April 2, 2008

20-22 avenue du Maréchal Foch; 04 93 62 98 24

(April 1, 2008)  As we wander around Nice and other cities, we gather cards from restaurants that look interesting. Unfortunately, it is an entirely different matter to actually eat at any of them, but this year we have tried two and both were worthy of note.

The first was La Taverna di Pulcinella about which one can read a little in “Sound Bites” in the Nice section of Country Epicure, and the second, L’Aromate, was so good that it deserves this more extensive article.

The entrance is into one of two intimate dining rooms backed by a white-tiled kitchen visible through the glass walls and doors that separate it from the tables.

We ate in the main room to the right which seats less than 20 people, with its black ceiling shined to a mirror-like finish, blond wood floors and one whitewashed stone wall. The other walls are green flocked wall paper, prettier than it sounds, the table runners are green and so are the napkins. Even the bill came on green notepaper.

The dinner menu, when it turns from a noontime bistro into an evening gastronomique restaurant, is limited and choice. A 50€ menu includes two appetizers, a choice of calamari or beef and a choice of two desserts.

The 70€ menu offers the same choice of main dish an dessert but serves two more appetizers. Each course is also available à la carte. The menu changes irregularly, and maybe even just a course or even a dish at a time.

Our smaller menu began auspiciously with the crab entree served in a small bowl with a ginger-flavored gelatin, fennel emulsion and topped with foam. The mix of tastes, consistencies and temperatures worked very well.

The fresh pea soup that followed, served in a cup and saucer, smacked of a great fresh pea taste punctuated with small pieces of smoked ham and slivers of lettuce to provide a nice crunch. On top of the cup rested a thin, bagel-shaped cracker with a whipped cream of something in the hole which sat atop the soup itself.

Both of us delighted in the Charolais beef, crusted on one side with peppercorns and salt, and garnished with mashed potatoes, colored green from parsley and flavored with garlic, that had been sculpted into 5 or 6 rounded oblongs about the size of your thumb. Each little mound was topped with an incredibly thin, transparent crisp with a perfect parsley leaf in its center. This has to go down as one of the best but simplest beef dishes ever.

Desserts continued the seduction, one a round tart filled with warm and creamy chocolate, the other a rectangular mille-feuille layered with marscapone ice cream, a fruit purée, and then decorated with thin, cooked apple slices standing on end.

At table, the friendly twenty-something quite knowledgeable and very helpful waitress poured a warm caramel sauce over it.

The wine list was as select as the food menu but very fairly priced. We had a superb Cote du Rhone for about 42€ but even less expensive wines were offered.We were the only people there, and given our appreciation for the food, we hope that they will make it.

There was a Nice Matin review posted on the door–one we had missed in their Saturday magazine. There were only two men in the kitchen and the young lady in the dining room so they aren’t laden with staff salaries but they still need some diners to provide revenue.Maybe their lunch business is good enough to carry them for a bit.

The neighborhood is a strange one, down the street from a major insurance office, but across the street from a provocative men’s underwear store called “Nice Boys” next to a bar for “Happy People.” Quite chic.

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