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Ken Fox

Les Aventures en Corse (Corsica)

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I'm just completing a week in Corsica, just at the end of the tourist season here, so it is most likely that anyone reading this will be interested for next season, rather than for now. So be it.

I divided my week in Corsica into two venues, because I wanted to get a feel for the island but at the same time did not want to spend all my time in the car, driving, which would be easy to do since this is a fairly large island.

I arrived in Ajaccio but immediately drove north to Piana, which is very close to Porto. Piana is just around the bend from "Les Calanches de Piana," a beautiful area that abuts the sea and which has some superb hiking trails (which is why I went there in the first place). It is not a dining destination and not a place I would go if I was seeking fine dining above all else. I did find one pretty good restaurant, located in the hotel "Les Roches Rouges," in the small town of Piana. While not "star" quality, the food is very good, creative, and well plated. The wine list is decent and the prices are very reasonable. I had a first course of a salad with scallops around the periphery, and a main plate of steak, which was served in two pieces and resembled tournedos rossini (filet mignon) in shape but was clearly not that cut of meat; it was more like an entrecote. It was good but a bit stringy, as French beef often is. I had the cheese plate and not dessert. The cheese plate had only 3 different cheeses however the portions were quite ample. This was all washed down by a good Calvi AOC Corsican red, that cost about 25 euros on the wine list. The other place I ate in Piana, twice in fact, was just this side of edible. It is called "Le Casanova" and from what I heard is the best of the cheap "edible" places. The pizza and the fish soup were not half bad. Once again, Piana is not a place that you visit seeking a gastronomic experience.

After 3 days in Piana I moved on to the other side of the island and spent 4 days in Erbalunga, which is 8km up Cap Corse from the metropolis of Bastia. As to Bastia, it is a rather charmless relatively large city, at least from what I experienced. I don't think it is viewed as a major tourist destination, although a lot of people enter the island via either the airport or the port of Bastia, and most move on quickly. Erbalunga is rather charming, if small, fishing village, and it boasts a very nice hotel (Castel Brando) which has 3/5 stars and is quite nice. Across the street in the village proper, which abuts the sea, is a 1-star (Michelin) restaurant "Le Pirate," which is very good and fully merits its star. This is a seasonal restaurant that is about to close now for about 5 months, and I think I hit it just at its ebb; it would probably be better in mid season, but now they are getting ready to close up, and there aren't many diners coming in. Nonetheless, it was excellent and the service was excellent also. I especially enjoyed the fish soup, the risotto de poulpes (octopus) colored with "l'encre de seche" (a squid-like creature), and the cote de veau (veal chop). The cheese selection was a bit limited and the one dessert I had (a lemon tarte) was good but not exceptional.

The wine list is good and has a very extensive selection of Corsican wines at very reasonable prices.

I'd rate the place as a very solid one star fully meriting its rating and well worth a visit or two.

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