Tétou, Golfe Juan
October 14, 2008
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.
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.