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Everything posted by SDyson

  1. SDyson

    Lyon to Orange

    A couple of suggestions - if you head into the southern Rhone Le Grand Pre is exceptional. Also La Beaugraviere in Mondragon (if the truffle season has started). Guy Julien's truffle and potato salad is worth driving further than from Lyon for! You could also try a truffle omelette at the Richerenches Saturday morning truffle market. At Richerenches the serious truffle selling action is round the corner from the little retail market.
  2. Les Papilles might fit your bill. It's a 4 course daily set menu - about 31 euro last time we were there. The food has a modern edge and it is very seasonal. It's definitely informal - but you need to be able to cope with closely spaced tables. You do meet the nicest people that way though. Website is lespapillesparis.fr
  3. It's interesting how different eyes view similar experiences. In both cases (Mark Bittman and us) we're visitors to Paris, and so form our opinions on fewer visits than locals might but we reached quite different conclusions. We've eaten at three of these places (not L'Epigramme) but when we make suggestions to friends our order of recommendation would be quite different. (I guess we're not too far apart though because we'd happily recommend all of the three we've been too, just in a different order.) The one we've enjoyed the most - and which everyone we've recommended it to who's then been has uniformly reported back on with pleasure - is Les Papilles. The things that mildly irritated Mark Bittman didn't worry us at all when compared with the quality of the food, the appeal of the wine list and the convivial atmosphere. We think it's one of Paris's best value dinners. We also enjoyed his favourite Le Gaigne. Excellent service, including great tolerance, via email, as we changed the number of people in our booking twice, which can't have been convenient for such a small restaurant). But, despite that, it didn't inspire us as much as Les Papilles, and we'd have it as the third choice in this lot. I think it seemed less sure of what it wants to be. There was quite a bit of variation in the style and feel of each dish. Some were pure bistro and others quite complex with aspirations to grandeur. I'm sure this variation made us less comfortable with the whole experience. More proof that daring to comment about restaurants is a very subjective game.
  4. I can add a couple of extra suggestions to your list, mainly places that are open without needing an appointment. If you're going to be there during vintage then it's probably better to stick to the places that are set up for visitors. In the smaller vineyards, where the vigneron takes time out from his or her work to show you the vineyard and give you a tasting, they will be frantically busy then. And even places that are open to the public close for a couple of hours for lunch (including Domaine Tempier) - in Provence commonsense still rules at lunchtime. If you get to the area around Mormorion, Château Unang is also worth a visit. Like Fondreche and Pesquie already mentioned, they're another Ventoux producer that's improving the quality of Ventoux wines (disclaimer - we import Unang wines to Australia). Our other favourite is Saint Jean du Barroux, which we also import, but Phillipe Gimel, one of the most passionate vignerons in the Ventoux, is very much a one man band and so not likely to be available during vintage. He welcomes visitors, providing you're willing spend time in the vineyard, without which he says you can’t understand his wines. If you were to visit him you'd agree. Château Valcombe (near Mazan and Fondreche) is also is open to the public without appointment. (Its owner Paul Jeune is also a producer in Châteauneuf du Pâpe and he has a wine shop in Avignon called Le Vigneron Rebelle, which has some great wines.) In the Luberon, Chateau Val Joannis and Chateau la Canorgue are two good addresses as well. In Gigondas, there is a tasting centre in the heart of the village which carries the wines of many of local producers. It's a good way to try this excellent appellation.
  5. maybe it's too late but another option (and where we'd go if we had one night) is inopia - www.barinopia.com
  6. I would add the Nice bistro La Merenda to your list. You won’t find any better interpretation of Nicoise dishes than's Dominique Le Stanc’s pasta with pistou, stuffed sardines, tripe à la Niçoise, daube of beef, or tourte de blettes. There’s no phone (or credit cards, or seats with backs) so you’ll need to call in to make a reservation. The address is 4 rue Raoul Bosio.
  7. It's also a good way to get the low down on a Chinese restaurant - any worth their salt will make their own. It's often not offered as a matter of course but it's always worth asking - especially if you're eating dumplings or noodles or something else it's likely to go well with. It's very addictive.
  8. A meal I ate at Itinéraires late last year might qualify here. The dishes - even though on the blackboard most sounded quite straightforward - all had enough creativity to surprise (with pleasure) and were all delicious. Maybe the idea for the especially good jerusalem artichoke soup with a foie gras granita on the side that gradually melted into the soup was inspired by the grated frozen foie gras dish from New York’s Momofuku Ko that became instantly famous earlier last year, but even if it was, it was a sufficiently different to qualify as creative in its own right and was more satisfying than the Ko dish on a chilly November day. Neither main ingredient - the jerusalem artichokes or the foie gras - are particularly unusual but the unexpected way they were used qualified it one of my more creative 2008 dishes. Other more familiar sounding dishes, such as the mont blanc, were also uniquely interpreted. (I think that means my definition of creative is something I would/could not have imagined myself, have not seen elsewhere, and to be worth mentioning, also tastes delicious. For the restaurant to qualify as creative, most, if not all of the dishes, would need to meet the criteria.)
  9. I ate angulas here early in April 2007 (I think we had one of the last servings for the season) so they should be still available in March if they've had a sufficient supply. From memory, they keep them in running water somewhere near the restaurant and only kill them as required so that may be how they prolong the season. I'd certainly try them if you have the chance. You should be able to negotiate as many courses as you would like - it would be a shame to limit yourself just to a couple because the dishes are so memorable. Surprisingly it's not overwhelmingly filling either, apart perhaps from the very beautiful beef. I certainly wouldn't miss Etxebarri on any account.
  10. A couple of years ago I had a really good meal at Le Chiberta, which might fit the type of experience you're after. Great service, beautifully-cooked and presented food, a room that feels special, but prices that aren't as stratospheric as the 3 star alternatives.
  11. I think finding Etxebarri has just become much easier for English speaking visitors. There's now a website with an English language version, which has detailed instructions on how to find it. Unlike GPS directions, Etxebarri's description takes account of the interminable roadworks that add to the challenge. You can also make reservation requests from the website. I had a different response to the bread and butter - I can still remember it from over a year ago as one of the most deliciously simple things I've ever eaten.
  12. I'm pleased you asked that question - I didn't know Les Papilles had a website and while I was looking for a photo to point you to so you could see how the tables are arranged I found it - www.lespapillesparis.fr. It brings back lots of good memories. It looks like the price may have gone up to €31 - still a bargain. I've only ever been for dinner but they are open for lunch, possibly with a lighter menu. As you'll see from the photos on the website, it's small but there are separate tables, albeit closely spaced. Another good prix fixe set menu option is Spring. There's lots of information about Spring on e-gullet and Daniel Rose has a web cam so you can watch a meal being prepared if you want to. If you're looking for a communal table then La Cave de l’Os à Moelle is a good option.
  13. I'm not a local so I'm sure others who live in Paris can give a more comprehensive list of suggestions but if it was me I would probably reserve at Les Papilles to sit at the bar. It's a set 4 course menu and was 28,50 euro the last time I was there. The food is excellent and it's very convivial (probably partly because it's so tiny but also I think sharing the same dishes as the people around you often encourages conversation). It's not exactly near your hotel but it's not too far away either and everywhere in Paris is easy to get to if you use the metro - it's much better than getting a cab. The closest station is Luxembourg.
  14. Restaurant Magazine has also just released its list of best regional recommendations (the best restaurants that aren't in the top 50 or 100). For France they are: Mirazur in Menton Le Baratin in Paris Sa Qua Na in Honfleur Thierry Marx, Chateau Cordeillan-Bages in Bordeaux Pic in Valence
  15. Our favourite is Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken (stall 10 at the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre in Chinatown), which we discovered by reading the print version of Makansutra. We haven't been there for many years (although we're looking forward to trying it again in about 4 weeks) but nothing we've read in the meantime suggests it's lost its reputation. You'll probably have to queue - but only briefly.
  16. There's more than one Chat Thai in Sydney - the one I was talking about is at 20 Campbell St, on the edge of the CBD. I'm not sure if they are all related.
  17. Chat Thai in Sydney has a great breakfast menu. A dish called in English "Thom Liead Moo" - its menu description is a "pork sweetmeats and blood pudding in chicken consomme lightly seasoned with flash sauteed garlic, chinese celery, salted turnips, shallots and coriander" - has pork intenstines and other pieces of offal, as well as perfect squares of set blood similar to what I've often had in pho. It's a delicious dish. I'm sure that there's plenty of offal in Thai cuisine - but it's also very rare on Thai menus in Australia. My guess would be the reasons are a combination of the difficulty these days in sourcing offal in western countries like Austrralia, anticipated customer resistance on the part of the restaurant, and possible real resistance on the part of many customers when it's offered (I have no idea but I'm willing to bet that the majority of the people who eat Thom Liead Moo for breakfast at Chat Thai are people who grew up in Thailand.)
  18. I think La Fourchette in Avignon might fit what you've described. The food is delicious and there's no tricking up or fancy presentation. Every time I've been there it's been packed with locals and also the menu, while it always has some classic dishes, shows changes to reflect the season. For example, by the time you are there, if there's been some rain, there should be good mushrooms. Both of those things a good signs. I can thoroughly recommend from experience dishes like their caillettes, daube of beef served with macaroni gratin, the pieds et paquets, and the rhum baba but there are many more dishes I've yet to try that sound very appealing. At lunch, a three course meal is 31 euro or an entree and main 27. The wine prices are reasonable too. The owners Phillipe and Daniele Hiely also have a more up market restaurant but this would be my choice any day.
  19. I agree that the terrace at Christian Etienne is beautiful and the wine list is good too. I’ve only been once and we had the “cochon artichauts” menu, seven small dishes based around pork and artichokes. We were very disappointed, both with the execution and, in the case of some dishes, the whole concept. Too many things were too overworked for too little purpose for us. There were some good bits though, especially a gratin of artichokes served with a bowl of dry sautéed pork. I thought it was interesting that the day we went (in late October last year) the restaurant was almost empty whereas La Fourchette, where we’ve eaten a few times and never had a disappointing dish, much less a disappointing meal, was packed. The locals seem to vote with their feet. A few weeks ago John Talbott posted a topic about how much slack do you give a restaurant and listed some categories. I had high hopes for Christian Etienne but our meal has us veering towards his Category D “I’m not willing to go back to a place that served me one bad meal, despite rave reviews from everybody else on the planet.” It would be very interesting to hear back about what you think of it though - maybe we need to try one more time. I’d definitely follow the suggestions of others to have the tomato menu, which I’ve never seen anything but praise for.
  20. My list of suggestions is biased towards the Ventoux area because that’s where we stay. I’ve culled it to just our absolute favourites which hasn’t been easy and I suspect I’ve gone slightly over the recommended limit for a post (my apologies). La Fourchette (Avignon) - walk past here just before service and you’ll probably see the chef and waiting staff sitting down to lunch - a good sign. This is our favourite restaurant in Avignon by a country mile. Most of its customers are locals and it’s wise to book. Some of the menu seems to stay constant, including non-tourist versions of dishes such as herb caillettes, pieds et paquets, and daube of beef. There’s always foie gras served with grilled endives, which is a great combination, and a wonderful rhum baba served with Rhum Vieux-Clément. There are plenty of seasonal variations too. Le Grand Pre (Roaix) - one of the best meals we’ve had in Provence. The ingredients and the cooking are impeccable, and there's no unnecessary adornment. We went in autumn and our dishes included a rich entrée of cèpes with a peppery rocket salad, a very simple dish of jamon de Bigorre, beautifully cut and arranged around a small bowl of house-made fig preserve, roast lamb shared for two, and served with the roasting juices, a piece of ossau iraty, with a thin slice of rich house made bread and preserves, all cut and plated at the table, and a beautiful dessert of poached figs. It’s a very seasonal menu. Owners Raoul and Flora Reichrath also run an informal bistro called Bistro du’O in Vaison la Romaine and he’s written a recipe book about cooking with figs. Chez Serge (Carpentras). Friday morning market in Carpentras followed by lunch at Chez Serge is a classic Provence experience. Again, it’s a good idea to book, but we’ve seen people arrive without a booking around 1:30pm and get a table. There are some great local wines available by the glass, which is good if you’re driving. Some, like Domaine de Cascavel, are hard to find elsewhere. We’ve had dishes such as braised chicken with potatoes, caillettes with a properly-dressed salad (well balanced and no balsamic vinegar in sight - that’s reason enough to eat here!), fish on white beans, and octopus in an earthy braise, served with rice from the Carmague. They also make good wood-fired pizza. Tip: If you want to look like a local at lunch, keep your knife and fork to one side when they come to collect your entrée (first course) plate – as often happens at informal places in Provence, they don’t replace the cutlery between the savoury courses. Bistrot de France (Apt) - The epitome of why you come to France. This bistro could not be anywhere else - but it’s not just atmosphere, the food is delicious and totally dependant on good quality ingredients. Examples include a classic first course of half a Cavaillon melon filled with chilled Muscat de Beaume de Venise and fish grilled over fennel. La Loube (Buoux) - Renowned, justly, for its enormous Provencal platter, some 15 or so tastes from memory, and for its shaded terrace, La Loube is in one of the wilder corners of the otherwise manicured Luberon. Don’t make the mistake we did and order a main course as well. Take the option of platter, cheese and dessert. This is lots of fun and it’s a great drive. La Beaugraviere (Mondragon) - It’s renowned for its truffle menu, which is obviously best enjoyed in winter (this restaurant is justification for at least one winter trip to this part of France), and also for the extent of its wine list, especially its Rhones. We were here in winter and the truffle and potato salad is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. The other customers who mostly seemed to be local wine makers and truffle sellers, presumably fresh from their sales at the Richerenches truffle market, only added to the atmosphere. We were amused to see how quickly the price of a truffle omelette increases the further you get from Richerenches, where we’d been at the local truffle market that morning. It was 17 euro in the local village hall (and that included an aperitif, salad, cheese, dessert and wine) but 30 minutes away at La Beaugraviere, it’s already reached 40 euro; what price in Paris? I’m sure La Beaugraviere would be good at other times of the year as well - there were plenty of other good things on the menu and Guy Julien is a wonderful chef. L'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel (Arles) Jean Luc Rabanel was chef at La Chassagnette, the Carmague restaurant that overlooks a beautiful kitchen garden. He now has his own restaurant in the centre of Arles. He creates a single degustation menu each day, using produce from his own farm, and based on a cuisine that’s uniquely his own. This is modern, inventive cooking that pays due respect its ingredients but is definitely not bound by its location or by tradition. There’s an element of risk in this. With a chef who’s always pushing his own boundaries some individual dishes may not come off but it’s a risk well worth taking. If you request it, the sommelier will match wines by the glass to the day’s menu. Les Florets (Gigondas) Everyone falls in love with Les Florets' terrace, and with good reason. Looking across to a forest on the other side of a narrow valley, it's beguiling and lunch here is is a really enjoyable. The presentation of some dishes is a little over the top for us - a few too many squiggles of sauce and a bit much dusting of the plate - but if you can get beyond that, the food is delicious and there is a great cheese selection. Some other restaurants in the area we’ve also enjoyed: Les Abeilles (Sablet) Le Jardin du Quai (L'Isle sur la Sorgue) We’ve also had wonderful dinners at the restaurants at Hostellerie Crillon le Brave and Auberge la Fontaine (Venasque) for dinner but you may prefer places that are closer to Gordes at night. And a couple of ferme auberges. If you eat at either of these, you’ll leave convinced you’re never going to eat again! The meals are enormous and these two are both excellent. A meal typically costs about 25 euro and will include a house-made aperitif, a bowl of olives, an entrée that might be salad or slice of tart, a main course, cheese (usually local goat cheese), dessert and plenty of Côtes du Ventoux wines, typically rosé followed by a red. - L’Houmet (Monteux) - At L’Houmet they cook the selected meat of the day (often lamb) over a wood fire. The dining room is quite large and the day we were there earlier this year it was packed with locals, many of whom moved to the carpark for a game of boules after lunch, making it an interesting logistical exercise extricating ourselves without damaging the game. The lamb, served with a stew of chick peas and another of Swiss chard stems, was sensational. - Lou Mangan - Ferme Auberge Josette et Robert Morard (Caromb). Lou Mangan is much smaller - you really do feel as if the family is sharing its meal with you. We’ve had a memorable onion tart served with salad and an enormous gratin of pork and white beans, which apparently is a specialty of Caromb - the Caromb equivalent of cassoulet. Friends we’ve subsequently sent here enjoyed the meal so much they went back a second time the next week, always a good sign. These are other places that are high on our list of places to try soon: La Maison Jaune (St Remy de Provence) Le Bistro d'Eygalieres - "Chez Bru" (Eygalieres) Le Pantagruel (Cavaillon) Whatever you do, make sure you pay at least one visit to the 6pm farmers market at Velleron. It’s on every night except Sunday at that time of year.
  21. One of the main reasons we ate at Spring about a month ago was precisely because there was a single service and, more importantly, a single daily menu. We first heard of Spring late last year thanks to John Talbott’s e-gullet recommendation but we only had two nights in Paris and there were probably at least a dozen other places on our short list compiled from e-gullet and other sources. In the end, it was the messages on Daniel Rose’s blog that made us put Spring at the top of our list. To me, knowing that a restaurant has a single, regularly changing daily menu, is one of the best signals you can get that it’s seriously worth visiting. Daniel’s descriptions of his intent were compelling and his policy of a single service sent out a message that what he puts on each customer’s plate matters very much. To be able to afford to deliver the food Spring provides at the prices charged, which presumably are partly so customer friendly because there are so few staff, a single service is probably essential. I thought it worked well the night we were there. People turned up over a 30 minute or so period. That meant it wasn’t too frantic for the charming young woman who managed front of house, there was plenty of time to organise wine for each table as they arrived. It all happened with minimal fuss, and there was plenty of activity to watch in the kitchen. We were the second table to arrive and perfectly happy to wait. His instruction of a “one dinner seating at 8:30-9:00 PM“ is similar to an invitation that’s quite common for functions along the lines of “7:30pm for 8pm” – where you know if you get there at 7:30 you’ve got time to settle and chat without any expectation of starting eating until 8pm but if you don’t get there until 8pm you won’t be late. I’ve smiled, though, as I’ve read the discussions about a single service on this thread, while also reading Rebecca Spang’s The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture as preparation for a contribution to a panel at the 15th Symposium of Australian Gastronomy last week. While, for me, a single menu and a single service is a signal to put a restaurant on the top of my must visit list, in the late 18th century, it was precisely this that the inventors of ‘restaurants’ as opposed to traditional inns, taverns and eating houses, railed against. Ironically, the inn keeper’s table d’hôte, a single menu served at a set time and at a shared table was decried by the advocates of the new restaurants as inconvenient, common, and forbidding for strangers. Restaurants, which offered private tables, a menu of choices, a meal time that was not fixed, and cooking utensils that were hidden in the kitchen, were very much the flavour of the day. So those of you who are complaining about the inconvenience of a single service and the need to turn up at a set time might take heart that you’re part of a long tradition that has helped to produce the cultural artefact we all know and love. For me, though, I’ll take Daniel Rose’s turning back the clock to a previous era any day.
  22. Last week one of the waiters at Le Comptoir du Relais told us that it can also work occasionally if you drop in about midday on the day you want to go for dinner and ask if there are any tables available for that night. I guess by then they feel reasonably confident they know how many tables they are going to need for their house guests.
  23. Following up John Talbott's Anglo theme, which I've interpreted as English speaking, there's also William Page, who's an Australian, at Le Lièvre Gourmand in Vailly Sur Sauldre, north-east of Sancerre. He received a brief flurry of press here (in Australia) when he gained a Michelin star (in 2004?). Are there others with English as their first language with Michelin stars? John's digests suggest there has been one review Le Lièvre Gourmand in Les Echos in January 2006 and a review in an English paper in November 2004. Is that the level of commentary you would expect generally for a one star restaurant in the country? (My question isn't meant to imply any lack of interest in non French chefs by the press - I honestly don't know how much press a restaurant like that would expect to get - but it would be interesting to know if there is any feeling about whether being foreign is considered to increase or decrease the likelihood of being written about.)
  24. I think he is chef de cuisine at the Derby, which is one of the restaurants at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and Philippa Sibley is pastry chef at Circa in Melbourne ... but perhaps someone has more recent news of either.
  25. The Ibai in Donostia sounds interesting. Do you have its address?
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