Tuesday, December 07, 2010

lunch at Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge

During my week in Zurich, I went with some coworkers to Dijon for the weekend. Another coworker had recommended several restaurants in Burgundy, and it turned out that one of them was in Dijon, so we called them up on Friday and managed to get a lunch reservation for Saturday.

As an aside, we actually asked a French coworker to make that call, since none of the four of us had any confidence in our French-speaking abilities. I grew up speaking English, Taiwanese, and Chinese, so French is perhaps my fourth-best language, just edging out Japanese. Of the other three, one is an American living in Switzerland whose second-best language is now Swiss German, one is a Swede living in the US who probably speaks four or five languages not including French, and the last is a German living in Switzerland (I bet his French is the best).

Anyway, we got off of the train, dumped our bags at our hotel, and were off to lunch at the Hostellerie du Chapeau Rouge. Interestingly, the hotel itself is poorly reviewed, but the restaurant was recently awarded a Michelin star. I was certainly not impressed with the exterior facade:

The interior was surprisingly nice and modern, though, and soon after being seated, we were served a set of four amuse bouches:

I just realized that it's been several weeks and I've started to forget a lot of the details about the food. Also, most of the explanations were in French, so my comprehension was shaky to begin with. Oops. Anyway, I believe the first one was a falafel-like fritter, the second was a veal dumpling, the third a fairly bland sushi roll, and the last was a veggie spring roll. The dumpling was by far the best.

The wine menu was very extensive and way beyond me, but luckily we had a wine expert at the table, so he ordered us some champagne to start, and later on tried out several local reds:

We chose the tasting menu (of course), so the wine consumption was spread over the next four hours.

There were four or five varieties of fresh bread, all of which were tasty, but my favorite was this olive bread:

I was amused when the waiter offered us a second piece of bread after a few courses, and he seemed shocked and/or offended when one of my dining companions refused. The next time he came back we all obediently made additional selections.

The first real course was a foie gras au torchon with potatoes and champignons. Everyone else liked the foie gras very much. I liked the mushrooms very much.

Next was a shrimp tempura paired with (I think) rabbit, with giant capers:

The shrimp tempura was very, very good; it may have been one of my favorite things on the menu. Whatever the meat was, I did not enjoy it at all; it was very gamey (and I typically like game) and very fatty.

This interesting presentation is of a sea scallop, served with corn puree and more champignons:

It was quite good but interestingly I liked the accompaniments more than the scallop itself.

The fish course was next; I believe it was some kind of sea bass, with shaved black truffle and some assorted vegetables:

I had this veal shortbread dish instead, with fresh pasta underneath. The shortbread was pretty good but very crispy and salty, so I couldn't finish it. The pasta was fresh and delicious and I ate every bite.

The poultry course was a duck breast with some vegetables. I don't remember much about this dish so I guess it wasn't particularly memorable.

I do remember this beef. I was quite surprised to find it very overcooked; I gave up after only a few bites. It compared very poorly to the sous vide beef that I'd had at Baume last month.

There were four "dessert" courses, the first of which was this cheese mousse, served with prunes and honey, with mesclun salad and a black pepper tuile:

This was my favorite dessert, and possibly my favorite dish overall, since the gamey rabbit offset the delicious shrimp. The cheese mousse looked like it should be sweet, but it was not sweet at all. It was extremely cheese-flavored, but not cheesy. I thought it was very creative, unusual, and very delicious.

Next we had a pear-themed dessert. I think the pear was prepared three different ways; there were chunks of cooked pear, there was pear flavor in the cream/foam, and there was some kind of sugary syrup as well. It was tasty but not as impressive as the previous course.

I liked the next dessert better; it was a trio with passionfruit souffle, pineapple sorbet, and pineapple rum. The sorbet and the rum were not that interesting, but the souffle was amazing; the texture was perfect and it was tart enough even for my taste.

I was a bit surprised that the last real course was the lightest of the desserts; it was a very simple grape sorbet served on a toffee crisp with some citrus-y sauce. Again, yummy but not that interesting.

Finally, we were served four types of petit fours. I believe the pink one was a raspberry meringue, the macaron was chestnut flavored, and the tartlette was apricot. The fancy one in the back was pistachio on fruit gelee on top of a piece of chocolate with financier underneath. It was also my favorite of the four.

Overall it was a very satisfying meal. The service was outstanding, despite the occasional language difficulties, and the decor and the tablescape were impressive. The food was a bit uneven; it seemed like some of the courses were much more ambitious than others, and I was especially disappointed in the overcooked beef, but the shrimp tempura, the shortbread pasta, and the cheese mousse were all creative and memorable. The foie gras and the passionfruit souffle were very well executed as well.

It was after 4:30pm by the time we left the restaurant, so despite walking around for several hours after eating, none of us were interested in dinner. Instead, we caught a showing of Orlando at L'Opera de Dijon, and then went straight to bed.

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