Le Bistro Gourmand, Nice
January 6, 2011
On December 27, 2010, Linda and I went to Le Bistro Gourmand for dinner. Opened on October 14, 2010, it is the latest in a series of small restaurants with ambitious, well-qualified young chefs which have opened in Nice in recent years. David Vaqué, now 38, after experience with Michel Guérard at Eugénie-les-Bains and Gérard Boyer at Les Crayères in Reims, was the chef at Les Viviers in Nice for eight years. He has known his wife, Laurence, since they were together twenty years ago at hotel school; she was in charge of the dining room at Les Viviers for the last three years. Now that their two children are no longer small, they decided to open their own restaurant, Le Bistro Gourmand.
We were welcomed warmly by Laurence, seated and offered the menus. Linda ordered a Coupe de Champagne Bruno Paillard Brut Réserve. I ordered L’Apéritif Maison « Le Spritz Orange, » bitter orange with crémant, refreshing and festive.
The hors d’œuvre was eggplant-olive caviar with little toasts.
There were two three-course menus proposed at 28€ and 48€. There is an extensive à la carte selection from which we chose and a blackboard with the day’s specials.
This blend of five different red wine grapes from the northern slopes of the nearby Var had good regional flavour without being harsh.
The amuse-gueule was a little bowl of foamy soupe de cabillaud and minced chicken with truffles.
Linda’s first course was
Ravioles de Gambas, Coulis de Crustacé à l’Huile d’Argan.
The two large ravioli with shrimp were enhanced by the foamy seafood broth. Excellent.
My starter was
Salade de Poulpes Servie Tiède, Pomme de Terre, Crevette et Citron
The dish was served quite hot, more like a soup than a salad. It was all okay, although there was a bit too much lime juice for my taste. When I ordered the dish, I had assumed that the octopus would be grilled for a salad, not poached as it was.
Linda’s main course was
Ris de Veau rôti clouté à la Truffe, polenta aux Olives et Tomates séchées
The sweetbreads were moist and nicely enhanced by the truffled sauce. The polenta had an interesting texture and olive-tomato flavor.
Filet de Bœuf, Gratin Dauphinois et légumes vertes, sauce Béarnaise
The quality of the beef was excellent. The gratin, the sauce and the vegetables were all okay, but didn’t show me any special talent.
We skipped dessert and enjoyed the little plate of good mignardises.
The almond tiles were amazingly light.
There are nine tables with 24 seats. There are three cooking in the kitchen and a dining room staff of two. The menu shows ten starters, four fish courses, plus La Bouillabisse de Ma Façon and four more fish on the Suggestions du Jour, four meats, plus Le Lièvre à la Royale, a cheese tray and an extensive dessert menu, including hot desserts to order at the start of the meal. This is very ambitious for such a small restaurant. It is not easy to maintain fresh ingredients and expert cooking skills for such a variety of offerings.
We were the second table to arrive and the first to leave. The pace of our meal was fine, but I wonder how it went later on. Most of the tables were in the holiday spirit on this late December evening and probably wouldn’t be bothered by a slow pace but that will not usually be true. While we were there, quite a few walk-ins were turned away as reservations had already filled the restaurant. Le Bistro Gourmand is in an interesting location between the city’s two main tourist zones: Old Nice and the Place Masséna, although there were no tourists the evening we were there. It is close to the city hall and undoubtedly will pick up the kind of Nice notables business that goes to the mediocre La Petite Maison nearby. Unfortunately, neither tourists nor the city hall crowd are the type of clientèle which inspires chefs to high standards.