La Bastide Saint Antoine 1 & 2

October 16, 2006

Our restaurant holy trinity is The Gramercy Tavern in New York, Pierre Gagnaire in Paris and La Bastide Saint Antoine in Grasse.  We have been a fan of Jacques Chibois’ since he was jcb.jpgthe chef at The Royal Grey in Cannes twenty years ago. We followed his wanderings after that and were thrilled when he finally got the financing and permits to convert a bastide in an old olive orchard in the Saint Antoine suburb of Grasse into a fine restaurant.  We have followed his continuing expansion of the place, its joining Relais et Châteaux, its award of two Michelin stars and this year’s naming of him as a candidate for a third star. We have eaten there several times a year since its opening, including many Christmas Day lunches. We enjoy his easy manner when he comes around to shake hands and chat after the meal. And we particularly enjoy his fine Provençale cuisine, with its superb ingredients and careful preparation. Linda and I went for lunch on October 12, 2006, a lovely fall day. They were still serving outside, but just on the terrace around the bastide, not under the chestnut tree where we had lunched in May. We were quite surprised to see six empty tables. For weekday lunch there is a menu at 55 €, which is one of haute cuisine’s great bargains. jca.jpgThere is a special menu for Sunday lunch, or at Christmas. A Menu Senteurs at 140 € and a Menu Decouverte at 180 € are always offered, as is à la carte.The first amuse-gueule was simply bread and Chibois’ olive oil. He is a big promoter of the regional olive oil, and its black truffles; he has several special days featuring them. Then came four delicious little creative tidbits. We had a coupe of champagne with peach liqueur as apéritif. Linda started with the eggs scrambled with asparagus and the local black truffles, which she enjoyed as much as her regular favourite starter: the lobster with a champagne risotto. I had the girolles (wild mushrooms of the season) in a salad with jcc.jpggreen beans, chunks of good foie gras and a scoop of foie gras ice cream: delicious.   We were then brought a surprise fish course of tuna cooked in olive oil, with olive confits on a bed of fennel, garnished with squid ink on one side and a red infusion of poppy petals on the other. Very pretty and tasty. We didn’t see this offered to anyone else so I think it reflected our frequent diner status. It was also in the direction of the inventiveness that may be a criterion for the third Michelin star. I suspect that Chibois’ devotion to Provence is what has kept him at two stars.   I then had a caramelized piece of pork rib with three little filets mignons of pork. The rib piece was similar to the chunks of bacon which are so popular in Italy now, and one finds in New York; it was much meatier, but wasn’t as strongly caramelized, although I would have liked that better. It was accompanied by an eggplant purée and diced salsify. Linda had the osso buco (off the bone) under light, flat ravioli pasta sheets; it was superb. We were then offered three pieces of cheese. This is not shown on the luncheon menu, but seems to be offered to everyone. There were a slice of Puligny, a pyramidal goat cheese, a slice of Beaufort and a Chibois special concoction of shredded cheeses mixed with hazelnuts etc.   For dessert I had roasted pears with a caramel foam and vanilla ice cream. Linda had the little chocolate tarte with apricot coulis and a cacao sorbet. We chose a Columbian and a Blue Mountain from the espresso menu to finish with the tray of friandises. jcd.jpgWe had an excellent bottle of Domaine du Pegau, Cuvée Laurence, 1995 Châteauneuf-du-Pape with the meal. The wine list is very strong on wines from the Rhône Valley and Provence and is not overpriced for a restaurant in this category. The service was friendly and efficient throughout the meal. The whole experience: the welcome, the ambiance, the cuisine, the wine, whatever was excellent. We shall return soon.

 jce.jpg

This was our lunch under the chestnut trees in May with Blair & Karyn, my godson and his wife, apprentice food lovers.  

www.jacques-chibois.com

La Bastide Saint Antoine  2 

There have been several disturbing reports on Chibois recently. John and Carol were disappointed in October. Gastroville, a good blog into exacting haute cuisine, roasted it last month. Now our contributor, David, reports from their lunch at La Bastide on February 17, 2007: 

For the first time it did not meet our standards. We arrived promptly, as ordered at 13.00. The restaurant was full, and we did not get out till 16.00. Just too long for a lunch ordered from the menu choice. 

For starters we had “La merveilleuse Fricassée de Champignons de Bois au Petit Ravioles” ordered by our cousins. They felt the mushrooms were not up to standard, and the dish was too liquid. 

Frederique had “La grosse ravioli, Truffiere de St Jacques, Crevettes, rouge et noir” She liked it, but to my taste the dough was too thick and the sauce too rich, and I could not taste the truffle. 

My starter was “L’Escalope de foie poêlé avec cuisse de cailles rôties, douceur de choux fleur d’amande truffée.” I thought the dish excellent and the best of the starters we tried. 

For the main dish, the cousins had Carré d’Agneau rôti à la Tapenade, legumes nouveaux. They found it ok, but not cooked as requested “rosé.” 

Frederique’s choice was “Le Royal de Chevreuil, Coing, Chou rouge au figue, purée de coco.” We found it just passable. 

Mine was Les St.Jacques Rôtis sur purée de Haricot Blancs, truffée de Trompette de Bois, again just passable. 

The 7 euro espresso arrived cold.  My summary would be that they are taking on too much: too many people at the same time, too long a menu, too long to wait.

http://www.jacques-chibois.com

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