(This post is a replay of one written for another site with a few alterations.)
Photographs copyright: Kirsten Steen
On a visit to Paris a couple of years ago, my brother-in-law, Nicolas (pronounced: Neek-o-la) decided to take us to lunch--- in Montpellier! With the new TGV fast trains in France, one can now easily leave Paris in the morning and be seated at a restaurant in the South of France by lunchtime. What used to be a full day's drive doing France's typical speed limit of 130 km per hour (around 80 mph-though they usually go beyond that!) among speed-hungry and passionate Latin drivers can now be enjoyed in temperature-controlled seating with a newspaper and a decent nap.
We made our way into Montpellier and, upon finding the restaurant by cab, were ushered into a glassed room and seated looking out on a bamboo-walled garden flowing with lavender and greenery galore, textured with rock and stonework patterns. The dining room, a sea of foam-white tablecloths and sparkling glassware, held a subtle beauty with a simplistic feng shui of 'calm'.
The sommelier helped select the wines for each course and we were off~ starting with several amuse bouches including a delicate gazpacho of mussels and saffron followed by an oyster-filled pastry shell bubbly in its own froth, then a fondant of cucumber with raw clams and citrus granite.
Next came a salad of wild country greens, cocos nicois and almonds in a tomato aspic followed by a troncon of grilled lobster with a turnip, citrus-honey and grapefruit marinade served in a Banyuls vinaigrette.
Next, Autour de Potimarron: an emulsion with confit and chip, mushroom and sauce with huile d'olive and sel de mer.
After this came my brother-in-law's favorite: L'escalope de foie gras with polenta. I personally prefer my foie gras unseared but this sends Nicolas' eyes back in his head, lashes fluttering, in full gourmand pleasure-mode.
This was followed by a filet of grilled sole on a bed of ravioli with celeri, herbs and mushrooms in a butter sauce with parfum de truffes followed by a grapefruit sorbet mixed with Suze to cleanse the pallet before the next course.
And the last meat course came as a noix de chevreuil of roasted lamb with a puree of carotte and cumin, galettes of potato with parmesan and a jus facon poivrade.
The cheese course was a gazillion different options from the various regions of France.
...my favorites always being of the chevre variety.
The desserts were an assortment which, luckily, we shared.
While the price was less than heavenly, it made Nicolas happy to have the experience (pre-recession) and it made us happy to fulfill his fantasy of jetting down to the South of France to have lunch just for the day. Needless to say, some serious napping took place on the TGV ride back to Paris. And while it may be tres longtemps before we get to fulfill another fantasy comme ca, we are thankful to Nicolas for giving us such a memory as this one!