L’Hostellerie Jérôme, La Turbie, 3

October 27, 2008

When Bruno Cirino reopened the Hostellerie Jérôme nine years ago, we were one of his first clients. We used to go once or twice a year and were happy when he received his first Michelin star and then the second.  But with all the other promising young chefs to try on the Côte d’Azur it had been over two years since we had been back. That is extraordinary, considering that it is a well-merited two-star restaurant only twenty minutes from our house. So on October 18, 2008, Linda and I went for dinner to celebrate the end of our excellent olive harvest this year.

The welcome was warm as always. Linda ordered a glass of champagne and I had the house apéritif, champagne with fresh bitter orange. Citrus from the Menton or Ventimiglia markets is a regular feature at L’Hostellerie Jérôme and this combination worked well.A little hors d’œuvres plate arrived. The menu choices are a three course menu at 65 €; a big menu, our choice, at 120 € or à la carte. The wine list is enormous and has many good selections from Provence, including the three districts of our department, the Alpes Maritimes: Bellet, the Iles de Lérin and Clos Saint Joseph. We ordered a bottle of 1995 Domaine Tempier “Cabassauo” red Bandol. It was suberb. As you will see, the menu is arranged in a way that is not really wine friendly with interspersed fish/citrus dishes, but we simply drank water with them.

The amuse gueule was the same as always, a warm duck pâté in a pastry crust, greens arranged to make it look like a turnip and a truffle cream sauce alongside.

This is very rich compared to most amuse-gueules, but  it is good to satisy our hunger so we can slowly enjoy the meal.

The first course was
Salade de petits calamars à la citronnelle

The center slice of fresh Menton lemon had been roasted, which caramelized it a bit and softened the acidity to go with the curls of squid and the artichoke slices.

Petite cocotte de cèpes aux noix, comté fondu à la truffe

The season for cèpes is just starting. These were top quality and had a great flavor. The walnuts went well and added a welcome crunchiness.

Pasta et fagioli aux truffes et homard

This takeoff on a traditonal dish used fresh Coco beans and curly little pieces of pasta. The lobster pieces had good flavor, but the sauce, while nice, didn’t have any obvious lobster or truffle flavor.
Foie gras de canard des Landes rôti aux poires et romarin

The center cut pear slice had been nicely caramelized, like the lemon in the first course, which went well with the seared chunk of duck foie gras.

This course was not on the menu and came as a surprise offering. Here the roasted fruit slice was of a small clémentine, or tangerine. They are just coming into their season here. There was also a section of clémentine and zest on the lightly cooked langoustine, but they did not overwhelm it. Excellent.
Filets de rouget de roche poêlés aux choux sauvages

The rouget filet was fresh and perfectly cooked with a crispy skin. The green seemed to be the small variety of chard (blettes sauvages) popular here and the white chunks its stems, a good match with the rouget.

Aile de pigeonneau rôtie en cocotte aux olives noires

The squab had been cooked in a rich stock with black olives and chunks of pear. Very good.

We declined the optional cheese tray, although it looked good.

The first dessert was
Millefeuille aux fraises des bois, glace à la vanille

These little wild strawberries continued the succession of suberb local produce which had marked the meal. The ice cream was redolent with vanilla.

The second dessert
Tarte fine au chocolat amer, glace aux noisettes du Piémont.

Fresh hazelnuts are also now in season in the nearby Piedmont. They are a classic combination with chocolate and made a flavorful ice cream. The richness of this dessert was alleviated by its not being too sweet.

The mignardises
Sorbet de fromage blanc, tartelette de framboises

Whipped fromage blanc, or white cheese, is a classic French ending and was nicely adapted into a sorbet.

The meal was excellent and enjoyable. Bruno Cirino knows how to find the best local products and to cook in a way that brings out their best. His techniques are classic, but used with imagination and sensitivity to relationships. This menu this evening was at the level of a three-star restaurant. Bravo. (And lucky us.)

To see our two blogposts from over two years ago (before I started to take my little camera to restaurants), click here.

The restaurant’s website.

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