Tuesday, June 05, 2007

We bless the smoking piano of Dijon

Can you really get anything you want? Alas, they were closed when we passed by, so we will never know.

I have to confess I have never been awed by French food, having had in my short lifetime eaten better in Spain, Italy and indeed Holland and Germany than in France, where I've had some spectacularly bad food. And I wasn't converted on this trip. We had a lot more mediocre meals than good ones, and it reminded me of London in that way: it's easy to find a poor meal; finding a good one is a matter of luck and/or money.

Then again, if I may delve into thoughts inspired by this year's studies in the culture of food, there is an art and a skill and a cultural knowledge involved in reading a country's menus that should give you fair warning about which places to avoid; that coupled with a heavy purse can keep you safe from most bad food.

All of that having been said, Dijon's Le Piano Qui Fume was a great find, and we simply stumbled upon it, and took a second look simply because of its name (does anyone know if that is an allusion to something, by the way? We forgot to ask).

A former creperie, it has been operating for the past four years in a good central location of Dijon. We had the three course menu for a not unreasonable 27 euros per person (passed on the cheese course which I'm sure would have been stunning as well) which began with an amuse-bouche of vichyssoise. Our paths divided with the starters: the asparagus and smoked salmon salad was perfectly executed, but the cannelloni - which our generous dining companion shared - was even better, a tender family of escargot sleeping in a soft pasta bedroll. (So much more comfortable than a nasty old shell full of garlic butter.)

Then we all converged on the rabbit, which was exquisite; the diners around us who had the cod dish looked as happy as we.

Lapin: before...

And after...

And then desserts of beautiful fresh strawberries (a little waffle with bitter orange marmalade was a perfect companion) and my clever fellow diners had the even more celestiale chocolate mousse with a surprise hidden puddle of white mint creammmmmmm lurking in its depths.

Even the darling little cakes that came with coffee were charming and clever.

And oh, happy day, there was a mix-up in our group's final dinner reservation on our last night in Dijon, so we were able to return and try all the things we missed the first time.

The sweet, tangy ratatouille that came with the cod gave me a shock: so that's how it's supposed to taste? And I had been reading MFK Fisher's amusing recipe for it only the night before. The one change to the delivery was substitution of mint ice-cream for mint cream in the dessert, but it was altogether a delightful encore and a welcome finale to our visit.


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