L’Oasis, La Napoule
June 29, 2008
From 1970 to its closure in 1988, L’Oasis was one of the few restaurants in southeast France to have three stars in the Michelin Guide. We were fortunate to have enjoyed the famous Loup de mer en croute and the fabulous cellar strong in wines from nearby Cassis and Bandol. Well-aged Bandol red wines were available at very reasonable prices. After Louis Outhier decided to retire, the restaurant was closed for several years. It was reopened under Japanese ownership. In 1999 the chef, Stephane Raimbault, was able to buy it and has been successful in establishing his reputation. Michelin has restored two of the stars. Although we had been to L’Oasis for pleasant lunches in recent years, we had not really had a chance to try a significant meal there. So we went on the evening of June 26, 2008.
The entrance has been significantly changed. One used to enter through the charming patio where one could also dine in good weather. Now there is an imposing doorway and a formal anteroom. But we were happily seated at a corner table in the patio with its overhanging plane trees and lush plantings. We accepted the suggestion of a “Cocktail Oasis,” champagne with a bit of preserved cherry liqueur and a cherry. In addition to à la carte there was a choice of two big menus: one emphasising Asian-French fusion cuisine and the other Mediterranean cuisine. Normally we would have tried the fusion menu, but it didn’t seem as appealing as the other from the descriptions so we chose the Menu “Route du Soleil.”
CARPACCIO DE TRUFFES DE LA SAINT-JEAN
Coeur de palmier Frais de Thaïlande et Salade de Mesclun.
These had more flavor than most summer truffles, but I think that top chefs should just forget truffles in the summer. They are supposed to be choosing great products. The fresh hearts of palm were good, but not really appropriate for this menu and were overly vinegared.
PLANCHA DE PISTES TIEDES ET ASPERGES VERTES
En Vinaigrette de Kumquats à la Marjolaine.
This dish with small squid and asparagus was pretty, but had little flavor that came through the kumquat vinegar.
FILET DE PÊCHE LOCALE ET LEGUMES GRILLES (selon le Marché )
Niçoise de Condiments, Herbes Fraîches et Sauce Anchoïade.
The fish of the day turned out to be a piece of fresh, flavorful daurade, nicely cooked, with grilled vegetables piled on top. It was served with a boat of anchovy sauce; you can see a dollop in the upper left. I used quite a lot of it to enliven the otherwise boring vegetables, but Linda thought it was too salty. I enjoyed this dish, but it is really Provençale bistro fare, not two star cuisine.
HOMARD BLEU EN RISOTTO DE SPAGHETTINI “PUTTANESCA”
Sauce Coulis d’une Américaine Légère.
There was a generous serving of excellent lobster, but I don’t know why the chef thinks that he is adding much value with an ordinary tomato, caper sauce and pieces of spaghetti.
POMME D’AMOUR FARCIE “CANNEBIERE”
This pretty little intermezzo was supposed to cleanse the palate, I think, but after I had eaten it, I found that my palette was completely deadened. I’m not sure what was in the sorbet; perhaps the “Cannebière” refers to Pastis de Marseille. Our palates had already been assaulted by two overly acidulated courses and one of tomato and this really killed them. Unfortunately we were just starting on what I imagine was an excellent Bandol at this point, but I was never able to taste it.
FILET MIGNON DE VEAU DE LAIT ET ESCALOPINE DE FOIE GRAS AU VIN DE FIGUE
Compotée de fenouil à la Pancetta et Figue Rôtie
Sorry about the photo, which is almost as fuzzy as my taste buds were at that point. On the lower left is a veal medallion toped with a chunk of sautéed foie gras. Above it you can see greens on top of a little cake of figs and fennel, which really finished off my palate. The sauce of a veal reduction and figs would have been more suitable for pigeon, duck or pork.
PLATEAU DE FROMAGES DE SAISON FRAIS ET AFFINES
This was a nice cheese tray, big enough for a wide selection, but small enough that the cheeses were in good condition. Coating my tongue with one of the creamier cheeses brought back my palate a bit.
This is somewhat amazing. The chef is supposed to be in the avant garde with his fusion cuisine etc, but this dessert cart was right out of the 1970’s; (maybe earlier, but the early ’70’s is as far back as I go in great French restaurants.) The pine nut tart on Linda’s plate was particularly good, but the rest seemed too sugary.
The mignardises were served on an iced metal plaque, but we were not really hungry or entusiastic for more at this point.