Cod en Papillote at La Voile

Like the annual migration of swallows to San Juan Capistrano, September witnesses the return of bright young things to Newbury Street. Back in school and still sporting beach bodies and summer tans, they flock to the sidewalk patios to sip sugary flavored-vodka "martinis" and muddled-mint long drinks. For food, they might push a little tuna crudo around on a plate, nibble a slice of highly designed thin-crust pizza, or pick half-heartedly at plate of pedigreed greens. While it all sounds fabulous, newcomers to Boston, especially those who've just turned 21, have a hard lesson to learn on these boutique-lined blocks: the people-watching may be fun, but dining out on Newbury Street is mostly pricey, middling, and forgettable.

If you're still determined to catch that whiff of un été à Paris promised by Newbury Street's languorous outdoor dining, it turns out there is a culinary ray of hope in the form of a smallish self-styled brasserie founded by a bunch of refugee restaurateurs from Cannes. The folks behind La Voile (261 Newbury Street, Boston, 617.587.4200) offer a mostly southern French menu with a traditional bent that stands in marked contrast to the shiny culinary poseurs that line the street. Sure, there are safe, crowd-pleasing standbys like soupe à l'oignon ($9) and deluxe New York strip-based steak frites ($25) with a forestière (wild mushroom) sauce. And while that classically rich Niçoise seafood showcase, soupe de poissons, is off the menu until the fall, there are plenty more traditional southern dishes here too.

These last weeks of early-evening sunshine are a good time to camp on La Voile's serene little patio and enjoy some end-of-summer specialties, like a salad of thin-shaved asparagus and greens topped with a poached egg and shreds of Bayonne ham ($14). Follow this with cod en papillote ($26), a subtle method of preparing delicate local whitefish with a presentation that charms like a neatly wrapped gift. Untwisting the parchment reveals its fragrantly steaming contents: a firm, moist cod fillet with a few potatoes plus a bit of garlic, oil, and herbes de Provence. Pair this with something pink, refreshing, and regionally appropriate, like a bottle of 2009 Commanderie de la Bargemone ($40), a crisp Coteaux d'Aix en Provence. With such Mediterranean flair does La Voile offer a rare sanctuary on Newbury Street for grownups who are serious about food - a meal as fresh, straightforward, and revitalizing as a September getaway to the Côte d'Azur. Get there before the weather turns too crisp and you lose your patio perch.