French food is my favourite cuisine so I have no idea why it’s taken me this long to get to The Brasserie.

I suspect it’s probably because it’s at Crown. Call me a boring repetitive food-blogging snob but I still have trouble in my mind distinguishing between the two sides to Crown–  the sea of crowing casino/nightclub-goers, polyester clinging to liberally orange-tanned bodies vs the impressive fine-dining venues (for example, excellent visits to Rockpool and Nobu).

Tis a shame, because The Brasserie is definitely one in the HOT list of worthwhile restaurants to visit at Crown.

While the decor has a slightly sterile non-offensive hotel-dining feel, the menu is classic French, with a good proportion of lighter elements more suited to Australian climate and palate.

Being a cold winter’s night, RM honed in straight for the days’ special of cassoulet, a huge ramekin of beans, sausage, lardons, confit and rustic homeliness ($35).

On the other hand, I had so much trouble deciding from the menu that I decided to do something which is very unlike me, but I think a habit worth forming so that I can taste more at once (greedy!) – having two entrees. I tried the special entree, zucchini flowers stuffed with crab meat, a much more balanced way to stuff delicate zucchini flowers than the ubiquitous goats’ cheese in my view.

I know it’s a cliché but I can never go past escargot on a French menu. So voila – a ramekin of six buttery, garlicky, slippery snails with tomato fondue, bread croutons and extra bread to mop up the juices ($19).

Then my favourite discovery of the night and I think a must-do – sautéed Parisienne gnocchi with vegetables, from the sides menu. This generous bowl of gently poached pate a choux (no potato, just eggs, butter and milk) is only $8 and a decent entree size portion. It is an absolute bargain hidden in a menu featuring generally medium-to-high prices. Plus it’s just delicious – yielding knobs of pan-fried gnocchi gathered in a sauce that’s light and bursting with fresh flavour.

It’s never crossed my mind to have a side dish as a main course before, but this non-diet-friendly gnocchi is so good that on my next visit I’m definitely returning for it, and probably plus another dish from the sides menu, the Provençale vegetables gratin ($8). I’ll just have to shrug off the potentially puzzled looks from the waiters.

I was definitely not in the realm of dessert-eating after eating so much food (three entrees!), but RM pouted and said he wanted profiteroles ($16). Well, who am I to deny a wish for dessert (especially when I get to taste-test too). The profiteroles were glorious – crowns of featherlight choux pastry sandwiching generous scoops of vanilla bean ice-cream hiding a secret cache of chocolate custard, in a pool of more chocolate. Definitely a dessert for two, I think.

The Brasserie presented some of the finest French food I’ve had in Melbourne. While it’s been housed in a huge corporate complex for a couple of years, I think it’s a restaurant that’s worth getting excited about.

(NB When I visited the restaurant it was The Brasserie by Philippe Mouchel but @katspat has informed me that it’s now just The Brasserie ie no Philippe Mouchel. The menu on the website still appears to be very similar to my dinner there and I hope the quality has remained of the same high standard.)

Brasserie By Philippe Mouchel on Urbanspoon