Living in France doesn’t necessarily mean every dinner out is a great one, or even a pretty good one. Recently we had 2 meals that were at opposite ends of the spectrum—an extraordinary meal and the worst bite of anything I’ve had in a long time. Saving the best for last…
There’s always a lot of chatter (to put it nicely) about authenticity. A recent dinner at a place that will remain unnamed (so my friends who took us there will remain friends) had a menu where someone decided to embellish some Niçoise standards. Steak tartare, rather than having an egg yolk to mix in, was topped with what they called an egg Benedict which was essentially an almost raw egg, with all the appeal of a big slimy blob. Not quite the “oeuf parfait” (perfect egg) as promised on the menu—but wait there’s more! Without a doubt, the taste most likely to cause PTSD belonged to Frank’s dish, a take on linguini with clams, made with pappardelle and a seafood broth that was about as inedible as anything has ever been. Retching wouldn’t have been polite, so I tried to swallow it quickly and kill the taste with some bread and a big gulp of wine, all the while wondering if Frank was going to have a massive bout of food poisoning. It turns out he was wise to the vile broth and attempted to eat the pasta without touching the toxic waste at the bottom of the bowl. We won’t be going back there!
On the flip side was a tasting dinner at Rustique in Lyon. It’s a 1-star Michelin restaurant, that was one of the best meals either one of us has had in years—Frank maybe forever. It’s a 10-course tasting menu that even when you’re full has you yearning for more. While there was an underlying theme throughout groups of dishes, every bite had something different and delicious to offer, down to an almost microscopic green sphere that turned out to be the seed from a leek flower.
One almost wishes that there was one day a week, or maybe a lunch, where you could order à la carte and revisit some of your favorite dishes. My order would include more escargot—the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth snails ever. Some of the catfish turned into tarama, enclosed in pastry and fried like a tiny croquette, would also be on my wish list. Other highlights were the tiniest frogs legs to dip into a mousse of egg and feta, the ris de veau and three courses of dessert, ending with tiny chocolate ice cream bars, and a chocolate mousse that was warm and wonderful to dip a madeleine in the shape of a teddy bear into. We can’t wait to go back there!