L’Ane Rouge, Nice 2
May 29, 2008
L’Ane Rouge, the Red Donkey, has been a regular fixture near the top of the Nice dining scene for the thirty years we have been coming here and probably for years before that. Looking in my 2005 Michelin Guide: it was one of three restaurants in Nice with a star, but it does not have one in the current guide. It survived a fire five years ago and has been redecorated. Although we remembered the excellent bourride, Linda and I had not been for many years and we decided to try it again on May 27, 2008.
The weather was heavy for the season and so the outside tables were not being used. We were seated at a nice quiet table in the front corner. The sommelier suggested the house apéritif: champagne with a dash of kirsch and a maraschino cherry. A glass of champagne would have been better.
We ordered the Menu Baie des Anges at € 75 and a bottle of 2006 Francois Vuillard “Les Terrasses de Palau” Condrieu and a half bottle of 2003 Château Sainte Anne Bandol Rouge. They both turned out to be quite nice.
The amuse-gueule, or La Patience, was a very nice little cup of cream of morels and a little toast with a morel topping.
The first course was a
Velouté de petits pois, infusion de thé vert à la menthe, tartine de légumes croquants, jambon cuit au foin. The thick cream soup of fresh peas was excellent. It had little chunks of ham in it and there were slices of the ham in the open sandwich of fresh vegetable slices. It is described as “hay cured,” but that flavor escaped me. Nonetheless, the little faux bundle of hay on which the tartine rested was a nice touch.
The second course was
Le risotto de seiche au beurre d’encre. The waiter said that we were returning to peas so that must have been the green flavor of the risotto although it wasn’t obvious. From the menu description I would have expected it to be black with squid ink to go with the pieces of squid on top. The dish lacked something.
Linda’s third course was
Le pigeon rôti sur une croûte financière, sucrine braisée à l’estragon, sauce civet. Linda thought that the pigeon was fine, but nothing special. Sucrine is a type of lettuce widely grown in the south of France as it tolerates warm weather. I like braised lettuce more than she does and finished it for her.
My third course was
Daurade royale en bouchon sur un lit de fenouil, sucs de poulette anisés. This was also disappointing. The chunk of dorade should have had a crispy skin, but did not. The description implies that the fish will be on a bed of fennel, but it is on an overpowering bed of concentrated tomatoes with the nicely done fennel on the side.
The fourth course was
Les Fromages de Chèvre sur un Filet d’Huile d’Olive. These were three pieces of goat cheese ranging (left to right) from fresh, to half-dry to dry. I liked the first two, better than the third, which had lost its charm.
Linda’s dessert was an
Aumônière de poires caramélisées, crème d’amandes. This was superb. The pocket was filled with almond cream.
My dessert was
Le soufflé aux citrons de Menton et son sorbet. The soufflé was perfectly done, but the « red fruit » sauce poured into it was too much for its delicate flavor. The sorbet, also of Menton lemons, was good in itself, but there was no point in having the sorbet and the soufflé the same flavor.
There was a little tray of quite boring Mignardises.
The meal had been enjoyable, in a nice quiet setting with efficient, friendly service well-paced, but the cuisine was not exceptionable, memorable or a candidate to regain L’Ane Rouge’s lost Michelin star. Only the amuse-gueule and the pea velouté had us saying to each other that it was really good. Getting our hopes up that way only made the rest of the meal seem more disappointing.
I had read on Chowhound a report that L’Ane Rouge serves the best bouillabaisse in the world. On the menu there is an item:
Sur Commande : La marmite du pêcheur servie en Bouillabaisse (minimum deux personnes, prix par personne.)
This implies that it is the similar fish stew popularized by the neighboring restaurant Les Pecheurs, but the report on Chowhound implies a full-scale three-serving production. I imagine it is quite good, if not the world’s best or most authentic, and would probably be worth ordering in advance the next time we think of returning to L’Ane Rouge. Strangely, the bourride, a fish soup thickened with aïoli, or garlic mayonnaise, wasn’t on the menu. It had always been a signature dish before.
To see Gary and Varian’s somewhat more positive blogpost from last September click here.