Caveau des Arches, Beaune – 26 January 2012

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“Morning has broken, like the first morning, blackbird has spoken like the first bird”

Cat Stevens

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What a morning it was. Foggy. The (missing) colours amazing. Like taken from a French Noir movie. The second day in Beaune was ahead of us. An early walk around the impressing Chateau Gilly was to be followed by a wine tasting in Gevrey-Chambertin in the cellars of Dupont-Tisserandot followed by lunch in the Caveau de Arches, a favourite of Gijs. Here´s some shots to get you in the mood.

Like taken from a fairytale, or a movie – the gardens of Chateau Gilly

Monsier Dupont-Tisserandot with my friend.

Hush….Mr. Akkerman at work.

So warming uo to the lunch.. – let me just add, that watching Gijs doing his job, taken notes, writing tasting comments, recording with his brain all the impressions of the wines and cellars we tasted and saw. Learning about the style, working methods, placement of their parcels…etc. etc. etc. Well there is only one word for that. Magic. It was pure magic to be able to follow you around Gijs. Thanks for inviting me and being part of this experience with you.

Well back to the food. “After a hard morning´s work….” – we arrived at Caveau des Arches around 12.00 and were shown to our table in the beautiful cellar. Actually the restaurant consists of two long tubes of cellars. Beautiful. The wine list is amazing. Simply amazing.

We opted for starters and mains…with a bottle of ordinary white followed by a top red.

An old friend of mine…

Having visited the cellars of Remoissenet last year, where I enjoyed their whole range of wines – courtesy of Bernard Repolt – I managed to surprice Gijs with this one. What a taste. For an ordinary Bourgogne this was certainly very very nice and at 24 eur overwhelming. It was also a great companion to the classic starter

Oeufs en meurette

Having had this on many of my visits to Bourgogne it remains one of my favourite of the local cuisine. And this presentation was this kitchen´s version of the classic one. Often you find the roasted bread in the rich sauce, but here it remained on top, letting it keep its crispness. The sauce, the bacon, the poached egg – wonderful. Again not be compared with a 3 star restaurant dish – but in fact all you could wish for. 7.5p

We both stumbled over this one. Funny when a wine-list have hundreds of numbers and you both let your eyes rest on the one.

Thank you Mr. Rousseau for this one,

220g Fillet of beef with sauce epoisse

Gijs had the same dish but with a 400g entrecote replacing the fillet. Both pieces of meat cooked to perfection and with great quality Charolais, Both dishes served with no vegetables but with roasted potatos as a side dish. I simply LOVED the sauce. I spoke with the chef after and were lucky to get the receipe. This one I have to learn to make. I found the potatos a bit too soft and not crisp or tasteful enough. 7.5p

No more room for dessert  – this was just a small lunch. Afternoon programme meant that more tastings were ahead of us. No loosing weight on this trip, but I guess I knew that up front.

My conclusion:

I loved the two dishes we had so much that my upcoming trip to Bourgogne HAS to include this restaurant. And I am going to order the excact same two dishes. May seem a long time away. But I cant wait to be back. Good service, good bread, smiling staff, great wine list, great food. Thanks for introducing me to this one Gijs. I loved it and shall be back. Again, if you are a tourist in Beaune, dont fall for one of the many toruist traps. Book here – and then book Cave Madeleine and you have booked a trip to paradise. You dont even need to spend hundreds on the wine. Take the white we had and the food we had – you will for sure feel that you got value for each and every single penny you spend. Did we have an amuse – Gijs ? Actually I have no idea, but I did not miss one if we didn´t.

My rating for this visit:

Food 7.5p (10) service 4.5p (5) ambience 5p (5), Total Score  17p (20)

Cave Madeleine, Beaune – 25 January 2012

The essence of comfort food

Gijs 2012

What can I say – Beaune is my idea of heaven.

Beaune for me please...

I don´t need long beaches, shopping malls, posh restaurants and the hype of a big city. Beaune does just about the trick for me. Anywhere you look the city breathes WINE. In the shops, in the local food, the butcher, the baker, the bars, the people on the street. It is all about wine.

So going there with new friend and wine lover Gijs was a gift from heaven – or from Bacchus. Since I am the senior in this friendship as regard to dining (and in age) – I got to choose some most of our dining choices on this trip. And I had no doubts in my mind about the first one on my list. Because the last few times I had missed out on this recommendation from Jan in Denmark. His favourite place – Cave Madeleine.  And man – does Jan know his places.

Table was booked and we arrived around 7 pm full of hope and anticipation. The thing with Cave Madeleine is that they serve regional food without too much of a fuss, with no wine list, but a wall full of all the Bourgogne wines you could wish for – some bottles impossible to find elsewhere – and most of them with do I dare to say – a modest pricing policy. Therefore it is also favourite restaurant among locals- on this evening most of the large community table was occupied by a famous Meursault wine maker with his group of American clients.

I think there is around 6 tables for 2, plus the large community table. So a good 24 people can eat here – many were rejected after we arrived. Booking is essential. I felt sorry for the young Australian couple that did not get a table this evening.

The community table with "The Wall" in the back-ground.

The madam of the house did the service the first hour or so on her own, and was later joined by her husband. It is laid back service with a smile. We were shown to our table, but actually preferred another one, and got that. No problem. Besides the both English and French speaking hosts there is 3 persons in the kitchen. And they were just about to spoil us with what turned out to be – as Gijs put it –  “the essence of comfort food”.

Chablis Grand Cru 2008 from Raveneau

Gijs had no doubts that this was the one. Raveneau being one of the two top producers in Chablis.

Chambolle.Musigny !. cru 2008 from Philippe Pacalet

Having had the village version once at Söllerod Kro – being an extra bottle Jan told us we just HAD TO taste, I was happy to find Philippe Pacalet in the wall. It had to be that one. Gijs loved it. Which releaved me. I admire Gijs knowledge about wine and ability to describe them so detailed as he can. I will never reach his level. But I am learning. In that respect Gijs I am very much your junior.

As for the food….The menu – the dishes are presented on a black board behind the counter….Hard choice, because many of the dishes spoke to us. We settled for this…

Terrine of veal...

Absolutely wonderful terrine, crisp salad, great produce, truly homemade. One of the best I have ever had. It lacked a bit pepper for my taste. But the taste of the terrine…stunning. You had to be there…6p

Lamb...

Simply one of the best lamb dishes I have ever had. The simplicity of the arrangement makes it off course difficult to compare a dish like this with a more detailed presentation from a michelin starred establishment. But does it need to be ? In this case no. Wonderful tastefull meat, tender, great reduction, great mash (as good as mine) – crispy vegetables. If I had a last menu to order before heading off this planet…this dish would be in there…I asked if the chef was married (forgot I was lol), and intererested…the chef came smiling out. I guess he hoped for a long-legged blond Danish girl. I know I had hoped for a female chef. We both laughed and congratulated him on this dish. Truly the dish of the day, …of the trip. 9p

After this Gijs was on a roll and offered this pearler….

Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses 2008 Jaques-Frederic Mugnier

As good as it gets. A perfect companion to the shared plate of cheese that finalized our dinner.

The cheese plate was a little let down in compare to the dishes above. But the 3 choises, consisted of 1 aged stunning compté  and 2 average ones. Cheese 4p

My conclusion:

It is easy to make simple and good food. You need good produce, a chef who knows what he is doing and cooks with passion. This is most certainly the case at Cave Madelaine. Combine this with a cosy room, perfect hosts and a wine concept others could learn from – well what do you get ? You get a perfect restaurant. Now people sometimes complain about my point system, how can you compare a brasserie – or your local sushi bar to 3 star michelin restaurant within the same scale? Well maybe you can – maybe you can´t. But let tell you this. If all my restaurants reviews were of brasseries, this one would get a 19.5p rating. No doubt. It was simply as good as a restaurant at this level can get, minus the minor flaw with the cheeses. Great bread, great service, funny but cosy ambience. Wines and food to die for – or with. I know Gijs loved it so much he swore NEVER to visit Beaune again without making sure that he could eat at Cave Madeleine. I felt proud and happy to have chosen this one.

Having had a disappointing lunch at La Ciboulette for lunch its easy to see where a restaurant and thus tourists can go wrong. Choosing a restaurant in a town that is so full of them is not easy. And the two meals we had on this first day learned us that man does it matter. Thank you Jan for directing us to Cave Madeleine. I remembered the two young Australian tourists that was rejected earlier that night. and truly hope they did not end up at La Ciboulette. But thats another story I guess.

I shall be back again for sure – hopefully with you Gijs. Here´s to our new friendship. Cheers – Big Ears….

My rating for this visit:

I shall add one happiness point for the wine concept and the general vibe of that GREAT evening we spend.

Food 7p (10) service 4p (5) ambience 5p (5), Happiness point 1p : Total Score  17p (20)

Restaurant Clairefontaine, Luxembourg – 20 January 2012

“Home
Home again
I like to be here
When I can…..”

Time – 1973 – Mason, Wright, Waters and Gilmour

Dining with fellow idealist – “Culinary Suicide” – always means that you have to sharpen your sences and be prepared for good discussions about Luxembourg, The World, Books, Movies – and most importantly Food and Wines. We do not always share the same taste in restaurants or wines, but we do share the passion. Clairefontaine was where we had our first lunch together and it is always good to be “home”.  The smiles and warm greetings of all the staff gets to me everytime. The room makes you feel welcome, warm and well – kinda home. Especially on a cold winter day.

I got to choose the white, with the excact order from CS to find something nice. A Batard Montrachet 2003 did the trick. It was followed by his choice for red Domaine Peyre Rose – Clos des Cistes 2003

This one is for S. Lloyd...

First small taster...

See this is what I mean. This is what I complain about with tasters/amuse elsewhere. Why cant they all be like this and the following. This one was filled with a Choriza mash with langoustine in one third of it. Absolutely lovely taste.

Second round...

Just as lovely, I was busy choosing the wine and did not pay enough attention to the presentation…sorry Didier…. but I am sure it was a shellfish of some kind with a lovely foam to the right and to the left – a piece of deer…Bambi on a mash with a nice reduction and heavy on cinnamon. 6p

The starter was a winter classic of Arnaud´s. Risotto – Arnaud Style – which basically means that its done on Basmati rice – because he prefers that specific perfumed taste in rice – and finished of with whipped creme. In this version you are treated to a truffle explosion – with a smoked bio egg in the middle. It all becomes a delicate and roboust dish which I would LOVE to eat everyday for brunch. Can we arrange that Arnaud ?

Risotto Arnaud Style...all you will ever need.

For me, this is one of my all time favourites and especially the excact cooking of the egg yolk was incredible and the smell and generous portion of truffles to die for. 8.5p

CS opted for the lobster..

Homard Breton röti a beurre....

Now I would have loved this dish. I am sure I will take it the next time. CS found the preparation a bit on the heavy side, he prefers a lighter kitchen these days. I would give it 10 just for the presentation. Actually I think it was presented under a a smoked filled glass lid.

Monkfish slowly cooked in beurre noisette...

My choice, Monkfish (Lotte) with variations of carrot. My first impression was that the fish was too dry…but the Monk fish can have that texture, and cutting the pieces open told me it was cooked just about perfect. A typical Arnaud presentation, generous with 2 pieces, actually 1 would be enough for “little” me. If I have one complain of the dish it would be that the little cup on top of the picture – apart from the wonderful foamy creme-  also had pieces of monk fish in it. I found that overkill, and I would have left those pieces out. 7p

No room for dessert, “Time” had run out….

Sweets...love the posh presentation

My conclusion:

I hate to waste time with food that is not up to par. And therefore Clairefontaine is always a good choice. When Arnaud is good he is among the best. Today there was nothing new under the sun. It was as expected a great meal with generous portions and good wine. Best service in Luxembourg, Great selection of bread repeatedly served througout the meal, good wine list, I love Julien´s (the young sommelier) gentle style . I had barely sat down before he asked me if he could bring a glass of white wine (as usual) as aperitive. No fuss. It can be very easy to please me you know. What I also like about Clairefontaine is the fact that the amuses is almost always done with an idea or at least with great taste. And since this has been a subject in some of my last reviews, I will compliment Arnaud and his team for having meaningfull amuses. Good to see you all again, wishing you a Happy 2012, I guess I will be back a few times. Thanks to CS for your friendship. It is always quality time dining with you.

“When I come home
Cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones
Beside the fire”

Time – 1973 – Mason, Wright, Waters and Gilmour

My rating for this visit:

Food 7.5p (10) service 5p (5) ambience 5p (5), Total Score  17.5p (20)

Sapori Ristorante, Luxembourg – 18 January 2012

UPDATE:  AFter you read the review – please do take a minute to read my comment below the article – Thank you.

A lunch with good friend Serge is always good news.

On this day we opted for a local favourite of business people, the mostly Italian styled cooking restaurant  – Sapori Ristorante. I had been here once before a year ago, and had good memories of a nice room with simple cooking. It belongs to the same group of restaurants as Le Mirabelle, and is actually situated just next door to that one.

I was there 30 min before Serge and was handed the wine list as requested when seated. The room is nice with a anti-pasti buffet just on the way into the restaurant.

The dining room, good balanced colours

What now happened almost brought me on the verge of leaving. It took the manager, 2 male and 1 female waiter around 25 min. to notice that I was ready to order a bottle of white whine. Chatting behind the curtains at the front bar, but out of my sight. The female waiter managed to start to serve another couple two tables away without noting my gestures and cry for attention. Serge texted me he was almost there. I wrote back, Im almost leaving. I was so annoyed. There was 4 persons and 3 tables they had to mind. Should I walk up to the counter. Should I leave. I think the idea of the shank part of the leg that I had spotted on the menu was one of three things that made me stay.

Finally MY waiter re-appeared, not to tend my table, but just to almost walk by…..but hey – I caught him….and wauw I got to order my bottle. After almost 30 min. Goddamnit I was angry.  But . A Platena Chardonnay from Sardegna arrived, was decanted without asking me, served and put in a ice bucket. I think it was a great wine, creamy, waxy and a fab colour.

The wine list is actually like in Le Mirabelle very nice – with for Luxembourgish standards good priced – (mostly) Italian wines.

Olives to kill the waiting time....

Now this little faux-pas was bound to make me critical…so bear that in mind when you read the following.

A leek potato "soup"...

First of was the amuse…..now what did I write in my last review. If you dont have a plan with an appetizer – then please leave it in the kitchen. This was too thin, too tasteless, simply should never had landed on any table. It was warm which was the best thing you could say about it on this cold winter day. 1p for that.

We both opted for the same starter and same main dish. The starter was described as a grilled Mozzarella, Tomato, Eggplant thing.

The starter...

Now eggplant can be a difficult” mothe”r to handle. I know I have problems. The Chef here had had his go. It was not perfect, but it was far better than your worst case scenario. But I think the whole dish lacked taste. Had it not been for the balsamic vinegar “snake” running through the salad I would not have finished it. I missed a good dominant olive oil. The tomatos close to tasteless. 3p

My favourite cut of the lamb...

Now this can be and should be absolutely amazing. Serge thanked me for suggesting this dish, he found it wonderful. Well maybe he had a better piece than I had. But the idea of this shank part of the leg, is that you slow cook it for 4-7 hours. This way, the meat gets so tender it falls from the bone. Mine did nothing near that. My best guess is that it was cooked 1 -2 hours – too hard. The vegetables added nothing to the dish in taste or texture. The broccoli tasteless. The sauce good, the side-dish  potatoes acceptable if not perfect. Without a doubt the best dish of the day but far far away from how it could or should be. 4p

Now heres a picture of the best thing that happened to me today at Sapori….

A classic wine, greatness.

My conclusion:

Apart from the no-attention situation the first 30 min, and the fact that I had to serve the wine myself a few times later, well the waiters are actually nice and smiling. I like the room. I like the wine list. However, the food was no way near as good as on my first visit. I will not be back here in quite a while if ever. Life is too short for these meals.

Both wines were decanted, and most likely right so, but why the hell not ask before ? What if I dont want it decanted ?. What if I want the wines to develop in the glass ? How do you plan to get it un-decanted back in the bottle?. Mind you the Tignanello is a top drop. Why have the possible conflict? I know I would ask.

But the company was excellent Serge. It was good to see you again. I have a feeling that 2012 could be our year.

After this visit, I cannot understand the local hype and rave about Restaurant Sapori nor its popularity amongst local business people. I found it simple and disappointing.

My rating for this visit:

Food 3.5p (10), service 3p (5), ambience 3.5p (5), Total score 10p (20)

La Mirabelle, Luxembourg – 6 January 2012

La Mirabelle is situated on a busy street, but with parking just across the road. I have not been here since the mid nineties, and a lot has changed. The restaurant has always been known to serve (almost) gastronomic food. Today the concept is a little changed. I would rate this as a high level Brasserie, but not real gastronomic. Only just below that. Its a favourite of my new friend Gijs, and thus was a natural choice for our lunch.

The decor is modern. It didnt really hit my wauw spot…but I have seen a lot worse. And I cannot put a finger on what it was. Maybe it was just not my style. I like the fact that they had wooden floor and not tiles. I hate tiles, and you will find that in around 90% of all restaurants in Luxembourg . The large counter in the middle of the room with a wall of wines worked the best in my opinion. On the other floors there is possibility to have a private room for larger parties.

The center of La Mirabelle

One of the private rooms upstairs -more classic

We were greeted by the staff and the menu was presented on a board. The waiter described each single dish, which is nice (and time consuming) – and then left us for a few min in order to decide.

The menu. starters, fish and meat...

We opted both for the veau as a starter at 19 eur. Wine list was brought, and that was a big surprice. Fairly priced – in Luxembourg that means 2-3 times engros price, but that is still better than the average of 4-5 times. And furthermore there was some really nice choices. I especially studied the Bourgogne section. Wonderful wine list. One of the best I have seen in Luxembourg. We opted for a Meursault and a Charmes Chambertin from Dupont-Tisserandot, which brought back good memories of many a visit to his cellar in Gevrey-Chambertin.

Tomato and Rilette and nice bread

Lovely, great. I would just leave it at that. Why waste time, money and energy to produce some wanna-be amuses when this is actually good enough. Well, La Mirabelle did not. They served the following amuse….

Vegetables on a cheese creme and a small pumpkin soup

I generally think that a restaurant should only serve these amuses if they have something interesting to present or some easy going stuff, like roasted almonds, the rillette and dried tomato thing from before was excellent. The pumpkin soup was actually very nice, if not overly sexy. But the vegetables thing was truly boring and rater tasteless. Now had it been left out, I would have had less to critisize. Sometimes less is more. 4p

Galette - filled with veal...

Great dish, best of the day. Great presentation. The Jus de Veau, perfect, the salad dressing and egg, great as topping on those wonderful, gallettes. Inside the galette there was veal, fois gras, apparently sweet-bread. It all came together as a very tasteful and delicate dish. 8.5p

Rib-eye...

Great tender meat,-  and a beautifully arranged potato. Baked in the oven with creme and bouillion –  and the long slices then arranged as a rose. I loved it. Presented as – “with a pepper-sauce”, it was nowhere near that. If it had not been for the 5 green pepper corns I would not have known. It was not bad. just not up to par with the rest of the dish. The biggest complaint about the dish was however that the vegetables – which on my plate was arranged on a nice creme of artichoke  – were an exact copy of the vegetables on the dish of my friend. For at restaurant at this level and a price of 30 eur – well I think its not good enough. Again, I f I had not had those vegetables on my plate I would not have missed them, and now their repetition was a subject of irritation. As I said sometimes less is more. So I will have to adjust for that in my judgement of the dish. 6p

Poulet....

Actually two servings – the upper left corner being the breast, wonderfully cooked, moist as it should be. And in the bottom right a gateau, cake consisting of confit de poulet (I think) and a mash. The vegetables as you see, even the order they were same and excact copy of mine. But here they were more justifed in my opinion. Anyway, Gijs liked it. 7p

No rooms for dessert.

My conclusion:

I think I expected gastronomy and I got brasserie food. But I got brasserie food at a very good level. I think the produce used was impecable. Very nice meat, very good salads, bread etc. And the price level with 20 eur for starters aand 30 eur for mains are as it is in Luxembourg. Not cheap but standard. It would not be my choice for a romantic evening, I know other places that are more my style, but for a business dinner or just another night out, I would definetely consider coming back. As I said, the wine list was outstanding. The service and attention from the staff was good if not out of this world. The waiter suggested a bottle when we had chosen our menu. I like that. Even if we opted for our own choice. So even with the minor flaws I experienced in mind I think La Mirabelle is understandable a popular restaurant and I think on most lunches or Friday evenings it is advisable to book ahead. Thanks for the fun Gijs. Looking forward to developing our friendship. You are officially my youngest friend by the way.

My rating for this visit:

Food 6.5p (10), service 4p (5), ambience 3.5p (5), 1 Bonus point for the GREAT wine list. Total Score  15p (20)