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Follow the red balloon to Asbury Park’s Pascal & Sabine

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Perhaps it was the Lumiere, a lovely libation comprised of Fords gin, St. Germain, and Chartreuse with tasting notes of lime, lavender, violet, and orange that opened the memory.

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Or maybe the escargots, an even dozen of those gastropods that have been eaten since prehistoric times, yet perfected by the French with the addition of garlic butter and parsley.

For a few moments, basking in the genial atmosphere of Pascal & Sabine, the elegant brasserie in downtown Asbury Park, it was possible to feel as if one had been transported back in time to the Belle Époque.

Named for two children (and the protagonists) of Albert Lamorisse, the French filmmaker who directed The Red Balloon (1956), Pascal & Sabine offers French-inspired cuisine in a setting redolent of romance and seduction. The red balloon floating outside the establishment provides an indication of the playfulness and joie de vivre that is pervasive throughout the restaurant.

Wall sconces and mottled mirrors foster a flirtatious ambiance that is complemented by the room’s deep banquettes and numerous nooks. In the front room, an espresso and dessert bar cum lounge offers a cozy pre- and post-prandial sanctuary.

The potent elixirs include a number of cocktails reflective of speakeasies and Prohibition, while the lunch and dinner menus offer classic French signatures such as salade Nicoise, coq au vin, duck confit, steak tartare, and pistou soup.

Charcuterie and cheese plates further the illusion that one is happily living in a world where French cuisine is the gastronomical apex. And unlike the stereotype about French waiters, the service at Pascal & Sabine is marked by the easygoing professionalism of a knowledgeable staff.

Owned and operated by Smith, the design and hospitality group behind Asbury Park favorites such as Brickwall Tavern & Dining Room, Porta, Goldie's, and The Monk Room, Pascal & Sabine opened in January 2014 in the Palomino Blackwing building, an Art Deco treasure on Bangs Avenue that has been completely renovated to include a number of duplex condos on its upper floors.

You’ll recognize it by the red balloon.

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