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Published: November 6th 2019
Cathedral upon Cathedral, mounting to the sky
A stroll down the banks of the Saone at night reveals one gorgeous sight after another.
Since drinking wine is now impossible, however shall I while away the time here in Lyon, the home of French gastronomy?
Any suggestions? What was that you said? Eat?
Well, anything to keep you happy.
Right then, let's get started
Michelin-starred restaurant #1
PrAIRial is a tiny little place just the other side of the Saone from us. We reserved for 8 p.m. to avoid the rush, and walked in to find only four other diners. Guess Tuesday night is slow everywhere. Yellow and white chairs, white table cloths, pale wood and white painted stone, along with a vertical garden growing out of the wall to my left (a tribute to the local plants used in flavouring here.)
The servers assured us that they had no idea what the chef would make tonight – “it is all a surprise” – so our only choices were in which of the three tasting menus to order. Great! We go all out and order the “Randonee” – nine different courses! Susan gets the wine pairings to go with her meal. I do not. Sigh.
Of course, I had spent some time reading about the place and had
even looked at a copy of the seasonal menu for October that they had posted on line. Had to look a lot of stuff up on the online dictionaries, but it was fascinating. Since I didn’t want to miss any nuances of the meal, the waitress, pleasant lady, said she would try her English out on us so I could keep up. Turns out it wasn’t that hard as many of the items were exactly the same as those from the October menu. I guess that was the surprise. Although more surprised was the waitress when I was able to translate, for HER, the French words for tansy and lovage when she could not recall the English.
After the first couple of mouthfuls, I gave up all pretence of sophistication and wrote down as many notes as I could without actually neglecting conversation with my wife. Assume small servings.Here they are:
1.Amuse-bouche. A) A tiny pastry with corn purée and herbs; b) a mouthful of shredded kohlrabi marinated in fresh o.j.
2.Soup. Warm pumpkin soup served over mustard/hazelnut ice cream.
3.Cepes over pike caviar, on buckwheat cake, tansy foam.
4.Huge scallop with cauliflower purée, lovage
White Burgundy bliss
Susan's favorite wine of the night
and apple juice, couscous.
5.Sea bream, “Paris” mushroom, black radish, parsley root sauce.
6.Thin slices of pumpkin and celeriac making a “turnover” with a filling of the coral-like “sparassis” fungus.
7.Filet of red deer, beets, beet purée, juniper berry infused jus.
8.Goat cheese “ice cream” with pine nut syrup, wild thyme.
9.“Pre-dessert”: mirabelle plum sorbet, candied butternut squash dice.
10.Dessert: buckwheat spongecake, finely chopped hazelnuts, dried cepes powder, quince ice cream? sorbet?
11.Meadowsweet cream in the pots, hazelnut mousse, in the spoons, two kinds of chocolates, candies the exact nature of which I forget. Sorry, overwhelmed.
More than nine, then.
Susan’s wines: another time, perhaps.The thing they all had in common was their complexity. All changed flavor from the nose to the mouth to the first or second sip. A little different from our usual swill!
It was complicated, fascinating, entertaining cuisine. Cost with wine, since you are dying to know, including Susan’s warm-up glass of champagne, my pear nectar and a bottle of water, tip and taxes: 225 euros.
Was it worth it? As entertainment, yes. Flavor? Hm. On a scale of deliciousness 1-10 where 1 is just
I don't know what you call this course!
Lessee, we had a pre-dessert, a dessert and then this. Post dessert?
edible and 10 is life-altering, I’d put it at about 5. Only the pumpkin/mustard ice cream soup stood out really stood out. Maybe it was too subtle for us. Interesting textures, true. But not terribly satisfying either to the palate or the appetite. Susan could see all of the other tables and she said the men were stuffing themselves with the (no doubt delicious but which I can’t bloody well EAT) bread which was offered on the side.
I went home and had a yogurt, thinking wistfully of meatloaf. Susan had powerful desire for a big slug of cheap red wine.
Overall, it was like our previous Michelin-starred meal, this one in Brittany. The amuse bouche was a stunning cup of lobster “cappuccino”, lobster foam on top of cauliflower purée, one of the best things I have ever eaten. 9.5 on the “what the hell was that and how do I make it?” scale of deliciousness above. If only I could blank out the memory of the nasty, acid tomato sauce which came with my seared tuna main course. Great start, then a let down.
Guess I am just a culinary peasant. So be it!
It has now just gone noon here and we need to go out and get some lunch. I’m thinking Italian!
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