Tomorrow is our 24th wedding anniversary (thank you, thank you very much), and so my wife Jan and I decided that we should have a really nice Sunday lunch for a change. (Cue laugh track.) Okay, we nearly always have a wonderful Sunday lunch, but this time we decided to celebrate with the top menu at Le Grand Bleu in nearby Sarlat, the Michelin-starred restaurant I’ve often praised in Radio Free Daglan.
With that brief intro, here’s today’s marvellous meal, created by a smart and talented chef, at a restaurant run smartly by his classy and talented wife.
We began our celebration with a coupe de Champagne. It went down so well that we had another glass of Champagne as we studied the menu and munched on the little treats set down for us — a spoonful of lobster mousse, a nem (small fried spring roll) filled with nicely spiced roast goose meat, and a small shot glass holding tiny asparagus pieces topped with asparagus foam.
Our choice for lunch was the Menu Dégustation, or Tasting Menu; it’s 80 euros for a mise en bouche (appetizer), plus three main dishes and a dessert.
To begin, we each had a bowl of beet soup, topped with parsley foam and served with a scoop of goat cheese and basil ice cream. Delicious to eat, and to look at:
Then came the first of our three main dishes. This one is a little difficult to explain, but I’ll try. First, the chef took the meat of barely cooked langoustines (crayfish), and placed a generous piece of seared foie gras on top, and then wrapped it all in a very thin slice of raw beef (carpaccio de boeuf), and served this in a bowl with umami-flavoured broth. (Time out: Umami is now considered one of the five basic tastes, and has been described as “brothy” or “meaty” or “savoury,” although there is no simple translation.) Here it is:
We then moved to the fish course. For this, the chef had seared pieces of turbot to perfection, and served the fish with a leek mousse plus a few stalks of green asparagus and a bundle of deeply browned potato matchsticks, served with a rich truffle foam. Here it is:
And if all that taste weren’t enough, we then were presented with the real highlight of the meal — beautiful chunks of fresh lobster, served with a lobster-and-smoked-eggplant-caviar risotto. Here is the divine dish in all its glory (and I apologize in advance for not having the latest version of the Taste-o-Vision Blog):
By this point in the meal, we were no longer peckish, but we were pretty sure we could handle dessert. (Cleverly, our server asked if we would like another coupe de Champagne with our dessert, and cleverly, we agreed.) Here it is — a perfectly cooked, hot Grand Marnier soufflé, served with fresh orange segments (on which our server trickled some more Grand Marnier), plus a delicious house-made vanilla ice cream:
And there you have it: a pretty perfect meal. While it’s true that the arrival of the bill isn’t the happiest part of eating in a restaurant, the attractive little boxes that Le Grand Bleu uses to present l’addition help to soften the blow. Here’s our little box:
Wine note: Aside from the Champagne at the start and end of our lunch, we had a bottle of Chablis, which has a bit of a story. When our hostess Céline came to take our orders, I asked for a bottle of Chablis Premier Cru from the Montée de Tonnerre area of the Chablis region, produced by Domaine Servin. (I later learned that the Servin family first started making Chablis in 1654, and by now they seem to have figured it out pretty well.) As I made my request, Céline broke out laughing — and said that she had ordered that particular Chablis and included it in the restaurant’s wine list specifically for me, knowing from previous visits that I often choose a good Chablis. What made her laugh was that on our last visit, in April, I had ignored the Chablis wines completely and ordered something quite different. So she was glad to see that I’d reverted to form.
Tasting note: Some reviews have called the wine “firm and focused,” and I would just add “yummy too.”
Safety note: Fear not. We took a taxi home to Daglan, and will drive back tomorrow morning in my wife’s car to pick up my VW.
Auto note: Our taxi from Sarlat was a new, black Citroën C-5, with a series of automated sun roofs and beautiful leather-covered seats. And based on the ride home, I believe our driver may have been a fighter pilot in an earlier career.