What more can be said about Le Grand Bleu, the Michelin-starred restaurant in Sarlat? I’ve written about it many times before, using words like “marvellous” and “wonderful” to describe our meals there. But it still has the ability to surprise and delight, and so once more I’ll take you on a plate-level visit to the restaurant, with lots of photographic evidence.
If you’re new to Radio Free Daglan, I’ll quickly explain that the food at Le Grand Bleu is always beautifully cooked and artfully presented. Chef Maxime Lebrun makes full use of foams, ice creams, and unusual herbs and flavourings, often in interesting combinations with contrasts in temperature. “Surprise and delight” really are common reactions.
Keen for another visit, we drove to Sarlat yesterday from Daglan for lunch with friends Andrew and Catherine, who had never been — and who were anxious to give it a try. After settling in with a kir (white wine and cassis) for each of us, we made our choices, and the feasting began.
Our lunch started with a tray of amuse-bouches to enjoy with our apéritifs, including small morsels of fish tartare, with a few substitutions made for my wife Jan, who has an allergy to gluten. (Another sign of an excellent restaurant: Knowing how to adjust for allergies and special preferences, with no fuss or muss.) Then it was on to a delicious hot soup of vibrant green peas, topped with a foam and a small quenelle of shellfish ice cream. Once those were polished off, we ordered a bottle of Sancerre, and started in on the entrées.
Jan, Catherine and I all began with a complex cold dish of barely cooked languostines (scampi), with a compote of tomato and vanilla, a foam of citrus fruit and citronella, a bit of slaw made from Chinese cabbage, and seafood ice cream on top. Here’s my plate:
Meanwhile, for his entrée, Andrew chose the foie gras, accompanied by a purée of rhubarb and a fruit called combawa (a Kaffir lime), slices of walnut bread, and a glass of granité made from walnut liqueur and lime. As is the tradition around here, he also had a glass of Monbazillac with his foie, since the sweet wine from the Bergerac area is a perfect accompaniment to the fatty duck liver. Here is his plate:
Then it was on to the main events. Catherine and Andrew followed my lead and ordered the sweetbreads that are caramelized and served on potato purée with Port wine syrup. This dish has become a virtual must-have for me at Le Grand Bleu, as the sweetbreads are crispy on the exterior and perfectly cooked inside; the sweet syrup works beautifully with the meat. Here’s my plate:
Meanwhile, Jan had ordered the goose breast, which was served with sweet potato, roasted walnuts, and purée of carrots and cardamom. She thought it was perfectly cooked and perfectly delicious. Here it is:
For desserts, both Catherine and Andrew had fresh strawberries stacked up inside chocolate macarons, and decorated with a chocolate mousse and a sorbet. Jan and I both chose a hot soufflé of peaches, apricots and red berries. When our soufflés arrived, our server cut open the top of each, and inserted a generous scoop of rosemary ice cream. Absolutely delicious, as you can (almost) tell from this photo:
And then came a tray of mignardises, including perfect clusters of candied orange dipped in chocolate, to munch with our coffees. Here’s our tray:
Once the mignardises were set on our table, however, our server began to have doubts, and said she would check with Chef whether the tuiles were safe for Jan. She returned to say that they might contain a hint of gluten, and so to be safe rather than sorry, Jan shouldn’t eat them. However, the kitchen had whipped up this little delight for Jan as a substitute, using finely sliced apple and fresh raspberries:
You have to admit, that’s a pretty cute little treat.
And so the four of us left Le Grand Bleu feeling that — at least for a time — all was right with the world.