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Maison Rousseau


cabrales
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In Its "Saveur 100", Saveur (US) rates as the finest French market ("shell game", referring to seafood presumably) the Halle de Lyon. Maison Rousseau is named as a shellfish vendor and restaurant where, on a weekday morning (presumably very early), one can sample oysters, mussels, clams, etc. Escargots are also described as being available.

Edited by cabrales (log)
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There were several vendors of oysters at the Lyon Market. We had oysters late one morning last April at the Lyon market. We picked the most attractive oyster bar at which to pull up stools. In fact my notes say, it was Roisseau. I suspect it is the same place. One of us has the wrong spelling. If I've noted it incorrectly, I'll blame it on too much Muscadet.

La Mere Richard also has a stall at that market. You can find their St. Marcellin at most of the restaurants in Lyon. Until a few days ago I was still enjoying breakfast with one of the preserves we bought at the market. I'm struck by the thought this is the finest French market. We've seen some lovely markets in France, but I can't say we've ever been to one that's bigger or better in France, but it's possible that Barcelona has at least two markets that are better than the one in Lyon. Barcelona however, has about three times as many inhabitants to be fed.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I'm pretty sure it was after ten and maybe later. Maybe even closer to noon as I recall looking for a place to finish lunch considering the oysters a first course. Les Halles de Lyon is a retail market. I'm pretty sure the restaurants are open for lunch. We preferred just having a few oysters. None of the restaurants struck me as particularly noteworthy for the cooking and the raw bar was more appealing than a table for lunch.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I hate it when I know more than the cab drivers do. "C'est la Monsieur" said our cab driver while she was pointing to the Part Dieu train station in Lyon. "Non Madame, c'est la gare, je voudrais les Halles." And no matter how I pronounced it, lay ahles, layzalles, laisse hahles, she didn't know what the hell I was talking about.

Our journey had started in Ampuis. We arrived at the Marche au Vin right when the doors were opened at 9:00am. Having beaten the crowds and having tasted through the producers we were interested in by 11:00am, we were off to market in Lyon for a little pre-lunch appetizer of La Mere Richard's terrific St. Marcellin. But by the time our taxi arrived, and with the driver's confusion about where the market was (which I eventually straightened out by taking charge of the situation and barking out directions in spite of her stubbornly telling me over and over that it was in the train station,) we made it there around 12:45. After noticing a sign that said that Petrossian offered a "Menu Degustation" and sampling some terrific smoked salmon at a stand whose name I don't remember, we made it to La Mere. We bought a round of St. Marcellin, went around the corner where my friend bought a mini-baguette, and we tore our little forspeiss apart. Simply marvelous. I don't know if there is a better bargain in food then a round of the Mere's St. Marcellin for 2 euros 60.

Once that was out of the way we started to tour the market. The place was abuzz with people having lunch. I had never been there during lunchtime having only visited early in the morning or at the end of the day. But anytime you're in France and it's time to eat, a festive air permeates wherever you happen to be. In Les Halles, it manifested itself at the stands that sold oysters and other shellfish. Alll those stands had people shucking oysters and they had big platters of oysters laid out for people. Near those stands the aisles were full with people holding a shucked oyster in one hand and a small glass of white wine in the other. What a country. But one stand caught my eye because the crowd of people standing in front of it seemed disproportionate to the size of the stand. And they struck me as being in a rather good mood as well which is always a good sign. It also had seating for 6 people at a small bar area along the side of the stand. And on further inspection there was a complete restaurant that sat about 40 people. Looking down at my watch and seeing that it was nearly 1:00pm, and looking at some good looking but near empty bowls of some type of shellfish served in a broth, I announced we should try this place for lunch.

At first I tried to figure out how to get into the restaurant. There were doors but they wouldn't open. Then I circled the place and realized that the only door to the restaurant was in the oyster stand itself. Not being the shy type when it comes to food, I tried to enter the stand and at the same time asked one of the shuckers if that was the entrance to the restaurant. He looked at me and said yes, but then asked if I had a reservation. When I said no, he told me they were "complet" for lunch that day. Hmmm, if there is anything that can strengthen my resolve, it's a restaurant that looks good that tells me they have no room for me. Merde. So we decided to camp out at the bar waiting for 2 seats to open up. Fortunately, four of the six people having lunch seemed to be finished with their main dish and in less then 5 minutes all four seats opened up. We sat down and looked at the menu, placed our order and waited. Not too long after we placed our order the two gentlemen sitting next to us were served a gigantic platter of oysters. When they noticed the look of astonishment on our faces, they asked us if we liked oysters. Soon enough, they were passing some Specials No 3 our way which my friend proclaimed as being fabulous. They proceeded to tell us that the Miason Rousseau was a special place and that they often have lunch there.

We started with soupe de poissons. Different then the Provencal versions I'm used to. This was lighter and seemed to have had more tomato in the broth. But it was coarsely strained and not pureed the way many of the Provencal versions are. Really tasty stuff. Served in a oversized soup bowl and poured atop croutons that were entire slices of bread. I loaded my breadless bowl with a garlicky rouille and loads of shredded gruyere cheese. Amazingly fresh and ribstickingly good on what was a cold morning. Then we split a Marmite de Moules avec Creme et Curry. Aside from shellfish every which way, the MR specialize in marmites, pots of mussels prepared in a dozen different styles. We split a pot, and offered a plate to our newly found friends who were so kind enough to offer us their oysters. The mussels were small (as is often the case in France) but the broth was amazing. I can drink cups of that stuff anytime. With our soups we drank a bottle of 2001 Wolfberger Riesling which in spite of the non-descript producer went perfectly.

Boy were we stuffed. I could have packed it in right there except our newfound friends were encouraging us to have another round of St. Marcellin. I was trying to resist but I am conviced that we were hypnotized into ordering it. While we were sitting at the bar, they must have served twenty orders of it. The waitress, who was so gentil that she should be chosen by the French government as a role model for how their servers should act, would unwrap a round of cheese and put it in the palm of her left hand (wrapper and all.) Then she would take a knife in her right hand and slice the cheese in half. Then she would bend the cheese over the knife and pull out the right half and put it on a plate with the knife in the cheese. She would then take another knife and scrape the left half of the cheese off the paper and put that onto a plate along with the knife in it. She would then place slices of baguettes onto each plate. I believe that we saw her do it so many times that we were hypnotized by her repeated motions. And then when our French buddies suggested we have the cheese, we had absolutely no self control. Needless to say it was fantastic. I think we had a similar problem with dessert. Occassionally throughout the meal, this same waitress (or one of her co-workers) would place a plate with dessert on it, things like tarte tatin or oeufs ala neige on a plate and they would pour more creme anglaise on it then one would have thought is humanly possible. And after watching a half dozen or so of those performances, how could you resist? But what made it even more ridiculous was the price. Our lunch of two meal size bowls of soupe de poissons, one pot of mussels in curry and cream sauce, a half portion of St. Marcellin, one dessert along with a bottle of Riesling and three or four bottles of Badoit came to 50 euros and 50 centimes. And the cost of the local color at the market was free! And they couldn't have been friendlier. To a person working there, they were a smiley bunch and they loved that we loved our meal. This will now become my regular lunch meal in Lyon. I can't wait to go back.

Postcript, we had a good chat with our neighbors at the bar who we had shared food with. They were a French TV documentary director who had gone to the Tisch School of the Arts when he was younger, and who had lived in New York for 10 years, now living near the Sorbonne. And he was making a documentary about the other guys daughter. She is an up and coming classical pianist and he is a professor of classic literature at a university. But boy did they love food. When they first served us our soup and we took a spoon they yelled at us, hurray, taste the wine. We talked about everything imagineable including how he was a member of the group of diners that Adam Gopnik belonged to who had tried to save the Brasserie Balzar in Paris. But one thing led to another and I mentioned that in all the years that I had been coming to Lyon, I had always wanted to bring back one those truffle studded Sabodet sausages from the market but I couldn't find anyone that packed them commercially so I could get it in past customs. The director looked at me seriously and then said, go see SiBilia. She does this. So we had our coffee and we were off to SiBilia and I'm not sure how it came up but as we were about to leave, they dropped their voices and told us they were Jewish. It must have been at least 6 decibels lower. I leaned over to them and said "us too" which they had already figured out. Needless to say, my visit to SiBila was as successful as can be and I am actually on my way out to a friends house for dinner where she is going to cook my gorgeous sausage that is studded with truffles and pistachios for dinner and which I will report on in full later. But I learned an important lesson from my experience. The first thing is, it isn't a bad idea to eat where the locals are eating. If and when you find that place, drop everything and ask for a menu. The second thing I learned was, if you are looking for a way to get pork sausage into the U.S., find a Jew eating a large platter of shellfish and ask him how to do it.

Edited by Steve Plotnicki (log)
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And no matter how I pronounced it, lay ahles, layzalles, laisse hahles, she didn't know what the hell I was talking about.

:laugh::laugh::laugh: I'm so happy you wrote this part. When I was in the South of France I asked a few people how to pronounce Les Halles and in the South only I was told it was lay ahlluh with the last syllable deaccentuated.

Edited by stefanyb (log)
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Yeah it's a lively place. There are so many different upscale food shops in that market, I often wonder while walking around how the hell they all stay in business? And if you walk around the main shopping district in the afternoon, it is just buzzing with people. Of course I didn't write about my little promenade to Bernachon after my lunch. I was chomping on the chocolates I brought home yesterday and they were amazing! Truly a disproportionate number of great food shops there on a per person basis.

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I hate it when I know more than the cab drivers do. "C'est la Monsieur" said our cab driver while she was pointing to the Part Dieu train station in Lyon. "Non Madame, c'est la gare, je voudrais les Halles." And no matter how I pronounced it, lay ahles, layzalles, laisse hahles, she didn't know what the hell I was talking about.

But I learned an important lesson from my experience: it isn't a bad idea to eat where the locals are eating.

Took a very long time for you to "realise that it's not a bad thing to eat with locals"! Wow, I've been doing that (and loving it) for years. Maybe we just might make a true gourmet of you yet.

In the meantime I couldn't agree with you more on prononciation problems with cab drivers but I rather think that many times it's the drivers themselves that don't want to understand!

A wealthy friend of mine, an American, hailed a taxi outside the Georges V and asked for the Eiffel Tower. The driver didn't understand, he said it again, no understand, and again, no understand. It was only when he said "Torre Effiel" that the driver finally understood! And as I say this was directly outside the hotel! Mind you this is the same friend who, in a Parisien bar with a Swede, a Luxembourger and myself proceeded to ask, in a loud voice, why the French have an Arc De Triomphe "as they have nothing to be triumpant about - every time the Germans come along they lie down and surrender!" - we had to leave that bar quickly and quietly after that one!

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My first time in Paris, I could never say our hotel address, "karante katr roo hamelan" in a way taxi drivers would acknowledge. And when they got it, they would say back to me "Ah wee, karante katr roo hamelan" --exactly what I thought I had said to them!

Steve, I love it when you take the time to compose your posts like this one. They make wonderful and evocatoive reading. (Worthy of notice on the front page). Thanks.

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That's a lovely tribute to a city we also like very much. Sometime back I recall a post on eGullet that dismissed Lyon as a city not worthy of much attention. How much nicer it is to read a report from someone who's enjoyed his visit as much as we have. I can't imagine your cab driver didn't know les Halles de Lyon and have no idea what her problem was. For the most part we've had good luck with taxis in Lyon. One ride in from the airport seemed a little less direct than it could have been, but then again I was more than a little annoyed that after killing a good hour at the airport, I was riding into town with less luggage than I had boarded with in New York the evening before. Another cabbie really strained our ability to comprehend and speak French quickly enough when he learned we loved Lyonnaise food. He was quick to tell us his nephew had started working with a top restaurant in Lyon. I forget which one but it was one of the well regarded kitchens, so I was able to truthfully say he was starting off well.

We stopped for oysters and glass of wine this past spring when we were in the market. I can't remember if it was a spur of the moment thing inspired by the bushels of glistening mollusks or if it was in response to some some report buried in the recesses of my mind. I was not inspired to try the talents of the kitchen at Rousseau, but I suspect I will after reading your post. I also suspect it's the sort of post that will have a good subliminal effect in the future for some reader here.

The quality of the food in the market is probably a good part of the reason food is generally very good in Lyon at the middle level. You can get a half a St. Marcellin raised by la Mere Richard as part of a three course meal for less than fifteen dollars at any number or restaurants in Lyon. If you enjoy simple hearty food, you can eat very well for very little money--or if you enjoy exquisite chocolate, you can spend a lot at Bernachon. :biggrin:

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Actually I find Lyon to have a number of shortcomings, regardless of the fact that one can eat well and the town can be lively at times. Let's just say that if there wasn't such a strong emphasis on upscale food products there, there wouldn't be much to do there. And I also think the restaurants lag behind the ingredients. Considering how many great shops there are, I don't find that there are an abundance of killer restaurants in which to eat all of that yummy food. But it wouldn't be such a bad place to play house there so you can visit that market a few times a week.

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