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Cuisine: French traditional Provencal cuisine

Visit: August 2012

Price: Medium (Depending on what menu you choose: an assortment of starters is generous for €11 per person, main courses around €25; degustation of 10 specialities & 5 desserts for €35).

Chef: Jean-Didier Mathis and his team received in November 2011 the distinction of “Maitre-Restaurateur“, the highly acclaimed title for French restaurants preparing all their authentic meals on premises with the freshest ingredients.

The old village of Gordes

Atmosphere: Friendly, authentic and casual. During the warm summer evenings, you will find  most diners eating either outside in the garden or in a covered terrace. The restaurant is located in the quiet part of the old village of Gordes, which is very popular with tourists. Clos de Gustave is not a touristy place serving fries and simple meals, many locals and travelers from far away alike come to dine here because of its friendly service, family atmosphere and excellent authentic Provencal food. You can wait sometimes a bit longer for your order, but it does not spoil your evening, unless you are in a hurry somewhere. Who is rushing in Gordes, though? The warm, welcome feel the waiting staff spreads across the restaurant makes one feel relaxed and  happy. Later, your patience is also rewarded by the great food the chef and his team prepared.

Food: Seasonal, fresh, authentic. The menu changes every day and features fresh seasonal produce from local markets. After being served a fresh home-made white bread with olive oil, you can savor the Sampler starters, selected daily by the chef. These are an excellent opportunity to try something very local. Every time I dine at the Clos de Gustave, there is something new and tasty in the starter selection.

During our visit this summer we were treated to a fresh cantaloupe melon infused with sweet wine, cherry tomatoes with mint and local goat cheese, excellent white fish ravioli sprinkled with parmesan and herbs, a bowl of green salad with olive oil and a concentrated yet refreshing vegetable velouté. It was all simply amazing with the chilled velouté and ravioli winning all of our palates.

Guinea Fowl Caramelized with Honey

As my main course I ordered the Free Range Guinea Fowl Caramelized With Honey and Fresh Figs. The wing and thigh of Guinea fowl was roasted with lavander honey giving the meat juicy sweet texture. Fresh herbs including sage were tossed all over the plate not only as a decoration, but they also added a breadth to the otherwise boring guinea fowl meat. Well-cooked and genially accompanied with sumptuous and sweet figs, this was a guinea fowl that would please even the less excited fans of this bird on a plate.

Gigotin of Lamb

Gigotin of Lamb Roasted With Delicate Anchovy Cream in French called “souris d”agneau” was basically a lamb shank cooked in the oven, drizzled with anchovy cream and green rocket.

The main meals are usually served with mashed potato and one vegetable side dish. On this occasion we were given a juicy and steaming ratatouille ( the typical French vegetable stew). They both went particularly well with the succulent lamb.

Goats cheeses board

Instead of a dessert we went for a selection of fresh local goats cheeses – one plain, one with red peppers, one with herbs and a creamy one with a rind. They were served with local sweet jelly and perfect with the bread baked every morning at Clos de Gustave.

Drinks: From a regional aperitif such as pastis to the national pride of the French – the wines, you will be drinking for a great value. The wines are sourced from independent wineries in the area. We had an excellent local Merlot once there, but this time we ordered Château Les Eydins Cuvée des Consuls 2010 from Luberon. This organic blend of Syrah, Grenache and old Carignan had a fresh acidity, sweet tannins and concentrated dark fruits – all included. Paying €34 for a wine of such character was indeed a pleasure!

Opening season and hours: From late March till mid November every evening from 7:30 pm (except Sundays).

Contact: tel: +33 (0) 4 90 72 04 25

Address: Route de Murs 84 220 Gordes, France

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Cuisine: French gastronomic

Visit: August 2012

Price: high (appetizers around €30; mains well above €30)

Amouse bouche

Chef: Xavier Mathieu seasonally reinvents the Mediterranean cuisine. Textures, colors and nature are his inspiration to recreate the old provençal recipes he knew since he was a child. He was awarded one Michelin star and is an author of a cookbook called “Provence Voyage Culinaire” (“Culinary voyage through Provence”).

The refreshing restaurant’s interior

Atmosphere: The restaurant is located at a tranquil Hostellerie Le Phébus. This luxurious hotel is a member of the high-end Relais Chateaux group. During the summer most guests prefer dining outside at a spacious terrace. The views from here are soothing and the water running from the fountain in the garden has meditative effect on your senses. It is a great romantic spot for couples as well as a calming retreat for busy city dwellers. Listening to the continuous hum of cicadas and sipping on your wine is a dream-come-true for many stressed citizens of the modern world. Here you can dress up, unwind and savor the calm.

Food: Creative, good-looking, but lacking original, enjoyable and engaging flavors. For me as well for my dining partner the food was quite bland and boring. The only reward was the final cheese plate we each selected from a luscious cheese board.

Fish and potato Brandade

I had selected an appetizer from the chef’s special menu called “Mon histoire, ma vie” (My history, my life). The Brandado vo gangasso, morue aux poireaux de Mémé Rose, pavé mosaïque looked artistic and was good. However sophisticated was the name though, the Salted cod fish with Mémé Rose viennoise leek tasted more like a dish I would get at a basic tapas bar or a brasserie for a fifth of the price. It was just salty and that was it, I could not find many other flavors in this dish.

Another rich yet boring starter was the Cold crayfish “vichyssoise” soup with potatoes and fennel. It was not bad, just not as interesting as one would imagine for a Michelin star restaurant.

Vichyssoise d’Ecrevisses

The main courses were not much of an upgrade. Again they looked interesting, but there was not much substance under the cover as they were just good enough to eat, but many would not return to try them again.

The Adobo Provençau, Joue et queue de bœuf aux carottes, miel, moutarde de betterave et baies de genévrier or Cheek and beef tail with carrots, honey, beets mustard and juniper berries was far from being a grandmother’s meal as well as far from bursting with complex flavors.

Roasted scorpion fish

I liked the Roasted scorpion fish, tomatoes, squid and garlic “bourride” with Espelette roadpepper the most, although I would not serve it with the chewy squids. The sauce was rich and the peppers juicy adding flavor to the sauce-friendly scorpion fish. The same fish is often used in France in the Bouillabaisse soup.

Finally, as we saw the cheese trolley, we had not been able to resist and each picked goat, sheep and cow cheese. They were all in great shape and excellent cheeses. I would say a highlight of the dinner.

We did not trust the menu any more, so we did not order any desserts. We were more curious about the petit fours trolley. It was fun as we selected candies, cookies and marshmallows to go with our tea at the end of the dinner. I had to order my favorite verveine tea so popular in this part of France. This herbal leafy tea has a soft citrus aroma, yet it is soothing after dinner.

Drinks: The French wine list entails many low production wineries from the region. On the sommelier’s suggestion we got a bottle of elegant red wine from Domaine Hauvette 2004 vintage. It was not cheep. At €122 per bottle it was not a bargain, but it satisfied my highly selective palate as most of top Bordeaux would have at a much higher price at a restaurant. There are champagnes, white, rosé and red wine by the glass as well as digestives such as Porto and aperitifs such as the local scary (at least for me) green Pastis.

Opening hours: In the season open daily for dinner, closed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for lunch.

Contact: +33(0) 4 90 05 78 83

Address: Route de Murs; Joucas; 84220 Gordes; France

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La Mere Germaine in Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Cuisine: French traditional bistro style; Southern Rhone cuisine

Visit: August 2012

Price: medium (three-course lunch menu €23; four-course dinner menu €37)

This vibrant and friendly restaurant was first opened in 1922 by Madame Germaine Vion, who was previously the chef at the Élysée Palace in Paris. Thus the name of this iconic Chateauneuf-du-Pape restaurant was born. Recently it was renovated and reopened by its new owner Andre Mazy, who also monthly selects special local wines for wine enthusiasts visiting from all corners of the world. During my visit, there was a large Chinese group wine tasting in one of the rooms, but the wine tasting area is separated from the other dining rooms and we had a relaxed lunch with tremendous views of the vineyard-dominated Southern Rhone landscape.

Terrace at La Mere Germaine

Atmosphere: Casual, artsy and fresh. There are three dining areas. The first has been infused with art as paintings hang, sculptures stand and wine is being tasted there. The second has huge old windows and a mirrored wall allowing the natural light from outside to lighten up the room. The last is a terrace protected from the Mistral wind by windows built into arches, so you can savor the sun and fresh air without your napkin flying all over the place. You can wear anything you want except a swimming suit. It is a very casual place where locals cross with foreigners. Although the entire menu is in French, the friendly staff will explain to you what each dish is about.

Restaurant inside & view

Food: Traditional yet innovative with daily change of the lunch menu so one never gets bored by the food there. There is usually one fish and a number of meat courses, vegetarians will have to request something special unless there is already something suitable on that day’s offer. The food is honest, the portions generous and it is intensely tasty – no salt and herbs was spared on preparing these meals.

Since the food is changed daily, I will try to give you an idea, what it could be like from the dishes we had during our Monday lunch at La Mère Germaine.

We tried all the three appetizers on offer. They were all delicious and each of us went for something appealing to his/her palate.

Fish Terine

The Terrine de Poissons Aux Herbes, Tartare de Tomates was delicate, full of flavor and quite a light starter. The fish in the egg-based terrine was freshened up with herbs, and zesty chopped tomatoes on the side added juice to the otherwise dry terrine. It was perfectly balanced and excellent with a glass of a medium-bodied white Rhone wine.

The cantaloupe melon was in season and most of restaurants in the region included it in their menu either in the classical melon with ham or in a more sophisticated starter. At La Mère Germaine they have adopted the later. The Fraîcheur de Melon et Caillette, Gaspacho de Melon was a complex starter. With a side of a small cantaloupe gaspacho, the chopped melon slices with herbs and vegetables made into a salad and a meat terrine there was a little bit of everything. The gaspacho was refreshing and not too sweet, the salad with melon resembled more Asian style of fruit and veggie mixed salads and the terrine was a based on a great quality meat. With a dish like this though one struggles to choose the right wine to pair it with. I would say, that anything medium-to full-bodied should work. Just avoid feeble or crisp white wines.

The third starter of Foie Gras Confit, Chutney de Melon Jaune, Cake à la Verveine was another story in terms of finding the right wine match for it. An aromatic even slightly sweet white wine would do perfect and even a fruity and juicy red would cut through the fatness of the duck liver. Another great use of cantaloupe in this dish. (I almost think they must have had over-production of melons this year in France). The sweet character of the melon chutney combined with a verveine (verbena) infused cake instead of the commonly used bread was a unique and surely very tasty accompaniment to the delicate Foie Gras.

Foie Gras Confit

From the main courses we went for the Filet de Cabillaud Roti, Matignon de Légumes et Coques, Fleur de Courgette Farcie. The roasted cod filet with vegetables, cockles (small mussels) stuffed in a courgette flower had not a fault. It was an interesting way how to prepare cod in an engaging fashion. White wine is a must as seafood combined with fish and green vegetables rarely go with red, unless there is a rich sauce such as tomato or a meat juice.

And finally, the real carnivores would be delighted by the Gigot à Agneau Rosé, Pommes Croustillantes, Légumes Sautés, Tomates Confits. The traditional chunks of cooked veal were served with potatoes, sautéed vegetables and conserved tomatoes. If one was still hungry after eating the big thigh of veal, then a dessert would fill the gap. We had space only for a cup of coffee and tea and a wine tasting in front of us so we had to preserve our stamina for the afternoon happenings. Judging from the neighbors’ plate, the sweets looked delicious, so if you are not in rush, just savor one of them without hesitation.

Veal Filet

Drinks: The wine list is specialized on the Rhone Valley wines for great prices at a restaurant. The Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines are listed by vintage with the oldest wines reaching over 40 years back. The owner offers a special local selection of great-value-wines each month. Nevertheless, there are some Burgundies, Champagne and other lesser known wines from around France. We drunk first a local white wine from Domaine Lou Devete 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc Les Poéses de Marie.
It is a blend 50% Grenache Blanc and 50% Clairette aged for 6 months in barriques (small oak barrels). The production is quite small. Depending on the year it usually reaches about 1.300 bottles. It was refreshing yet deep and ideal with our appetizers. Later we ordered another lesser known red from Domaine du Lampourdier 2010 from the nearby Côtes du Rhone appellation. It was intense with a hint of spice from the Syrah in the blend. Great and juicy wine with the beef, but a bit too intense for the fish main course.

Contact: +33 (0) 4 90 22 78 34

Address: 3 Rue Commandant Lemaître; 84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape; France

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Cuisine: traditional Italian

Visit: July 2012

Price: Medium high (see the menu board bellow).

Eating in a garden in St Tropez might be a dream of many travelers. At Casa Cri the dream comes true and it is not too fancy as in other similar establishments in St Tropez.

The menu board at Casa Cri

Atmosphere: Friendly, energetic and casual. The service is like your uncle handing you a plate of great food cooked by your grand mother, it feels very homey and friendly. Sitting under the giant old trees in the garden brings the right tunes to your holidays. Relaxed, enjoyable and

Food: Authentic, unpretentious and based on high quality ingredients.

From the appetizers if one wants go for something fresh and light the Carpaccio di carciofi (Artichoke carpaccio) would be the right option. It is served with a refreshing and slightly bitter green rocket, parmesan and olive oil adding a bit of mild texture. If you do not like raw artichoke with its harsh texture then this carpaccio is not for you though.

Bresaola carpaccio with rocket and parmesan

Try a meat version of the Bresaola carpaccio also covered with rocket and parmesan shavings. This one I liked much more. The delicate and soft bresaola is so lean and savory, that I could have a plate of it twice. An excellent starter with an elegant red wine.

There are many main courses like Veal Milanese or Branzino (Sea bass) whetting ones appetite at Casa Cri, yet the pasta is the reason to come here. Their pastas are simply perfect. I wish I could cook pasta like the Italians do, it is something about doing it XX times so one masters it so well that it is perfect almost always. Cooked al dente (not too soft texture) and tossed with the sea shells, sea food, juicy tomatoes and aromatic fresh herbs, I devoured the linguini in a matter of a minute or two, how great they were. The red chianti we ordered was my helpful guide aiding my metabolism.

Linguine di frutti di mare – Seafood linguini

The desserts are very popular at Casa Cri. Just looking at your neighbor’s table and you hardly resist. From tiramisu, panna cotta and chilling and refreshing sorbetto served in fruit shells you can also get fresh fruits like pineapple or strawberries.

Drinks: I rarely have Italian food with other wine than from Italy. The Italian wines are made for their food as the curvy Florence was made for magnificent hillside pallazos. My brain and my palate desired a chianti, so Castello di Ama won me over. What a great wine! With my bresaola carpaccio as well as with the Seafood linguini it worked marvels. The rich tomato sauce in the pasta made them suitable for this deep yet elegant red wine. The perfect balance of flavors is what the Italians have mastered over the centuries of their love affair with food.

Opening hours: From April till October from 7:30 pm, except July and August, closed on Mondays

Contact: Tél. + 33 (0)4 94 97 42 52

Address: 12 Rue Étienne Berny 83990 Saint-Tropez, France ( It is a tiny street so do not miss it.)

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Cipriani has always been the Venetian treasure known under the name Harry’s Bar. As the restaurant was growing around the world it took the last name of its owner Giuseppe Cipriani and today the family’s fourth generation is in charge over this, now global, restaurant empire. Its newest addition to the family album is the Cipriani in Monte-Carlo. The interior is designed like a luxurious yacht so originality of experience is guaranteed. The only design faux-pas to me was the huge photograph of the ex-F1 manager and luxury entrepreneur Flavio Briatore hanging in the middle of the restaurant reminding the guests that he was one of the investors in the project. It seems that Mr Briatore surely has a decent ego.

Cuisine: Italian

Visit: July 2012 & April 2013

Price: High

Atmosphere: Fresh, elegant and focused on service. Nevertheless, the service was not yet spotless at the Monaco’s branch freshly after its opening in 2012. The waiters were flickering their limbs around creating the atmosphere as if one was at a royal party or a ball, yet it was not enough to manage everything perfectly. Nevertheless, I must happily admit that the service has got much better! During my dinner there in April 2013 everything was brought promptly and the waiters were very pleasant. The dress code is smart casual – jacket, but no tie needed and ladies can wear just nice dress, but not flip-flops please. It is quite a fancy place, which nothing unusual for a big name Monaco restaurant, so I would wear something fashionable to fit in.

Monaco’s own Cipriani

Food: For the high price tag you will not get a good value for money, while you can just head 10 minutes East to Italy and eat like an Italian king for at least half the price. I learned that it is important to choose the right dishes as well as drinks there. From the appetizers I would recommend the Buratta with tomatoes and basil. This dish is purely about the freshest ingredients and that was managed at Cipriani with excellence.

Burrata with tomatoes and basil

The Asparagus with goats cheese was nice but a bit boring. Perhaps the most interesting was raw Artichoke with parmesan. After mixing the parmesan into the starter it was very good. All the above dishes went very well with our intense Italian Chardonnay.

Artichoke with parmesan

Some of the main courses are a different story. The Veal Escalope (Milanese style) was very dry, which for such a classic dish was a major minus. My sister ordered Sepia with the black ink and polenta and was shocked that she got a huge plate of black ink and so little polenta, no wonder she got sick later in the night. The fish was much more enjoyable. It was grilled just right, no excess oil and very fresh. The only drawback was a side salad served with the dish. It was bitter and boring. The pastas are superb! Cipriani is known for its homemade pasta and they make them perfectly al-dente at all of their upscale restaurants – from London to New York. The Spaghetti with seafood are superb. Served in a large ceramic dish, the waiters leave the pasta next to your plate so you can serve yourself as much as you can. The dish also keeps the pasta warm for longer than they would normally stay if served on the plate.

Veal Milanese

The dolci (deserts) selection is shown to all guests on a tray. It looks good, but nothing stirring the palate. Where was tiramisu or pannacotta? The first was on the menu but not displayed on the tray. There were rather some cakes of rather international character than purely Italian. We got a slice of some flabby creamy cake, boring enough that one spoon was sufficient.

Drinks: Members of the Cipriani Club have an access to a private bar and terrace upstairs, the rest of us can have a drink at the restaurant’s bar left from the main entrance. To have your aperitivo is a must at a true Italian establishment. We have ordered Belini, a cocktail made of champagne (or prosecco) and peach pure and were not disappointed. A perfect start to the evening. The wine list is prevailingly Italian. Ordering Antinori’s white Chardonnay was a safe bet, although not a cheap one. A bit oaky to my palate, rather resembling New World Chardonnay, but it went well with our food or politically incorrectly said it made the food better. On another occassion we ordered much cheaper white Gavi di Gavi from Scolca, yet it was quite weak with the food. It is rather a refreshing aperitif than wine matching up cheese and many of the pasta dishes.

The after dinner cappuccino I had in July 2012 was a disaster! At a vending machine in Milano’s subway I get a better and a much cheaper deal. The foam was airy, not creamy enough and the coffee too strong for a cappuccino, it was resembling the French take on this otherwise delicious coffee speciality.

Opening hours & Contact: Everyday 7pm to Midnight; Tel: +377 93 25 42 50

Address: 1, Avenue Princesse Grace, 98000 Monte Carlo, Monaco.

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