La Palme d’Or, Cannes

September 10, 2008

As we had to be in Cannes early the next morning, Linda and I decided to spend the night of September 5, 2008 at the Hotel Martinez and dine at its famous restaurant, La Palme d’Or, with two Michelin stars.  It is strange that elsewhere in France deluxe hotels are trying to include highly-rated restaurants as a drawing card, but in Cannes the Majestic abandoned the excellent two-star Villa de Lys last year and the Gray d’Albion gave up the two-star Royal Gray several years ago. La Palme d’Or’s chef for many years was Christian Willer, but he retired last year, turning it over to his associate Christian Sinicropi, who is also now food director for the entire hotel.

The dining room has a glass wall on the side toward the sea which can be folded back allowing the terrace to become part of it. This opens a loophole in the excellent new French law banning smoking in restaurants, but not if they are outdoors. The man in the yellow shirt chain-smoked through his entire meal, but the wind was not toward us so we were not bothered except by the idea of it. This photo was taken from our table when we sat down just after sunset, or the time between the dog and the wolf, as the French say. Two hours later there was an excellent big fireworks display right in the opening between the trees.

The Taittinger champagne trolley was wheeled up to our table right away and we each had a glass. We ordered a bottle of Domaine Hauvette, a Provençale red wine which we had discovered in Arles last year. It was served so cold that moisture was beading on the outside of thebottle, but after a little time in a decanter, it was very good. The amuse-gueule was crisps with cumin, poppy seeds and sesame seeds, plus  salmon lollipops and lemon gumdrops presented in “the iron mask.” This is a reference to The Man in the Iron Mask who was famously imprisoned on Ile Sainte Margarite just offshore. Many of the serving plates have been specially made for La Palme d’Or at Vallauris, a nearby town famous for its pottery.


We ordered the summer tasting menu. Its first course was

L’ÉCLOSION LUMINEUSE    

L’ESCARGOT
aux parfums de citron du Pays et d’un sirop à l’ail nouveau,
confit de tomate au jus de viande

THE SNAIL
flavoured with local lemon and a garlic syrup,
candied tomato with a meat juice

The base of this dish was snails in a thick garlic foam with a bit of lemon. That could have been quite nice, although not an original flavor combination. But the “candied” tomatoes had a very strong flavor which did not go well at all with the basic dish. The presentation was very bling bling; the glass with the food was enclosed in a faux large ceramic eggshell with lights underneath.
 
 
LA PÂQUERETTE

LA LANGOUSTINE
rôtie, glace fondue comme une bisque, voile blanc parfumé
aux feuilles de verveine et brunoise de melon gorgé de soleil

THE DUBLIN BAY PRAWN
roasted, melted ice cream as a « bisque »,
white veil flavoured with verbena and splits of melon

This was quite nice, although the small size of the langoustine on its stick is a bit frustrating, even in a tasting menu. The shellfish bisque ice cream is a good idea.
  

LOVE

LE LOUP SAUVAGE DE MÉDITERRANÉE
effleuré à l’huile d’olive fruitée, coeur d’une niçoise
aux parfums d’Italie

THE WILD MEDITERRANEAN SEA BASS
cooked in a fruity olive oil,
heart of a « Niçoise » with Italian fragrances

Here the chef really got carried away by his special plates. You can see that the plate spells out “LOVE.” You can also see that the vegetable garnish on top of the fish was cut into hearts. The problem was that the fish was dry and with little flavor. The sauce was bitter, inappropriate and unpleasant. This was more show biz than cuisine. 
     

LE TEMPS QUI SE DÉPLACE

NOISETTES D’AGNEAU
cuisinées à l’Argan et déglacées à l’Amaretto,
pulpe d’amandes et délicats fruits de l’ instant

« NOISETTES » OF LAMB
cooked with Argan oil and Amaretto liquor,
almond cream and fruits of the moment


This was very good. The lamb was flavorful and tender. The contrasting lamb kidney was nice and crisp. The fruit garnish was not sweet and went well. I am surprised that they say “cooked” with argan oil as I thought it should be added at the end.

 

LA SÉLECTION DE FROMAGES AFFINÉS
par Monsieur Mons « Meilleur Ouvrier de France »

THE SELECTION OF CHEESES
matured by Monsieur Mons « Meilleur Ouvrier de France »


The cheese selection was excellent. There were not too many that they could not all be at the perfect stage of ripeness. I did find it curious that they did not use the local Maitre Ceneri of Cannes as their providor. 

LE CHOIX DE DESSERTS « PALME D’OR »

LA PÊCHE
biscuit amande cuit vapeur, fraîcheur de lavande et pêche de vigne
THE PEACH
almond biscuit cooked « vapeur », freshness of lavender and wild peach
   
    

There is no fixed dessert for the tasting menu. We ordered the peach from the à la carte selections. Those are colored white chocolate petals. The peach is topped with lavender ice cream in an almond pastry round. The bottom photo shows the pre-dessert in little glasses and the mignardises; they all arrived at the same time as the dessert due to complications from the suspension of service during the quite long fireworks.
 
LE CARROUSEL GOURMAND

To close the meal we were given some more mignardises on a carrousel.
 
The meal had been okay with three very good courses: the langoustine, the lamb and the cheese, but it was not close to the level of a two-star restaurant. Perhaps the hotel doesn’t care if it puts its two-star status at risk. The Michelin Guide has been very slow at withdrawing stars on the Côte d’Azur. Issautier kept his second star for years after he was no longer at that level and Jacques Maximin kept his after his restaurant was deplorable.
 

The Palme d’Or’s website

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