Wednesday, June 18, 2014

French Eats: Bistro Saint Louis

We had two dinners scheduled in Nice; the first of which was at Bistro Saint Louis. When we were checking into our hotel, the front desk clerk handed us a map, circled some interesting sights, and then asked us if we had any questions. We told him we were having dinner at Bistro Saint Louis that night and could he mark that on the map. He said we'd made a v. good choice and that it was a great restaurant so we had some high hopes.
And we were not disappointed! Bistro Saint Louis is located just a few minutes north of the Vielle Ville. I made reservations right through their website, nice and easy.

It's a modern looking, sleek and clean restaurant.

You can take a look at the market fresh items before you run inside.
There's a fresh lobster tank (something I haven't seen in years). Just before I grabbed this photo, there was a crab sittin' in here too but he got fished out for someone's dinner. Sorry little man!
We took a good look at the menu and there was a ton of delicious stuff but we managed to narrow it down to two appetizers, we each picked a different main course (so we could try each others' plates), and one dessert.

Our first appetizer was foie gras de canard du sud ouest 1er (premier) choix poché dans un bouillon, compotée de figues et aceto balsamico vieux et ses toasts de pain d'épices. What was that? First choice southwestern duck foie gras (liver) poached in stock, fig compote and aged balsamic vinegar and gingerbread toast. The gingerbread toast was an interesting choice but quite delicious, especially when paired with the super savory and rich foie gras and the sweet fig. I'm not a big fan of foie gras in terms of its humanity (ducks are force fed gross amounts of food to fatten up their livers) but it's delicious. I avoid it in the States but I just couldn't avoid it in France. It was so smooth, rich, delicious, creamy, savory, the list of yummy adjectives can go on for days.
For our second appetizer, we got the burratina fumée au bois de hêtre, basilic frais sur un carpaccio de pastèque, a.k.a. beech wood smoked burratina, fresh basil on watermelon carpaccio. The burratina (which I think is just a baby burrata) was delicious. Baby sister thought it was too smoky and kind of just peeled away the skin but I liked it. If you've never had burrata, find a way to eat some now. It's basically a fresh mozzarella pouch containing cheese and cream. The texture of the innards is almost moussy. Anyway, back to the dish at hand! The watermelon carpaccio was interesting. It added a freshness to cut the heaviness of the cheese and was an interesting substitution for tomato. I mean, isn't this essentially a caprese salad? Even the colors are there.
E ordered the house special pasta for his main dish. It's fresh tagliatelle flambéed in grappa and tossed inside of a big cheese bowl. They do this right at the front of the restaurant so you can be creepy like me and go watch. First, our server scraped a bunch of cheese from the cheese bowl.
He pulled the scraped cheese to the side and added some grappa. Then, using a torch, he set it aflame.
Then, he used two spoons to sort of splash the flambéed grappa around the cheese bowl, to allow the heat to melt more of the cheese and create a sauce.
Lastly, he added in the fresh tagliatelle and tossed it around to get it coated in the cheesy grappa sauce. He also mixed in the cheese he'd scraped off in the beginning.
The pasta can be served three ways, simply (and traditionally) with fresh cracked pepper and nutmeg, with Iberic ham, or with Norwegian salmon. E opted for the traditional. This pasta was bangin'. I'm sorry that I just said "bangin" but it was! The fresh pasta was on point, the cheese was really rich and salty but it was balanced out by the sharp grappa. Nutmeg and fresh cracked pepper always pair nicely with cream sauces. This stuff was serious. It made me want to buy a big wheel of cheese so I could do this at home.
I got the pavé de thon frais juste saisi, vieux aceto balsamico, segments de pomelo course, socca et mesclun d'ici. Fresh seared tuna, aged balsamic vinegar, Corsica grapefruit segments, socca and mesclun greens. The tuna was delicious. It was cooked to my liking - basically just seared for two seconds just to get some color so that 98% of the meat is still rare. The acidic and sweet grapefruit along with the mesclun greens complemented the fish really well. I was smitten.
S got the ragoût de pulpito flambé au cognac, tomates fraiches et pomme tournées au safran. Ragout of baby octopus flambed with cognac, fresh tomatoes and saffron potatoes. There were probably a hundred baby octopi in this dish! Some were slightly bigger, some were teeny weeny, all of them were perfectly tender. The tomato sauce was super delicious and the potatoes were purple Peruvians and they were gorgeous and delicious.
My sister got one of the specials of the day, which was a fresh tagliatelle pasta with mushrooms. This might've been my favorite dish of the night. I mean, all of the dishes were really delicious but I love mushrooms so this one was extra yummy to me. The pasta was fresh and cooked perfectly to al dente, there were several varieties of mushrooms, and the whole shebang was smothered in a lovely creamy sauce. The best part was how perfectly sauced the dish was. There was no extra pool of liquid in the bottom of the bowl at the end of the meal, nor were any of the noodles dry. It was just executed perfectly.

Due to the generous portion sizes, we opted to share one dessert. It was a raspberry and pistachio creme brulee and it was crazy delicious. There were fresh raspberries and chopped pistachios mixed into a lusciously smooth custard. The burnt sugar topping was crunchy and sweet and the whipped cream was super light and fluffy. I think I mentioned before how I don't understand French whipped cream. It's so decadent but light and it doesn't coat your lips in the fatty way that American whipped cream does. I don't know. I guess French people are just better pastry chefs. Wait, I guess? No, I know that to be true.
At the end of our meal, we were given these little digestifs. It was fresh mango juice mixed with a touch of rum.
We cheers-ed to a lovely dinner and downed these like shots. I think we were supposed to sip these but they were so juicy and yummy! We all had huge smiles on our faces after we realized how friggin' delicious the drink was.
Would I recommend Bistro Saint Louis? Yes! Wholeheartedly, yes yes yes. Not only was the food spectacular but our waiter was really nice. He was incredibly kind presenting the menu to us and even complimented my French speaking skills (what a liar). Also, I have to give him big props because he let me photo-stalk paparazzi him when he was making the house special pasta dish. A big thanks to him.

Anyway, after that wonderful meal, we just walked on back to our hotel to rest up for another day of vacation fun.
xoxo.

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