Jouni, Atelier du Goût, à La Réserve de Nice

October 26, 2007

In March of 2006 Jouni, Atelier du Goût, a tiny restaurant near the Old Port in Nice, received a Michelin star. This was a big success for its Finnish chef, Jouni Tormanen, and his Piemontese partner, Giuseppe Serena, as the restaurant was very small and informal. We enjoyed going there for its delicious straightforward local cuisine, friendly and efficient service, relaxed ambience and reasonable prices. But the Michelin star was taken away a year later pending Jouni’s move to a bigger and fancier place, La Réserve de Nice, on the east side of the port. There were many construction and zoning delays. Linda and I went during the transition period, but it wasn’t a real test. The move was finally completed this summer.  There is a bistro and bar on the ground floor and Jouni, Atelier du Goût, transformed into a restaurant gastronomique, upstairs. There were immediately rave reviews and reports that the restaurant was always packed. So on October 24, 2007, Varian, Gary, Linda and I went for a good meal and to make CountyEpicure’s report. 

We were seated at a corner table upstairs. The views of Nice and beyond which one can see in the summer, or at lunch, were already in the dark.

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We ordered glasses of champagne and a tray of hors d’oeuvres arrived. The two of us who had à la carte prices on our menus could see that this is an ambitious venture. In the interest of research we ordered the six plate formula at 100 € each. 

After consulting the limited wine list and a discussion with the helpful sommelier, we ordered a bottle of 2005 Cuilleron Condrieu “La Petite Côte,” followed by a second bottle of the same. The red wine, which we liked, was a 2002 Domaine Gaudy, vielles vignes, Côtes du Roussillon Villages.

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The amusing and tasty amuse-gueule was a small pumpkin-like squash filled with a pumpkin cream soup with a few chunks of blood sausage, a blood sausage wafer and some toasted pumpkin seeds.

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Linda, Varian and I started with Ris de Veau poêlé en déclinaison de céleri et tombée de mendiants.  This was a crisply sautéed sweetbread on chopped apple, celery and raisins all on top of a round of mashed potatoes. It was quite nice. This version of mendiants is quite a stretch from the original which is supposed to be
almonds for the Carmelites;
dried figs for the Franciscans;

raisins for the Dominicans;

walnuts for the Augustinians;

on a round of chocolate.

Gary chose the Foie Gras de Canard en terrine, confit aux pommes,  a slice of foie gras terrine with applesauce.  

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Our next course was Velouté de crabes verts, gnocchis à la ricotta, Pistes à la plancha et spaghettis de courgettes Violin. This was a foamy cream of crab garnished with shards of grilled small squid, little ricotta cheese dumplings and long strands of zucchini. The soup was very good. The small squid grilled on a board were one of the specialties at the old Jouni.

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Our fish course was La Pêche du jour, sa fondue de poireaux au citron confit, Barigoule d’artichaut aux olives vertes du Maroc. A piece of fresh sea bass with crispy skin was served on top of a sauce of leeks and preserved lemons garnished with little artichokes, mussels and lemons. While the fish was nicely done, the whole dish was too complicated

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The meat course was Suprême de pintade rôtie, clafoutis de cèpes et foie gras, poire pochée au parfum de vanille.  Slices of breast of roasted guinea hen were served with a custard cake with cèpes and poached pear wedges topped with a vanilla foam. Once again it was too complicated. Just the meat with a clafoutis that had more cèpes in it would have been excellent.

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The cheese course was wedges of St Nectaire, Camembert and a goat cheese. They had not been out of the refrigerator long enough and seemed pre-cut.

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The pre-dessert was a chilled citrus tower that was quite successful.

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The dessert was a Soufflée à la Poire, glace au Caramel. The soufflée was so sweet I couldn’t taste the pears. As you can see in the photo, it had a sort of industrial feel to the crust, not the nubbly effect one expects.

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There were three little mignardises which were also too sweet.

This experience was at the other end of the restaurant spectrum from the old Jouni. Formality, trendiness, high prices etc have replaced the old relaxed atmosphere and beautifully executed traditional cooking techniques. One is paying for the view and to be at the “in” place. The cuisine was good except for the dessert, but was not what we are entitled to expect at the price. I did not find Jouni’s 100 € menu up to the level of the 75 € menu at Mirazur, or the 80 € menu at La Table du Cap Ferrat, which have better views. In Nice Keisuke Matsushima, L’Aphrodite and Le Diamant Noir are more inventive; while not all their dishes are successful, we come away from them feeling more satisfied than we did at the new Jouni. The lack of joie de vivre leaves little room for disappointment. 

On the Wednesday evening we were there, three tables were empty. Most of the clientele was foreign. Jouni is obviously a great talent and we wish him well; we hope he has not aimed too high.  

www.lareservedenice.com 

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