams were the best dish I’ve had recently. The dish was unique because they were sunray clams, which you don’t see very often. And the dish was very well-balanced, with just the right amount of spice. The fresh-baked grilled bread it came with was also great. I dipped it in the broth afterwards.
What’s your favorite after-hours drinking spot?
"The Forum." Also known as my garage.
What’s the weirdest request you’ve ever gotten from a customer?
I had a guest order a rare chicken pillard. That's pretty interesting.
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What type of food do you prepare for yourself when there’s no one to impress?
I like to use my smoker at home. Anything from chicken to pork to beef. It's relaxing and doesn’t require a lot of attention.
What do you feel is lacking from the South Florida food scene?
I feel Jupiter could use some more exciting restaurants. More places like Coolinary Café and such. I feel it's an untapped resource, and it would be nice to see some chefs make their way further north to help make it more of a dining destination.
Advice for up and coming chefs trying to break into the biz?
Keep your head down and work your butt off. Learn as much as you can, and always keep progressing.
Pistache French Bistro is located at 101 N. Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Call 561-833-5090, or visit at PistacheWPB.com