Tétou, Golfe Juan

October 14, 2008

There is a lot of discussion about who serves the best or the most authentic bouillabaisse.  I will not get into the argument as I have not been to the fish shacks on the corniche near Marseille or some of the other contenders. I can say that the bouillabaisse we had in the Old Port of Marseille was terrible. My great bouillabaisse world begins and ends at Tétou, on the beach east of Cannes at Golfe Juan, famous for being Napoleon’s landing place when he escaped from Elba and started north toward Waterloo.

Linda and I went for lunch on Tuesday, October 7, 2008. There were a total of eight customers; (the table of four shared three orders.) This will come as a shock to those who think of Tétou as the hardest reservation to get during one of the many festivals or congresses in Cannes, but there was not one this week.
There are a few choices for main courses, but, for almost everyone, there are only three initial decisions:
1. Do you have one of the four light starters which include salade Niçoise, charcuterie or melon. We did not.
2. Do you order your bouillabaisse with or without langouste, (Mediterranean spiny lobster?) There seems to be little question that including it is not authentic or traditional, but it would add a lot. The extra cost is not a factor; if that is a concern, you are in the wrong restaurant.  We stayed with authenticity.

3. What wine do you order? On sitting down we ordered a bottle of Domaine Paternel Cassis. This white wine from the coast between here and Marseille is excellent with seafood. Many people believe all the brouhaha about how good rosé wines have become and order them here. Too bad for them.

The table is already set with a soup bowl, croutons and a little bowl of rouille, mayonnaise with garlic and cayenne, that is traditional with bouillabaisse. The soup bowl is later changed for a hot one.

There is a small, busy kitchen opening onto the dining room. Tétou is named for its founder in 1920, the great-grandfather of those who run it today.

The heart of bouillabaisse is its soup stock made from small rock fish, fish heads and trimmings with Provençale flavorings. There is no fixed recipe, but typically it might include tomato, fennel, orange peel, garlic, onion, thyme, bay leaf, clove or pastis. Usually olive oil and saffron are added after the broth has been strained. From its flavor I would guess that part of Tétou’s secret is a generous portion of good saffron. The whole fresh fish are cooked in the broth and taken out. The hot soup is then presented in a tureen for spooning into the individual bowls.

One starts with just the soup. I like to balance a glob of rouille on a crouton. In that way its keeps some of its identity as you eat it with the soup.

At Tétou sliced potatoes are cooked in the broth and presented separately. I think they are an excellent addition as they add material substance in a way that the fish does not to what is a strongly flavored, but liquid meal.

The platter of fish is presented at the table and then taken away for fileting while we start on the soup.

At the top of the platter you see a rascasse, which is the one essential fish for bouillabaisse. It has a certain fishy coarseness that is needed. Its cheeks are the best part. I think that is the Saint Pierre on the right, a rouget grondin on the bottom left and a daurade hiding underneath. The little crabs add flavor to the broth, but then are just decorative. A conger eel is regarded by some as essential, but not here.

The first plate of fish has the filets of the rouget and the Saint Pierre. It is placed on top of the tureen for easy serving and to help keep both warm.

Here you can see my bowl with a filet of Saint Pierre, potatoes and a crouton with rouille. While this is the approved way of eating the fish, I find that one should keep it somewhat separate so that the flavor is not overwhelmed by the broth.

When we finished the first plate, it was replaced with a fresh one containing the filets of the daurade and the rascasse. On the left you see the rascasse cheeks.

We really didn’t need anything else to eat, but we were persuaded to try the tarte with fresh berries. It was excellent and a good palate freshener. In the spring, before strawberries are in season, they serve fresh, hot beignets with house confitures.

Finally, there was a good cup of espresso.

The meal was excellent. True, it was not a varied menu, but the flavor of the broth is so complex in itself that one does not get bored with it. I think that Tétou‘s bouillabaisse is a good compromise between the original fisherman’s soup and our more refined tastes. The ingredients are first class and the fish very fresh.

Tétou has no website. The telephone is 04 93 63 71 16; (fax 04 93 63 16 77.) Credit cards are not accepted. The bouillabaisse is 96 € each, (30 € more with the langouste.) Wine and dessert are on top of that so bring plenty of cash. Tétou is closed Wednesdays and November through February.
I did not get a photo of the process of deboning the fish. To see two good ones, as well as the grilled sea bass, click here for Luxeat‘s blogpost.

7 Responses to “Tétou, Golfe Juan”

  1. ChuckEats Says:

    Wow – that looks, and sounds, pretty good. I’ll add this to the list of places to try.

  2. Sally McKinney Says:

    Your description makes me want to book a flight.

  3. Trine Says:

    It really looks and sounds gorgeous. And great photo of you both together.
    But is it really 96€ for the broth??

  4. Michael Says:

    No, the 96€ includes the fish, the potatoes, the rouille, the croutons, the service and the ambience.

  5. Trine Says:

    Thanks for the quick reply, Micheal. But if you say it was excellent it seems worth every penny – and a try if I’ll be in the area. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  6. Galen Says:

    That is the best picture of you and Linda – there is something so painterly about it – beautiful food and wine, sunshine, sandy beach and the sea. I want to be there – as you know we have most of those elements in abundance except for the first two.

  7. […] the perfect way to start the day. one night while i was waiting for my dinner companion in front of tétou, i quickly sketched this view of the golfe-juan hills. Comments france, golfe-juan, rae […]

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