May 31, 2006
Linda and I went for dinner at Kei’s Passion on May 30, 2006. It received a Michelin star this year and is surely one of smallest and sparest. There are twenty seats crammed inside and another eight on the terrace fronting a little park off a shoddy stretch of the Rue de France. (Trivia question: Do you know why Nice is the only city in France with a Rue de France?) Young Keisuke Matsushima says that his cuisine is more Provençale than Japanese as he has trained in Montpellier and near Avignon, but I thought that there were plenty of Japanese influences in the food and there were three tables with Japanese clients. We had a glass of champagne to start. We ordered the “Mai 2006” 90€ menu, or 130€ with four accompanying wines, an option we took. There was a very elaborate amuse gueule plate with some exotic devices, sort of faux-Adria. (and including pineapple, which is one of Kei’s fetishes.) An excellent piece of local red tuna with a zucchini purée followed. Then there was a filet of rouget with a lemony gel (more Adria); then a nice piece of St. Pierre with two tasteless pieces of grilled calamari. A very nice grilled pigeon with girolles followed. The pre-dessert was a lemony yoghurt and the dessert a complicated meringuey thing with pineapple as they had run out of the cherries which are the fruit of the season. The wines were a Sancerre; a strange, but interesting Burgundian chardonnay; a cabernet/merlot blend from the Roussillon; and a Loupiac with the dessert. Except for the Sancerre, the bright-eyed young sommelier hid the labels and had us guess the wines, but they were not typical of anything so it was sort of a dumb game. (As Dan Quayle was no Jack Kennedy, Kei’s Passion is no Astrance.) He refilled our glasses as needed, but the wines were just okay, not ones to guzzle. The service was friendly and efficient. The clientele was quite mixed: some French, but mostly foreigners. Many were puzzled by the whole experience, but none were loud or distracting. Actually, it is probably better to go in the tourist season as one could get claustrophobia if the front were not opened up. I imagine that Kei will follow the lead of Jouni, the other young Niçois chef who got his star this year, and get a bigger place soon.