Château de la Pioline, Aix-en-Provence

July 26, 2016

In June, 2015, Linda and I had dinner at Pierre Reboul’s restaurant in the center of Aix-en-Provence. We enjoyed it a lot. Shortly afterwards Reboul closed his restaurant and became the chef at the Château de la Pioline, a picturesque hotel on the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence. Linda and I stayed there June 13 and 14, 2016, dining in Reboul’s restaurant the first evening. 

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This is the entry to the hotel, which has new owners in a very old building. Our room was at the upper left. We were seated for dinner in the old, ornate dining room, which had been covered with modern decoration. We were told that Catherine de Médicis had dined there, which is surely possible as her 1533 wedding to the future French king Henri II was in Marseille.
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We started with glasses of Champagne. The appetizers were a liquid ham sandwich in a faux eggshell cup with a cracker on top; a pineapple cube and wasabied flying fish roe.
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We ordered the Menu L’Expert.  We chose a bottle of 2004 Volnay which was excellent.
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The amuse-gueule was an oyster leaf and an olive oil ice cream with thyme lollipop. A refreshing start.
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The first course was
Croustillant de Sardines de Méditerranée,
Eponge au Citron et Touche de Cassis
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The fresh sardine was on crisped thin noodles atop a round biscuit. The lemon sponge had to be used in small bits as it was quite strong. I did not see the point of the black current jelly dab, but the sardine was good. 

Boudin de Homard Breton, Pointes vertes de Pertuis,
Fumet de carcasse au beurre de crustacés
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A lobster forcemeat sausage was served with a piece of lobster meat on a rich lobster shell reduction sauce. Crisp local asparagus were on top. The culinary technique here was perfect. Excellent.

Loup de Méditerranée, Caviar Pétrossian Daurenki
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A piece of Mediterranean sea bass was served on a beurre-blanc. It was topped with a milk foam which formed a nest for a scoop of caviar.  Very nice.

Grenouilles Françaises comme Pépé,
Caviar de Céleri Vert et Crème d’Ail de Lautrec
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Little tapioca-like balls were in a sauce that may have included celery leaves and parsley. It also included a lot of garlic. Underneath was a generous portion of boned frogs legs. Garlic chips were served alongside so we could add fresh crunch as desired. This was good, but the rich dish did not need such a large serving.

Filets de Caille, Langoustines Rôties,
Spaghetti de Poivron Rouge.
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A quail breast was dressed with a mashed green topping and served with a langoustine. They were on top of sweet red pepper “spaghetti.” “Quail juice” was poured around and more was available in the pretty little pitcher. Well, we come to Pierre Reboul for inventive cuisine, in which he usually succeeds, but this was absurd. Nothing worked together and the jus made the peppers bitter. Fortunately I was able to enjoy the excellent langoustine on its own.

Wagyu Australien en Entrecôte, Pommes Paille
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This “steak-frites” was the antithesis of the previous course. I think that the chef was trying to keep us off balance. The chunk of Australian wagyu beef was seared and served almost unseasoned. It had a nice, but not exceptional, flavor, but was quite chewy for wagyu. The straw potatoes were excellent. I refrained from asking for ketchup.

Saint-Félicien Fumé Minute, Air de Salade
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A quarter of a St-Félicien cheese in perfect condition arrived under a smoke-filled glass bell. It picked up a nice flavor from the smoke. Alongside was a mound of a foamy, light lettuce gel, which served as the salad. Fun and good.

Œuf au Plat Coco-Mangue
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A crumble round was topped with coconut icing and a mango faux yolk. Mango chunks and gel were added at the table.

Sphère Surprise au Grand Marnier et Chocolat Noir
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We were served a hollow sphere of dark chocolate. Orange sections were put around it and then a hot Grand-Marnier sauce was poured over, releasing the aromas. Orange and chocolate are a classic combination and this was an excellent way to bring them together. 

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On the way back to our room we could see the last man in the kitchen finishing the cleanup.
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The evening was enjoyable, but did not reach the high standard set at Pierre Reboul’s own restaurant a year before. I wrote about that meal: “While the cuisine was experimental and sometimes high-tech, it did not stray far from traditional French cuisine, bringing out its essence.” That was true in part for this meal, but it was surprisingly inconsistent. The service was excellent and the pace ok. It will be interesting to see how this restaurant develops in the next few years. The chef clearly has a lot of talent.

To see our blogpost on the previous meal click here.


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