La Passagère, Juan-les-Pins

January 7, 2013

Pascal Bardet, 36, was Chef de Cuisine at the famous Louis XV in Monte Carlo from 2007 until he left in 2011, ending a 17-year career in restaurants directed by his mentor, Alain Ducasse. In October 2011 he was named the new Chef de Cuisine of restaurant La Passagère in the Hôtel Belles Rives in Juan-les-Pins. This hotel was founded in 1929 in what had been the Villa Saint-Louis, the home of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in 1925 and 1926.  Its hiring of Pascal Bardet would seem to show ambitions for Michelin stars and a more upscale clientèle.  Linda and I went for dinner on December 20, 2012.

The dining room is decorated in period art deco, a theme picked up in the plates etc.
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We started with glasses of Moët et Chandon Champagne.

Bread with anchovy butter and vinegared cèpes was put on the table.
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In addition to à la carte selections, a three course Retour du Marché menu is offered as well as our choice, the Menu Autour de l’Automne.  We ordered a bottle of 1999 Domaine de Trevallon; it was excellent.

The amuse-gueule was a sea urchin shell filled with sea urchin meat and a little fish soup, topped with crème fraîche.
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Very good.
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The first menu course was
Pigeon ramier et perdreau confits ensemble au foie gras
pousses vertes en marinade croquante
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Squab and partridge layers surrounded foie gras in this terrine slice. Its richness was offset by the greens dressed in a vinaigrette.
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Ravioli aux champignons des bois pochés dans un consommé de veau
cèpes rapés crus

Wild mushrooms filled these raviolis atop grated raw cèpes. An overly salty veal broth was poured around it.
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Bar de ligne piqué de poivre noir
artichauts violets et beignet à l’anchois ; fin velouté acidulé
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Two perfectly cooked pieces of sea bass with crispy skin were dressed with slices of little artichokes, an anchovy flavored chip and a thick artichoke sauce. This was very good.
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Lapin de Garenne cuisiné longuement façon civet
tendres cèleris et navets nouveaux de pays
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In this traditional winter recipe pieces of rabbit are slowly stewed in a sauce made with onions and a red wine reduction. It is thickened with the blood of the rabbit. This version was very rich and too salty and we could not finish the rabbit. The purée of celery root and the turnip were good, traditional accompaniments.

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Fromages frais et affinés pour nous
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On the left of the tray were local goat cheeses. The others were well known French cheeses such as Pont l’Evêque and Camembert. The star was the Mont d’Or in the round wooden box in the back of the tray and the lower right of my plate. It was in perfect condition, which is not easy to achieve, and delicious.
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Délicat entremet café
mascarpone
chocolat
Amaretto, jus arabica
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This subtle, elegant dessert featured coffee, chocolate, the almond flavor of Amaretti and mascarpone, the simple cheese known in France as the Italian crème fraîche.
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Mignardises 
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Light pastries to finish, including a bugne, the deep-fried, sugared dough usually eaten during carnival.

Our meal was quite mixed in its success. The amuse-gueule and the sea bass were excellent, worthy of a Michelin-starred restaurant. The terrine, cheese tray and dessert were nice, but did not rise above what one would expect at an ambitious restaurant. The raviolis and the rabbit were unsatisfactory, particularly because of the excessive salt.

There was only one other couple dining at La Passagère that evening and they had a small meal. I guess that isn’t very surprising on the Thursday five days before Christmas at a hotel which positions itself as a seaside resort. They anticipated a very busy New Year’s holiday and then closure for two months. The Maître d’Hôtel doubled as our waiter. He was friendly, informative and efficient. I don’t know if Pascal Bardet was in the kitchen that evening, but it shouldn’t make a difference. It will be interesting to see how the Michelin Guide treats La Passagère in its 2013 edition.  The Guide Gantié is already quite positive.

http://www.bellesrives.com/en/la-passagere-9.html

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