For the third time in our long vacation time, we went to Hotel des Roches in Le Lavandou (Aiguebelle to be a little more precise). It seems to indicate that we like the place. As we arrive with friends, I stop the car in front of the entrance and the “chasseur”, in charge of the customers’ cars tells me : there is absolutely not any parking place left. And I immediately answered : “do you imagine how much I care for this problem which is yours ?”. The man was so astonished that he felt unable to answer, so he gave us a ticket for the car.
I have checked during this dinner that the judgement on a restaurant depends on the quality of what is observed, but also on the mood of the one who observes.
I had made an investment this day, which gives me a great opportunity for future developments, and could probably satisfy the crazy need to enlarge my cellar, so I was in a mood to celebrate that. So, the “observer” (me), was very demanding.
Just arrived, not even taking our seats, I asked for a Krug Grande Cuvée which appeared to me to be less than five years after bottling (I prefer them largely more mature when they have more than ten years of cellaring). This wine (I say wine) has an impressive personality. It is so lively! The type, the expression, the speech of this champagne is convincing. You know that you drink something great.
A restaurant should know when a table will order wines of a certain calibre. And therefore, the standard welcoming “entrée” should be adapted to this situation. I say it firmly to all the great restaurants : no standard entrée when people order nice wines. We could check that by receiving a tomato cream which had the effect to completely block the Krug. On the other hand the restaurant reacted well by offering us a more adapted entrée (before the menu that we ordered). It was a fish living in rocks (rascasse in French), nicely dressed. This was so good that it was an appeal for the first wine that I had ordered : Chateauneuf du Pape, Chateau Rayas white 1998.
What a wine! Wow! I am still in love with this wine, two days later, having the taste still in mouth. The first image which came to me was when you want to choose a tapestry. The man in the shop looking like an Ali Baba cavern unfolds a tapestry, and by every slope you can see different colours and different motives. This wine is like that, revealing new tastes by every second.
On that wine I had ordered a “brandade de morue” as I wanted to enjoy the gustative shock of the wine and the fish mashed with garlic. But we had a sophisticated variation on the theme of a brandade. It was not the virile brandade, crude, that you eat with fishermen. It was a brandade for top models who would put cautious lips on this vulgar preparation. The wine was so good that it did not disturb my pleasure, but I wanted a fight between wine and food and I had only a pillow talk.
We had made such a happy try of “cigales de mer”, this sort of lobster with a meat more expressive than a lobster, that we ate with Yquem 1987 recently in the same place that I wanted to make a new try of this precious tasty animal on a red this time, and I chose Chateauneuf du Pape Chateau de Beaucastel Hommage à Jacques Perrin 1995. I know, I know, it is pure infanticide. But the baby has muscles. We had discussed with the « maitre d’hotel » what should accompany the cigale in respect of the wine, and it was what should be done. Vegetables with no acidity and girolles. But what was absolutely not adapted was the sauce. The sauce masked the meat, hid it. I wanted the purity of the meat with this great wine, but we received something which did not work. The complicated sauce very spicy, and very marked with oriental tastes disturbed what I wanted. I had the evidence of it when I dug in the head of the cigale to find some pieces of pure meat, not marked by the sauce. Then, the combination was a dream.
Now the wine. This is a heavyweight, but an airy heavyweight, like Cassius Clay. The message is clear, the tastes are perfectly structured. This is a future sumo who throws away any question outside the fighting circle. I am perfect, I am the great wine, so, drink me and say nothing. What a contrast with the white Rayas! The Rayas was dancing around your palate to seduce you when this wine takes a seat in your palate, opens a newspaper, just saying : now enjoy. Of course ten years more would be necessary to reach the magnitude of the 1990 Hommage. But it was a real pleasure that only Rhone wines can give, made of pure simplicity.
I was very happy with my choice of wines. So, I dream of making exactly the same dinner, with the same wines and the same courses, but completely simplified, “minimalised”, to enjoy the purity of the agreements between nice tastes and great wines.
Of course, this observation depends on the observer, as another day I would probably have applauded to the preparations of the chef. Life is so made …
As this is my taste which is made so, asking for the purity of combinations, I do not blame the chef. An evidence ? I booked for next week !