Stephane Viano at “26 Victor Hugo”

October 27, 2006

26 Victor Hugo, 04.93.82.48.63

Paging through the Saturday TV section of Nice Matin, my eyes were drawn to the picture on the restaurant review because I recognized the waiter as Christophe, who had worked for many years at Don Camillo. I read on. The chef, Stephane Viano, also came from Don Camillo. In fact so did the whole “equipe.” Viano was the chef/owner there after Frank Cerutti went for the stars in Monaco at Louis XV and then he left sometime in 2005 to regroup, turning Don Camillo over to the current group which has renamed it “Don Camillo Creations”.

With great hopes we set out one Saturday night for this latest incarnation at 26 Bd Victor Hugo, where we have eaten well at the two preceding restaurants there—“Dominique Nicol” and “L’Effeuillant”.

viano-interior.JPGThe décor was never bad but now it vibrates. The walls and tablecloths are all subdued, neutral colors with bright orange water glasses making a singular splash of color. Sculptures line the ledge along one wall behind the white banquettes, and flowers arrangements are scattered around the room. The background music ranged from exotic Middle Eastern to New Age to light jazz, all at a nice murmuring level. There are two menus, one at 32€, which this particular day was zucchini soup with foie gras, a filet of rascasse and dessert. We opted for the menu surprise, or Lou Mourelec, at 58€ and started with a rather salty amuse bouche of chevre and fresh salmon on croutons.

Next came a delicate and truly superb pastilla du legume confit, foie gras et rouget with an aigre-doux sauce, served on a square black plate on a square glass one. This was followed by a fantastic beet risotto, with a langoustine on top of the lovely pink rice. To clear our palate after this, there was a sorbet de champagne (Henriot). The main course was a filet of rascasse, some vegetables sautéed in the wok, and girolles all wrapped in a sesame coated crust. There were three cheeses offered this night, tomme de montagne du Auvergne, a Brie, and a chevre, all nicely aged and well matched with each other for a good variety. Dessert, a gateau au chocolat with kumquats, currents and strawberries was fabulous. The wine list is traditionally laid out, with the Cotes du Provence selections costing between 25 and 35€. Since we had no idea what the menu “surprise” was going to be, we asked Christophe for his advice and went with his suggestion of a 2005 Chateau Galoupe Rose at 28€ and were happy with it.

The rest of the diners were all French this particular night, and we learned that the clientele here is quite different from that at Don Camillo. Every day at lunch the restaurant is full, mainly with area business people. Dinners tend to be more relaxed, and more local people than those that used to come to Don Camillo from the nearby hotels. A second dinner, this time accompanied by Bob and Peggy, where we all ordered a la carte, continued to please us with both the food and the service and the atmosphere. The amuse bouche was a wonderful sweet pea cream with a slice of ombrine on top. The men split a mushroom risotto and had more than enough, while the two ladies passed on that course. For the main course, two of us had veal, boned and rolled and then baked with some very tasty vegetables and the other two tucked into a daube de chevreuil with a creamy polenta.

No cheese, and only two desserts, one a warm chocolate gateau with ice cream and the other a nougat with a raspberry sauce. With dinner, we drank a Cote du Provence, Chateau Roubine, and after a glass of a not too sweet white that was suggested on the chalkboard with desserts. We were all very delighted with the selections and will definitely return.

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