Roanne, France / July 13, 2009 / lunch
Winederlust Rating (details below): 9.0 out of 10 / Winderlust Worthy: Yes
It took us about an hour and a half to drive west from Lyon to Roanne, on the edge of Burgundy, a one-horse town pretty much centered on one of France’s star restaurants: Troisgros. It’s actually been around in one incarnation or another since 1930, when it was run by the grandparents of the current owner and chef, Michel Troisgros. In the ‘60s the place was taken over by Michel’s father, Pierre, and his brother, Jean (the famous “Troisgros brothers”) who were awarded three Michelin stars in 1968 and have managed to keep them ever since.
The restaurant itself was a little stuffy (which was what we had expected it to be), somewhat like a hotel lobby with blond wood and all of the (solely male) waiters looking very serious. However, there was a gorgeous patio with comfy lounge chairs out back -- too bad it was too hot to eat outside that day (it was 38 degrees Celsius or about 100 degrees Fahrenheit).
Since it was lunch and we'd need to drive back to Lyon afterward (plus we were hoping to hit some wineries in Beaujolais and were still pretty jet-lagged and not feeling 100 percent), we opted for a half bottle of the 2005 Yann Chave Crozes-Hermitage, a red from an up-and-coming producer in the Northern Rhone, to go along with our tasting menu of 147 euros each, not very creatively titled “Impressions d’été” (impressions of summer). As we would come to realize was commonplace at these types of restaurants in France, Jay was given the menu with prices while I, the innocent female, received the one without. (Jay also thought that the waiters, all men, didn’t look me in the eye while describing or presenting the dishes, but I honestly didn’t notice. If so, it was more subtle than when we went to India last year!)
We started with three amuse-bouches, one of warm tomato on a stick in sesame seeds, one a rectangle of something like polenta, and one a mini puff pastry with poached tomato – all slightly sweet and very tasty.
Next we moved on to Jay’s least favorite dish (I was ok with it), Maquereau au cassis (mackerel in cassis). The pickled mackerel was completely overpowered by a strong cassis sauce, so it definitely was not a very balanced dish.
Maquereau au cassis (mackerel in cassis).
After that, the dishes started coming in rapid succession with hardly any time to digest (or take notes). The mackerel was followed by one of the most delicious of the evening, the Gnochettis d’artichaut à la sardine, à peine fumée (pretty easy to translate). The gnochettis were actually made of artichoke and filled with an artichoke puree – very creative and yummy. Then they were topped with a cube of sardine and a mini orange peel, and served with thin slices of potato.
Gnochettis d’artichaut à la sardine (artichoke gnochettis with sardine).
The next dish was probably our favorite of the evening – and maybe even of the trip thus far. The Moules de bouchot et fèves, à la peau de lait (mussels with a milk skin) was a delicious “egg package” that appeared to be made of cheese stuffed with mussels, chanterelles, fava beans, and butter, and served in what tasted like a seafood stock. Though it was incredibly rich, it was also incredibly delicious.
Moules de bouchot et fèves, à la peau de lait (mussels and fava beans in a milk skin).
The next dish was also very yummy – Mezzaluna de pomme de terre, girolles et truffe, basically a potato ravioli with mushrooms and truffles served in a rich mushroom broth. Jay called it his “favorite mushroom soup ever.”
Mezzaluna de pomme de terre, girolles et truffe (potatoes, mushrooms and truffle).
Then we moved on to the fish dish – Cabillaud à l’eau de tomate et à la pastèque, which was a codfish with tomato, watermelon, and a broth with tomato flavor. This was a very nice, well-balanced dish. The fish was thick and flavorful, the broth was tangy, and it was perfectly cooked.
Cabillaud à l’eau de tomate et à la pastèque (codfish in tomato broth with watermelon).
Time for the meat course. I had been dreading a heavy beef dish that I would not be able to eat, but luckily it was Beignet de pigeonneau aux amandes fraîches, a heavy but extremely tasty dish of pigeon with a roasted seaweed-like topping served with fresh apricots and a mélange of smoked tomatoes, artichokes, almonds, and peas. The contrast of the tangy apricot with the meaty pigeon was a great flavor sensation on the tongue.
Beignet de pigeonneau aux amandes fraîches (fritter of squab with fresh almonds).
Then the crazy cheese course was wheeled over – more cheeses than we’d ever seen at one time outside of a store. There were probably about 40 different kinds, and we could basically point to however many we wanted and we’d get them all.
The cheese cart.
We restrained ourselves (our stomachs wouldn’t let us do otherwise) and asked for three each. (The guy sitting beside us ordered about 10 and apparently polished them all off.)
Our cheese selections.
Though we had no clue how we would eat any more (or ever eat again), there were still the desserts, and we knew the French like to serve their desserts many times over. The first was Sabayon à la verveine et au chocolat, a sabayon (whipped lemon verbena custard of egg yolks, sugar, and sweet wine) with raspberries on the bottom, chocolate on the top, and chocolate ice cream – pretty good, and we managed to shovel it down.
Sabayon à la verveine et au chocolat (lemon verbena sabayon and chocolate).
Next came a selection of petits fours, and then the Mikimoto à la poire et à coriandre, and finally the Nage de cerises, granité Campari et glace basilic, a Campari granité with cherries and basil ice cream – an interesting concept, but we had to make sure we had the “right” spoonfuls of each item to balance the bitter and the sweet.
Mikimoto a la poire et a coriandre (mikimoto of pear and coriander).Granité Campari et glace basilic (Campari granité with cherries and basil ice cream).
And then it was over. Three hours and 15 minutes of food with not a moment to spare (though I did manage to get up to hit la toilette three times). It felt like we ate a ton of food, and maybe we did, literally.
Overall, it was a solid meal with some creative flourishes. We weren’t totally wowed, but we were also very satisfied – though was that enough for the price we paid and the amount of fat that we ate? It was really too early to say – we’d need to eat at more restaurants of the same caliber and pace before we could tell. Onward to Pic tomorrow for round three! - by Liz Humphreys, Winederlust Eater in Chief
Winederlust Rating Details (out of 10):
Food: 9.5 (preparation, presentation & taste)
Wine: 9.0 (selection, recommendations, pairings & taste)
Service: 9.5 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 7.5 (location, view, decor & vibe)
Price Range: $$$$ (Incredibly Expensive)
Hôtel Restaurant Troisgros / Place Jean Troisgros 42300 Roanne, France [map]
Direct Line (33) 04 77 71 66 97