Keisuke Matsushima, Nice 2

September 12, 2007

While we were still in New York in August, an email arrived from Keisuke Matsushima announcing that he and Mauro Colagreco would be serving two different surprise dinners in their restaurants on September 11 and 12. Mauro Colagreco is the chef at Mirazur; you can read the blogpost on our lunch there September 6. It is a bit too far for us to drive back in the evening so we chose to return to Kei’s in nearby Nice. The chefs, of Japanese and Argentine origin, say that their cuisine is French, but there are many Japanese touches in both of their cuisines and a bit of the pampas.   

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Our friend, Thérèse joined Linda and me. Champagne De Saint Galle was served as apéritif. 

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The hors d’œuvres were a candied tomato, a mini-pissaladière, a bit of duck breast and a mousse of parmesan.  

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The amuse bouche was a Velouté de radis noir, glace roquette et wasabi. The cream of black radish was offset by an ice cream of arugula and Japanese horseradish, which might sound like too much radish, but the flavors were muted, distinct and nicely complementary.

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The first course was Oursins de Méditerranée, sauce pimentée, espuma d’amandes.  I love the flavor of fresh sea urchin, which I usually only get in New York sushi bars. These had been put back in their shells with a peppery almond foam and were delicious.  

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Next came Fois gras de canard du Gers en bonbon, cèpes sautés, croustillant de parmesan, émulsion de champignons.  When we had Kei’s foie gras candy ball on our last visit, we thought it was an unsuccessful effort, but this one was half the size, omitted the truffles and was very good. Obviously getting the foie gras and its potato wrapping both cooked right requires precision technique in the kitchen. The cèpes, which have just come into season, were delicious and a perfect rich match under the bonbon. The raw white mushrooms with the parmesan crisp gave a fresh contrast. 

The champagne had been served up until this course and had gone well. Now we had a glass of Domaine de Bongran Macon Villages, which was surprisingly slightly sweet, a good match. 

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Then followed Filet de Saint-Pierre à la plancha, haricots coco et jambon de Parme grillé, vinaigrette de vongoles aux senteurs de citron. The piece of St Pierre, a Mediterranean fish, was beautifully cooked with a crisp skin enhanced by the prosciutto crisp. The fresh oval coco beans had absorbed the flavors of the little clams and lemon and were a perfect match. 

With the fish we were served a glass of La Lone, Côtes de Provence, Domaine de Jale   

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The meat course was a piece of Agneau de Sisteron, purée de pignons de pin et jus corsé. Sisteron lamb comes from an Alpine region north of Nice where the sheep graze on mountain grasses and herbs. It is a bit late in the season and the lamb was not tender, but was all the more flavorful for that. The pine nuts had been roasted before being pureed and had a lovely earthy taste. The garnish of wood sorrel leaves on the baby carrots was a tart touch contrasting with the slight sweetness of the other parts of the dish. 

The red wine was a 2005 Domaine du Colombier Crozes-Hermitage, a good choice as it did not need much aging.  

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The predessert was a figue noir en compote, granite violette et mousse de yahourt. The roasted fig was on a bed of whipped yoghurt and a dab of sorbet of violets.   

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The dessert was Terre de chocolat, glace « Maté » et éclats de noisettes. We had enjoyed this dessert the previous week at Mirazur. Yerba Mate is an Argentine tea. 

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The mignardises were a panna cotta with ginger, a tangerine jelly and a little macaroon.  

All of the courses were imaginative with excellent fresh ingredients and perfect technique in the kitchen. The wine pairings were disappointing in several respects, but that is not unusual.

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The friendly mingling of the two chefs warmed up the atmosphere of the restaurant’s cold décor.

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nj1.jpgOne unusual aspect, for an American, was the notable presence of Christian Perrin, a deputy editor and occasional restaurant critic of Nice-Matin.  Our tradition of newspaper reviewers doing what they can to be served anonymously doesn’t apply here. The chefs were repeatedly visiting at the Perrins’ table, which was served faster than the rest of us. The kitchen must have known when they were cooking for the Perrins, although I don’t see how they could have improved on the preparation of our dishes. And the pace of our service was fine.

We are very glad we went. 

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www.keisukematsushima.com   

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