Humidity and a scent of slightly salt sea, a light wind, darkness but the lights from the streets and the rocking boasts in the harbour, sounds of a town alive but knocking-off for the day.
The romantic settings around the old port and the beautiful houses with shuttered windows, Châteaux d’If further away in the horizon, and in sharp contrast the chaotic heartbeat of the highly industrialized city with the ugly sight of cranes, dust, smog from a continuous construction of something everywhere.
It just struck me, the dualism here of the beauty and the roughness at the same time, like in every other great and famous city of this world, I take it.
Anyway, what made me choose this particular place amongst so many temptations in a city stuffed with delectables?
Well, I have to say that the text at the website inspired me, seduced me, so to speak, I admit that. ‘Explosion of senses’ and ‘Lionel Lévy mixes soft and crunchy to arouse your appetite.’ My mouth watered just by reading it. How could you possible say no to that?
The restaurant is based on the first floor and overlooks the most stunning Vieux Port. I was welcomed by the manager (he seemed to be) and I explained that my friend was ill and so it was just me dining, to which he jested that he would be delighted to join my dinner and accompanied me to my table at the windows with the wonderful view. The interior was very colourful: Dark red walls, candy-cane striped seats, candlesticks in blue, purple or yellow, one at each table.
The au Sud Menu:
Fricassée de morilles et ailerons de volailles
Milkshake de Bouille-Abaisse
Saint-Pierre ragoût de petit pois à la menthe et coriandre
Chevreau á la cuillèe, artichauts à la marjolaine
Pommade maison de chèvre au miel et citron
Les premières fraises
I asked for a glass of wine that would suit the whole menu, or at least the first few dishes. The smiling and kind sommelier, a woman, poured Chardonnay from Loire lasciviously into my glass. The quick look I had at the bottle told me something that I noted as Cordieaux, which I have never heard of and therefore feel a bit uncertain of, whether this really was the right name. I haven’t given up yet on finding out what this was. Anyway, this wine was astounding. Apart from the dessert, it matched every course wonderfully. Even the main course.
The smell of it was weak at the beginning, rather cold, but preferable to me and had a characteristic and lovely Chardonnay flavour, dryness, fruit but not overdone and a lovely after-taste, just right.
The two first dishes marked themselves out: The fricassé and the milkshake. Both were a delight, the hight of my dinner.
The poultry breast was tender and perfectly cooked, slightly moist. The combination of the powerfully tasty skin, the cream and morels were superb. The Morels. They were absolutely wonderful and numerously offered, my luck as I love, love mushrooms and these were really delicious. The flavour of this dish was strong and intense but still marvellously well blanched.
The wine was perfect for it too, and the food added an arsenal of new flavour nuances to it and much more volume and power. The few minutes in my glass had given the wine a bit of time to develop and whispered softly what kind of enjoyment it was capable of providing me.
An amazing thing this bouillabaisse, langoustines foam at the top and underneath layers of various, well, now I’m a bit lost because I don’t remember, nor could I identify what type of fish flavours conjoined this fantastic milkshake. It looks like a dessert but in fact, it was very deletable, and like the kind waiter had explained me, in English with the adorable French accent, collecting a drop of each colour duvet, the flavours tickled my palate and was full of complexity as well as elegance. Furthermore, I could now identify what seem to me an oak flavour in the wine. I was about to ascend into heaven wonderfully surprised.
The stick on the top of the bowl, though, was a bit laborious and wasn’t needed at all here.
The third dish was the least interesting one, perhaps only because it was served in this order, what could possibly beat those two previous ones? Still I think that the John Dory fish with the pees, the mint and coriander ragout wasn’t complete. Actually, I loved the ragout and the combination of the three elements, but it didn’t go well with the fish. The size of the fish was also wrong, much too big a serving, and in a way it resembled more chicken than fish. But maybe I just don’t like Saint-Pierre, or the fish wasn’t that fresh.
The goat kid as I realise now, and not the sucking lamb I had mistaking it for, was a very concentrated course. I liked the meat a lot, both the taste and the texture and it wasn’t at all goaty. The juice was very rich, and the artichoke was wonderful and tender, it melted on my tongue, the most tasty artichoke I’ve ever had and of very high quality. But the dish lacked something that could kick the rich flavour, because it was quite bulky. I think a little pinch of sweet and sour of some kind, like marmalade, or a piece of fruit would have made it perfect, although I couldn’t tell exactly what that should be. A handful of pine nuts were sprinkled on the top, but I found that they wrong here, especially because they were the chubby ones with the special tinge, I don’t like. I prefer the pigeons, which are more strait in their form. The nuts underlined the bulky-ness, in my opinion.
I have never ever drunk a white wine to meat as a main course, and this was absolutely not my last time. In fact, I believe that a powerful red Burgundy or Bordeaux would have drawn too much attention from the goat and downed the delicate taste of the meat. The Chardonnay did a marvellous job in matching the goat and opened even more. Conjoining the two it seemed to me lifting the dish a bit from the unwieldiness of the juice and artichoke. An excellent choice this Loire wine, I must repeat.
Now the cheese. I don’t really fancy goat’s cheese, but I can eat it. This home made paste filled in a tube was spiced with rosemary and I liked that. On the side in a shot glass was whipped cream with lemon and some kind of lemon crisps sprinkled on the top that popped inside my mouth, when I ate it. Like a firework. I’ve not had anything like this since childhood eating chewing gum that sprinkled amusingly in the same way.
With the dessert my task was here to pour the tea on the side over the new fresh strawberries and eat them with the tea-ice cream served with them. Loved the strawberries and the ice cream but the tea juice wasn’t really my thing. Neither the crispy stick on the top. Also, an airer arrived with tiny bags of candy on lines, a cute performance. I still have the candies as a sweet memory of this evening.
Of course, I had to go and please excuse me, the toilets showed to be an exotic experience of mirrors, labyrinths, colours and posh inventories. I almost got lost in there, in this room of mystery.
Overall, the waiters were very charming, and fully took time in explaining me what the food was and how I was supposed to eat it; briefing me not like they were told to, but, as it seemed to me, passionately because they cared deeply. That I think was the most amusing element of my evening.
At this point, after the final mouth-freshening egg, the joking manager had become a magician and turned a white tiny sugar cubed sized thing on a little plate into a wet refreshing towel for cleaning my hands by pouring water on it.
Explosion of senses, they claim. I would say entertaining the senses. Perhaps explosion of food, which is how I felt it a bit after so many tasting courses. And why is that I always have to taste everything, always pick the largest menu, exaggerate, when I know perfectly well that I prefer simplicity and elegance? I was quite full. The disadvantage with a tasting menu is that the waiters are on you all the time. Every other minute brining a new plate or removing another. I wasn’t provided enough time to drift into the complete pleasure of simply enjoying the good food and just make mellow.
Don’t misunderstand me, please, the food was very good. Marvellous? The wine and the view definitely were, and the two first dishes too.
Une Table, now I think of it, is a grand foodie’s kindergarten, an amusement park for food lovers like me, the colourful interior, the joking waiter, the mysterious loo and the fun way that the food was being presented and named. I felt was almost like 10 years old again, with the bracelet around my wrist providing free rides over and over again (alone sometimes as I was an only child until the age of 12) in the beautiful Danish amusement park of Tivoli.
Tuesday, 24 April 2007