La Bastide Saint Antoine 4
March 27, 2008
It seemed natural to celebrate Linda’s birthday by dining at Jacques Chibois’ restaurant. He has been one of our long time favorite chefs and Linda doesn’t let such attachments weaken when the critics, including me, start to quibble that Chibois isn’t up to what he used to be. So on March 24, 2008, we took advantage of his “Forfait Gourmet” which includes a room for the night, a gastronomic dinner for two (with wine) and breakfast the following morning. We were warmly welcomed and given a room one level above the forfeit entitlement as they were not full that night.
When we came down to the dining room, our table was set with two souvenir copies of the Menu Découverte. Glasses of Taittinger champagne were poured. We discussed the menu with the maitre d’hotel and said it looked excellent as proposed. Late March is the end of the truffle season in Provence and we would have local black truffles in the first six courses.
The amuse-gueule was a little root vegetable tart, a squid and wheatberry mix, a foie gras and asparagus cube and a velouté of fava beans. (We had just had the first little fava beans of the season from our own vegetable garden as the amuse-gueule for or Easter lunch the day before.) They are one of the delights of the region.
The first course was
Le fin Mousseux de Champignons aux lames de Truffe et Foie gras
This is a signature starter dish of the restaurant and is always very good. It is a classic treatment of traditional luxury ingredients and is not very creative, but it is sumptuous.
The second course was
Le millefeuille de grosses Pommes de terre à la purée de petits Pois truffée, jus de poireau
This was okay, but lacked real interest. As we had finished our champagne, we were served a nice Sauvignon Blanc from the area around Nîmes.
The third course was
Le Caviar de Pâtes aux Truffes avec son salpicon de chanterelles
We really liked this one. Pasta pearls were served with diced chanterelle mushrooms in what seemed to be a truffled veal reduction. I think this should have been served after the fish so we could have moved on to red wine with it and to separate it more from the somewhat similar first course.
The sommelier then served us the 2005 Vino di Gio from Clos St Vincent in Bellet. It had all the good characteristics of its rolle, or vermentino, grape which has been grown there since the Romans.
The fourth course was
Le majestueux sauté de Truffe, Crevettes, Saint-Jacques aux Artichauts, Tomates, Févettes, Huile d’Olive et Jambon sec
This had too much going on, left no impression and it reminded me of the overly complicated cuisine we frequently found in ambitious restaurants in Australia last month.
The fifth course was
Le Carrelet simplement truffé sur sa douceur de pois Chiche, concassée d’Olives noires
This was nicely done with the puréed chickpeas and black olives creating a consistent theme, but I find plaice a boring fish and my piece was dry.
The sixth course was
La Royale de Chevreuil et poitrine de Caille, Caramel salé, coulis de Betterave truffé
Putting a quail breast with a very rich and tasty mound of shreds of venison made no sense at all. The venison “royale” would have made a good and sufficient course.
We were served the red Vino di Gio, which was interesting.
The ninth course was
Les grains de Caviar Myrtille sur leur neige glacée à la Banane, Chocolat Blanc, jus de Concombre Citronnelle, petits points de Caramel Balsamique
This was okay, but it was going in six different directions.
It was a pleasure to be able to walk upstairs to our comfortable room. The sommelier had been generous refilling our wine glasses.
After our last meal at La Bastide, Sept 15, 2007, I wrote of our disappointments with the service. This time the service was superb. It was efficient, friendly and paced just right. The whole ambience was excellent. The maitre d’hôtel, the waiters and the sommelier took the time to chat with us about whatever was being served.
I also wrote: “I have the impression of a well-trained kitchen staff on auto-pilot. The choice is enormous with different dishes in each of the three prix-fixe menus and the à la carte menu. I wonder how they can maintain fresh ingredients and cooking skills for so many items, even with the high volume they have been able to achieve.” Well, this situation has not improved. We enjoyed the evening, but there was little inspiration in the cuisine. The cheese tray was more show business than cuisine. In the photos I can count 48 different cheeses.
The evening we were there the main dining room was two-thirds full and the side dining room was closed. But they were undoubtedly full for Easter lunch the day before and probably for the entire week before that during the enormous real-estate congress in Cannes. They are probably already fully booked during the Cannes Film Festival and the Monaco Grand Prix in late May when the outside terraces will also be open. This may be a formula for a successful business, but that clientèle is not the kind which wants more than what it is now being served here.
I would recommend to anyone to go to La Bastide in nice weather and enjoy the reasonably priced luncheon menu under the chestnut trees, or inside throughout the year.
For the blogpost on our September 2007 meal, click here.