le déjeuner au Vauban
I ate lunch last Thursday at my favorite restaurant in Antibes–Le Vauban. I mentioned in the last post that there can be a difference between eating establishments in France but that the lines between them can often be non-existent. However, for Le Vauban I use the word “restaurant” with purpose. It is truly a cut above other places that call themselves restaurants. What it offers to their diners will seldom be found in brasseries or bistrots. I doubt that l’équipe at Le Vauban would call themselves other than a restaurant team.
You may remember that I posted a similar photo last winter. I will describe what I saw and what I ate in the two hours and fifteen minutes I spent eating a five course meal, “le menu découverte.”
Notice that outside of Le Vauban one does not see tables for eating à la terrace. The prices on the slate cartes are similar to what you see on the menu inside. La formule for the day, a three course meal, is 19,30 euros or about $25.00. That price is the best deal, but it does not include wine or bottled water.
Inside the décor looks simple but elegant. My table had white cloth tablecloths and napkins, a fancy wine glass, and a place setting. It had one setting because I made a reservation, obligatoire. I sat down, and I had already been served by two servers, one who took me to my table and then took my order–le menu découverte–and the other who offered me an “amuse-bouche.”
The “menu découverte” with its accompanying wines, four glasses in all, consists of five courses–two entrées, a fish dish, a meat dish, and finally a dessert. (An entrée in France is, by the way, the first course, the entrance or entrer, into a meal, not the main course as it is in Portland.) Le menu découverte is series of dishes that are not on the menu but are chosen by the chef and are special to this meal. I did not receive just the five courses, however; I was served an amuse-bouche, two small tasty bites to start the meal. They were a small olive bread-like item and a glistening, bright red cherry tomato that had been encrusted in a hard shell much like candy apples.
Following the first amuse-bouche, a second one arrived that consisted of a small glass pot with a salted crème brulée. It was delicate and smooth with a small hint of salt.
My first glass of wine arrived, a Petit Chablis, and then there followed the first entrée. I wish I could tell you the French words for each dish mais . . . hélas . . . it was not written down and my memory is not that good. Each dish when it arrived at my table was described with flare as only the French can. The first entrée was a delicately poached egg, floating on small bed of mushrooms in a foam of . . . of . . . hmmm. I don’t know. That course was finished and the place settings and plate were removed. I had finished the wine, a generous serving, by the way, and the wine glass disappeared.
The second course arrived and so did a glass of rather mildly sweet white wine from Southern France. It drank well with the house foie gras, accompanied by a fig confiture and a small macaron. Dishes and glass disappeared, but I am not noticing when they are taken away. The wine was good.
The third course came with a fancy fish knife. It was a maigre, a fish in the loup family. Loup in Franch means wolf but not in this instance. It is a type of white fish. I am not sure of the spelling for “maigre,” which means thin. Again, I received a white wine and a generous portion was poured. Whew! I am floating by now.
Next, I did not see another course right away. Instead the owner of the restaurant came by and greeted me. She remembered me from past visits during the winter months. She brought me a palette cleanser to help transition to the meat course. It was a frozen shaved raspberry liqueur–framboise–in a very small goblet.
Finally, a red wine, one from the Côte du Rhone region, for the meat course, a series of delicately cooked medallions of pork with a concentrated sauce around them. They melted in my mouth.
The dessert finished the meal. It was an intense lime sorbet and fruit encased in a short tower of very thin, crispy, and fragile cookie. Gorgeous. I am surprised that I remember it after the glasses of wine. (Notice that my paragraphs are becoming shorter and shorter.)