Okay, something really weird happened. I swear I posted 2 updates here from Sydney in the past few days, but the site somehow seems to have rolled back and lost them. I really hope that doesn't happen again. Anyway, in case you don't know, I just moved to Sydney, Australia for the semester which is why I haven't been posting this past week. I'm ready to continue now though. :)
Next up on our trip was Le Bistrot d'Eygalières "Chez Bru" in the small village of Eygalèires. This was Thursday (about 1 month ago now), and we had a pretty interesting day lined up. For lunch, we had reservations at aforementioned Chez Bru, which is a tiny Michelin 2 star that just got promoted in the guide this year. For Thursday dinner, we had booked Jardin des Sens in Montpellier, which is also a Michelin 2 star, but was actually a 3 star that got demoted this year. We thought it would be quite interesting to try both on the same day. Anyway, Jardin des Sens is coming up later; for now I'll talk about Chez Bru.
Eygalières is pretty close to Maillane so our drive was pretty short. The village is also quite different from Bonnieux and Les Baux. It's much more quaint and simple, without the extravagant views of our previous 2 star meals. Chez Bru's setting is vastly different - it's in the village center on the side of the road, with a little sign and a small porch. From inside the little restaurant you just have a simple view of the sidewalk, with the occasional car passing by and person looking in through the window. It was far less awe-inspiring than Capelongue or Baumanière, but comfortable in a homey, simple way.
Chez Bru certainly took home the prize for coolest menu cover. It had this little metallic, raised (I think the word is embossed?) drawing on it, and just looked really cool. I had to take a picture. Compared to the modest outside of the restaurant, the design of the menus, the chosen silverware, and the all-black waitstaff were surprisingly modern in style. The words "chezbru" on the menu, unlike the old-style logo outside, were in a futuristic, lower-case, sans-serif font.
Anyway, this was the only lunch we had at a starred restaurant. The menu had 2 choices of tasting menus - a regular tasting that listed 6 courses for 75 euros, and a Chef's Surprise tasting with no details for 90 euros. They told us it was okay for people at the table to get both, so my dad and I quickly jumped on the surprise menu while the others went with the regular one. My aunt soon changed her mind and joined us.
While we were having the menu discussion, we were given a couple of trays of this cured ham. I didn't get the details of where it came from, but I should have. It was very smooth and tender - a bit leaner than prosciutto but with just as much flavor and a soft texture.
This first dish (I guess it would count as the amuse) was an absolute all-star - easily one of my fondest memories from the trip. I haven't really tried much pied de cochon (pig's trotter) before, but from what I've had I really love this stuff. This had a deliciously soft, fatty texture, and the balsamic added a perfect balance of sweet and sour to the whole thing. The veggies on top were a nice refresher in between bites of the trotter.
This appetizer came from the regular menu, and like at Baumanière this tuna was the weakest part of the meal. The sweetness of the caramel was a bit overpowering, and the fish itself was just okay. After my two tuna experiences, I'm becoming convinced that the Japanese are just better at using it... :)
This dish was another all-star. These were easily the two best langoustines I've ever had. The croustillant ("crusty" is the best translation, I guess) on the left came from the regular menu (and was on the regular tasting too). It was a langoustine wrapped in some kind of bready crust and deep-fried, and it was wonderful. The crust was extremely crisp without being greasy. The langoustine on the inside was searing hot but retained a beautiful, bouncy texture. I think my dad found the vinaigrette a tad too sweet but I thought it was perfect. The vegetable tartare was a delicate complement. The langoustine with lemon/olive oil mousse on the right wasn't listed, and it too was absolutely delicious. The mousse was light and fluffy, with a strong lemon flavor and aroma but little sourness. The langoustine was cooked perfectly. There's just no other way to put it. It was simultaneously tender and bouncy, without losing any substance. This is what all clawed shellfish should aspire to taste like.
This lobster was another winner. We thought at first it might be boring to have lobster right after langoustine, but that thought went away right after a whiff of this little bowl. An intense aroma of truffle tends to make you forget, I guess. I must say that while the lobster itself wasn't as good as the langoustines we'd just had, the potato mousse with truffle made up for it. The spinach and oyster are hidden beneath. I'm not a big oyster-lover and I thought it was a bit weird here; I probably would have liked the dish more without the oyster. The spinach served to cut the heaviness of the potato. Very good all around.
No, you're not reading that wrong. It does say "cream of foie gras," as in a foie gras soup. This was a special part of the surprise menu, and you guys should have seen our collective jaws drop when the waiter explained what it was. And it was really good. Yeah, it was the richest soup I've ever had - so rich, in fact, that we were convinced they put the figs in just to cut the richness a little bit. But it had a very pure foie gras flavor. It was like an essence of foie gras. The bit of saffron and truffle evened things out a little. I sure am glad I had this; I mean who else can say they've had cream of foie gras soup?
We were contemplating what main dish we'd get. My aunt doesn't eat lamb, so she was really crossing her fingers that it wouldn't be lamb. My dad and I were down for anything. We were happy when we got this pork dish, since we hadn't really seen any pork on the menus during our trip. The skin was crackly and caramelized, while the meat was tender and salty. At first it seems comparable to a Chinese style crispy pork, but it was actually quite different, with a sweet sauce and altogether different texture. The veggies on the side (those are girolle mushrooms under the foam) were all pretty good. This was the only pork main of the trip, I think.
It felt a bit much to get cheese during lunch, but I guess the French can handle it. All three were quite nice; I still like Pont l'Évêque the best.
Total party foul on my part: I forgot to take pictures of the dessert. This is really the only photo that I completely forgot about. We got a duo of red berry desserts - a red berry gazpacho and a red berry creme brulee. I remember the creme brulee being a bit on the sweet side and the gazpacho being light and refreshing. The plate had a cool hard sugar design on it. Also, these madeleines were great, but not quite as good as some of the ones we'd have in Paris later in the trip.
In the end, I'd say the food at Chez Bru is on the whole excellent. This meal contained some of the most memorable dishes of the whole trip for me - the pig's trotter, the langoustines, the foie gras soup - and the quality of the food can certainly run with the big boys. The service is admittedly not at the same level as places like Baumanière or the Paris restaurants. The waitstaff was very friendly and professional, but the service wasn't as thorough and complete. Still, I'd go back in a heartbeat. The food was superb.