Lyon, France / July 12, 2009 / dinner
Winederlust Rating (details below): 7.0 out of 10 / Winderlust Worthy: Yes
When Jay and I were doing the research for this trip, one of the culinary places we considered visiting was Georges Blanc, about 50 miles northeast of Lyon, as well as Paul Bocuse, in Lyon, two grand masters of modern French cuisine. However, this being France, “modern” was about 50 years ago, and now all of the dishes they serve have entered the cannon of classic French cooking. Nothing wrong with that, but after reading reviews from people who had recently visited these gastronomic shrines, we concluded that the quality of the food could be uneven, and the best bet in this “classic French” category for the price seemed to be Troisgros (which we’re visiting tomorrow for lunch – review to come soon).
However, we still wanted to try some of the famous dishes pioneered by these famous Lyonnaise chefs. Luckily, each runs more casual restaurants, called bouchons, conveniently within the city of Lyon. The bouchons were bastions of home-cooking in the 19th century, places where workers could stop for a hearty meal of innards and pigs’ heads in pools of butter and cream. Most bouchons were run by women, and thus the cuisine of Lyon came to be known as “cuisine de grand-mere,” or grandmother’s cooking. Today’s bouchons are very similar to those of old, with perhaps a little less of the innards (but, as we were to see, still all of the butter and cream).
Georges Blanc’s Lyon version of a bouchon, Le Splendid, is huge, bright, and traditional-looking, with cozy red booths and white tablecloths.
Le Splendid’s interior.
We sat outside on the small patio – an easy task considering that there were only about four other tables occupied in the place. (We were thinking this was both because it was Sunday night and was also a ‘holiday weekend’ with Bastille Day two days away.) Since we were still pretty jet-lagged and not feeling the greatest, we opted for a half-bottle of a local wine, a 2007 Chateau des Tours from Brouilly in the Beaujolais region (which we’ll be visiting tomorrow). It was pretty bland at first, but more of a red cherry flavor emerged as we ate the food to come.
We started with an amuse-bouche of Soupe Glacée de Petit-Pois à la Menthe Fraîche (cold cream of pea soup with fresh mint and croutons). It was refreshing on such a hot evening, but nothing spectacular.
Soupe Glacée de Petit-Pois å la Menthe Fraîche (Cold Cream of Pea Soup with Fresh Mint).
Next I had the Cassolette d’Escargots de Bourgogne et Champignons au Beurre d’Herbes (escargots in a spinach, garlic, and butter sauce with mushrooms). Though very heavy and rich, it was tasty with big, juicy escargots.
Cassolette d’Escargots de Bourgogne et Champignons au Beurre d’Herbes (Snails and Mushrooms in Butter and Herbs).
Jay had the Foie Gras de Canard et Gellée au Porto, Bouquet de Mesclun (foie gras with more of a muscat than a port jelly. mesclun, and toast). The fois gras was very smooth and delicious, though the jelly could have had a little more tang.
Foie Gras de Canard et Gellée au Porto (Duck Liver with Port Jelly).
My main course was the Poulet de Bresse, a classic local dish made of distinctive chickens with bright blue feet, white feathers, and red combs – the “tricolore” comprising French’s national colors. I’d never had this dish before, and it was very tasty, though also extremely rich. The chicken, skin on, was bathed in a heavy cream sauce studded with morel mushrooms.
Poulet de Bresse (Bresse Chicken).
Jay’s menu included two courses: Etuvée de Grosses Crevettes de Legumes Tendres dans une Mariniere d’Aromates, three large shrimp with fava beans, tomatoes, chives, baby spring peas, and a butter sauce flavored with tomato and balsamic vinegar, giving it a nice, tangy bite.
Etuvée de Grosses Crevettes de Legumes Tendres dans une Mariniere d’Aromates (Shrimp with Steamed Vegetables in an Herb Sauce).
His second course was Dos de Bar Étuvé dans une Nage aux Aromates et
Chardonnay, Melli-Melo de Legumes Tendres, a sea bass (though more like what we’d think of as a trout) with carrots, beans, jicama, and beans in what tasted like the same sauce as the shrimp, a very light and flavorful dish.
Dos de Bar Étuvé dans une Nage aux Aromates et Chardonnay (Sea Bass in Herbs and Chardonnay).
Though we were already stuffed, our prix-fixe menus also included a cheese course and dessert. Jay chose the St. Marcellin, a local cow’s milk cheese from the Rhone-Alpes, which was unpasteurized, very runny with a strong barnyard flavor. My Rocamadour (from a town we will be visiting later this week in the Dordogne region) was a delightful creamy, tangy goat’s milk.
We ended our “traditional” meal with a deceptively light meringue topped with raspberry sorbet, raspberry puree, and crème fraiche (Jay said it was so delicious he wanted to “lick his plate”), and a bowl of strawberries soaked in honey and basil with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Meringue with Raspberry Sorbet and Raspberries.
Strawberries in Honey and Basil.
Overall, we got from this restaurant exactly what we were expecting to get – a solid, flavorful, well-prepared meal of fairly traditional foods. We weren’t overwhelmed with amazement, but we were pleasantly satisfied. – by Liz Humphreys, Winederlust Eater in Chief
Winederlust Rating Details (out of 10):
Food: 7.0 (preparation, presentation & taste)
Wine: 7.0 (selection, recommendations, pairings & taste)
Service: 8.0 (helpfulness, attentiveness, knowledge & pacing)
Place: 7.0 (location, view, decor & vibe)
Price Range: $$ (Moderate)
Le Splendid / 3 Jules Ferry, Lyon, France [map]
Direct line +33 (0)4 74509090