La Raison Gourmande, Beaulieu-sur-Mer

March 20, 2012

Chef Olivier Streiff, 36, opened La Raison Gourmande in December 2011. It is in the Palais d’Anglais, built in 1885 as Beaulieu’s first upscale hotel, opposite the train station. The spot was used by the okay restaurant Les Agaves since before we came to Beaulieu-sur-Mer twenty-five years ago. Streiff has worked at la Bastide de Saint-Tropez, la Chèvre d’Or, le Grand Hôtel du Cap, Vista Palace and, most recently, Le Maya Bay in Monaco. The name, La Raison Gourmande, is the title of a book by notorious, prolific, crackpot, post-anarchist philosopher Michel Onfray. He wrote, “on peut philosopher dans la cuisine – voire philosopher en cuisinant.”  The restaurant seems to have significant culinary ambitions, but also wants to be a neighborhood meeting place with morning and afternoon tea and pastries served. The chef wants you to think you have been invited to his house for a meal; thus the lack of choice, the old fashioned plates etc.

Linda and I went for dinner on February 22, 2012. We were seated at the table in the back corner. We ordered glasses of Laurent Perrier Champagne. There is no menu, but the dishes to be served were described. One can have an abbreviated menu for €55, or the full thing for €65. (At lunch, which seems to be popular, the menu is two dishes for €18, or three for €24.) 

Three little amuse-gueules arrived: A wafer with fig tapenade, a nice hot accras de morue and a truffle macaron with a good truffle flavored cream, but pastry that had some unwelcome sweetness.
We ordered a bottle of 2007 Domaine de Gros’Noré Bandol Rouge. This unfiltered wine from 80% old Mourvèdre vines (15% Grenache, 5% Cinsault) was complex and good. (It is named after Honoré, the vintner’s robust father.)

The first course was scallops on a pumpkin cream with spinach and paprika croutons.

The scallops were top quality and perfectly seared. The seasonal garnishes added an earthiness which went well.

The next course was a truffle risotto with vialone nano rice, 24-month Parmesan and veal stock.

The flavor of the good winter truffles melded nicely with the creamy risotto, creating an excellent dish.

Here we are enjoying the truffles.

The fish course was a piece of cod with tandoori spices, winter vegetables, lemon gnocchi and capers.

This was not as successful as the two previous courses. The Indian spice mixture was not too peppery, but it lacked finesse and did not go well with the good, delicate piece of cod. The winter vegetables were nicely done, but had no relevance to the dominant spicing as they might have with a more seasonal and subtle sauce.

The meat course was a filet of Simmental beef with artichoke cream, an artichoke beignet and Monegasque beer sauce.

The beef was top quality and nicely enhanced by the sauce of unfiltered, unpasteurized beer made in the Brasserie de Monaco, reopened in 2008, by Gildo Pallanca Pastor, Monaco’s leading property developer. Its slight bitterness contrasted with the slight sweetness of the beef.

Cheese was part of the menu, but we declined it. 

The pre-dessert was a chocolate cream on a little wafer.

The dessert was red fruit on a chocolate mousse with various other goodies.

This was okay, but overly complex. It was not clear how to eat the vanilla cream under the bowl. We understand that normally desserts are chosen from a dessert cart, but since there were only four diners that night, the pastry chef did not prepare the cart. 

There were almond wafers to finish.

There were three excellent courses, the scallops, the risotto and the beef, definitely worthy of a Michelin star. The other half of the meal wandered, although the ingredients were good. The service, pace and ambience were okay. The talent and ambition needed for success are definitely in place. Whether La Raison Gourmande will find the clientèle it needs remains to be seen.

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