Le Provençal – St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

September 14, 2006

On September 12, 2006, Linda and I had dinner at Le Provençal, a small restaurant with a lovely setting on the edge of the village of St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. We had eaten here many times before, but not for several years, and it has always remained somewhat of an enigma. It is in the heart of one of world’s great concentrations of very expensive villas and hotels, but one which has become somewhat lacking in animation as the new rich (many Russians) stay to themselves and do not come year round. For many years it had a star in the Michelin guide. Then, under the active ownership of Jean-Jacques Jouteux, who had established a reputation in Paris as an upcoming chef, it had big gastronomic ambitions which it could never achieve. It was only busy in the high tourist season, due to a reputation among local people for high prices, slow service and erratic cuisine.  But it still enjoys a high rating in the Guide Gantié.  Jouteux replaced himself as chef, although he still plays some role. 

The evening was lovely so all the tables were outside on the little terrace by the front door. About two-thirds were occupied. We started with a glass of the house champagne, Henriot Brut, quite good. The amuse-gueule was a little bowl of mushroom velouté with some acidulated langoustine in it which didn’t go at all. We had the Menu Marché at 80 € @. It offers three choices for the starter and for the main course, a cheese and the five-desserts. There is also a Menu Homard at 120 € and a Menu Langoustine at 160 €. At lunch only there is a 35 € menu.   

Linda started with sautéed foie gras under big flat pieces of fresh pasta with a tasteless brown sauce. I had a half lobster in a salad of summer vegetables with a lemony dressing.  Linda followed with carré d’agneau, while I had duckling with a spice coating; both were served on a galette of potatoes, but I also had a side plate with the duck leg confit served on a little salad. Mine was considerably better than Linda’s. The cheese was a nice piece of fresh chèvre with a quince confit. The famous five desserts were five little plates of crème brulée, sorbet, chocolate cake, berries and pannacotta with apricot. They were all okay and quite ordinary.

As they were out of the Château Pibernon we had ordered, we accepted their recommendation of a bottle of 2002 Domaine Ott Comtes de Provence rouge which reconfirmed my impression that Domaine Ott wines are overpriced and boring.   The meal was not bad, but I would put it in the category of bistro cuisine. There were no surprises, which probably is fine with the tourist clientèle. The setting is nice for St Jean, but one can do a lot better for view, ambience, service etc at the nearby Voile d’Or. We were taken there for dinner in early July, but it was a very busy time and I didn’t have time to write up a blog posting.) 

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