Josy-Jo, Haut de Cagnes
June 17, 2008
In 1970 Josy Bandecchi created this restaurant in the shadow of the thirteenth-century castle dominating Haut de Cagnes on a hilltop between Nice and Cannes. Amadeo Modigliani and Chaim Soutine have lived in the house where Josy-Jo is now. The specialities have always been local, with charcoal grilling featured. Linda and I had not been there for many years so we followed a hospital visit nearby to return on the evening of June 11, 2008.
I started with the cocktail Josy-Jo: Cointreau and orange zest with champagne, while Linda had a plain glass of champagne. There were cooked mushroom quarters on the table for nibbling. Surprisingly they had not been over-vinegared.
We ordered a bottle of 2005 Abbaye de Lérins, Cuvée St Sauveur, rouge from the monks on the Iles de Lérin. This wine is hard to find; it is 80% old vine syrah and 20% mourvèdre. While it is enjoyable now, it will be excellent in another fifteen years.
Linda started with the Beignets des Fleurs de Courgettes. The zucchini flowers had been dipped in a batter and deep fried. They were hot, surprisingly light, crackly and good.
They told us that there were fresh gambas that evening so I had five of them grilled for a first course. Very good.
Linda went on to grilled sweetbreads with a side dish of creamed potatoes. Grilling is an excellent way to cook sweetbreads. They were nicely singed and needed no enhancement but a little salt and pepper. The potato slices added a textural contrast, but she didn’t need so many.
My main course was two skewers of chunks of leg of lamb with lamb kidneys, perfectly grilled with the outside just charred and the insides still pink. It was served with zucchini halves stuffed with creamed cheese, which were not great.
Dessert was very good puff pastry squares with apricots. While the fruit was in season and fresh, it had been chilled after cooking and did not display its good flavor.
Gilbert has been tending the wood-charcoal grill for over thirty years. Here he has a thick piece of beef, a whole veal kidney and something else underway. Another beef cut and several calves livers are ready to go on the grill.