Mandarine, Monaco

September 15, 2009

We were quite surprised last spring when the Michelin Guide awarded a star to Mandarine in Monaco. We had not heard of it, although we have since learned that it has been there for five years. We are interested in trying any starred restaurant that is only a twenty minute drive from our house so we went to Mandarine for dinner on September 10, 2009 when we had another reason to be in Monaco in the early evening. The restaurant is on the top floor of the Port Palace, a boutique hotel on the east side of the yacht harbor in the center of Monaco. In nice weather service is on the rooftop terrace with direct access to the road which leads uphill toward the Casino. We were seated at a table on the edge with a terrific view.
It was just at sundown. On the top left you can see the old town of Monaco on «the rock.» In the center top is the princely palace with its lit towers at the front and the trees of its garden in the rear. On the right are apartments overlooking the yacht harbor. The tents are being set up for the Monaco Boat Show the following week. That is also the area in which the Monaco Grand Prix starts and finishes. To the left of this photo we could see many enormous yachts docked at the quai.

We ordered glasses of  Bruno Paillard Champagne for our apéritif. We looked at the very small menu and the wine list. We ordered a bottle of 1999 Domaine de Trevallon.

Although nicely decanted into a spectacular carafe, the Trevallon seemed blander than other bottles of the 1999 which we have had.

An amuse gueule of Taboulé de Saumon à la Coriandre arrived. It was okay. Breads were passed.

Linda’s first course was
Tarte Moelleuse au foie gras de canard, espuma de céléri

The two warm scallops of foie gras were nicely done, set atop a warm pastry shell filled with a foie gras custard. The celery mousse in the glass had little flavor, but did not detract from the dish.

My starter was  
Rouleaux de printemps de homard, orange et ananas 

This spring roll was fine, relying on the luxury taste of the lobster. I used the orange-pineapple sauce lightly.

Linda’s main course was  
Veau fermier rôti aux douces épices, Fleurs de courgettes au goût truffé de l’été

The summer truffles had a good flavor and inviting odor. The veal roast slices were good. The zucchini flower stuffed with basmati rice was sticky and uninteresting. Linda would have preferred the more usual zucchini purée stuffing.

My main course was
Filet de Boeuf en parillada, sauce vino tinto Los Boldos

A good filet of beef was served on top of a very hot rock. The red wine sauce was a reduction of a Chilean syrah; it was poured on at the table. It was too heavy and cloying. The sliced and braised ratte potatoes were very good.

We skipped dessert. A little glass with two chocolate macaroons and citrus gels finished things off. We enjoyed an okay meal in a fine ambience with a superb view. It was  expensive, but not at all out of line considering the prime location in one of the world’s most expensive spots.

It is really extraordinary that the Michelin Guide awarded Mandarine a star. The restaurant shows no ambitions or pretensions toward being a starred restaurant. It is happy to be a nice quiet spot for visitors to enjoy a spectacular view while having a good meal. The “spring-summer” menu offers four choices for starters, seven for main courses, a cheese option and four desserts. It apparently remains unchanged for six months. It is not regional or seasonal; it is mostly French with a bit of this and that. There is no prix fixe or menu du marché. There were no specials offered. The little cheese tray we could see was pathetic. I don’t criticize Mandarine for its style; it is like most hotel restaurants all over the world, but I am astounded that the Guide Michelin awarded it a star.


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