Though my trips through the Rhône are business-first, I do get a chance to enjoy a meal or two and am always on the lookout for places to recommend to you, the reader.
You can reference my previous blog entries on the restaurants of the Rhône Valley from November 2007 (Maison Pic, Le Mangevins, Bistro à Vin de Serrine, Auberge St.-Michel, Beau Rivage La Pyramide, Domaine de Clairefontaine, Restaurant Schaeffer), July 2008 (Bistro à Vin de Serrine, L'Atelier d'Antoine, Auberge de la Source, Restaurant Régis et Jacques Marcon, Restaurant L'Oustalet, Restaurant Alonso, Auberge de Cassagne) and April 2010 (Le Bateau d'Emile, Restaurant Umia, Restaurant Le Tournesol, Domaine de Clairefontaine, Restaurant Les Cèdres) for more entries on restaurants in both the Southern and Northern Rhône.
As usual, I spent several nights at Auberge de Cassagne, which was reviewed in my cover feature on Châteauneuf-du-Pape. André Trestour has this charming hotel, spa and restaurant in top form. I've also written about Restaurant Alonso in Sorgues, which has settled in nicely and offers arguably the best food in the immediate area around Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
7 rue Joseph Ducos
This basic, unpretentious bistro is located directly across from Olivier Hillaire's shop, just steps up the street from the main place. Lunch plates range from 10 to 17 euros. I had a mixed plate of charcuterie, oven-roasted tomato and grilled brie on toast for 15 euros-simple, and all that was needed in the midst of a day of visits. The entrecôte and salad seemed popular with the locals who filled the place. There's a very modest choice of wines, with a daily selection served by the carafe. Desserts aren't throwaways—I had a perfectly caramelized tarte tatin that made we want to linger. There are only about 20 seats inside and a smaller handful outside, which even on a cool fall afternoon were in demand.
Croisement de la Courançonne
This place, located on the large round-a-bout just south of Cairanne, has only been open a few months. Cyril Glémot is the former chef at L'Oustalet in Gigondas and he's set up shop here in a renovated building that used to house one of Laurent Brusset's many public tasting rooms. There's understated, modern-styled earth tone and brushed metal decor, with 60 seats inside and a large, sunny patio in the back. The food is modern and fresh, with intriguing specials such as filet of toro-that's bull, not tuna! The wine list is also solid. This is a place to watch, as Glémot had built up a following at L'Oustalet before moving here.
Route de Suze-la-Rousse
Sylvia and Sylvain Fernandes moved down from Burgundy to open this restaurant, located on the road out of Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes. She runs the front of the house; he's in the kitchen. The bright, open, bare wood and cloth decor make the jewel box dining room seem bigger than it is. The brightly lit wine cellar adds a nice touch.
The food is traditional—fillet de rouget or pavé de biche, for example—but well-defined and fresh. The Burgundian touch is evident in the ample mignardises that arrive at the end of the meal.
Route des Dentelles
This is the old school, long-standing restaurant in Gigondas that is proudly celebrating 50 years in business. The parmentier de canard is one of the house specialties and the wine list has ample offerings from local producers. The outdoor terrace is in demand during the spring and summer months. The owners, the Bernard family, also own Domaine La Garrigue in Gigondas. There are rooms here as well, making it an ideal place to set base camp for a stay in the area.
Place du Village
Since being purchased by the Perrin family, L'Oustalet has been elevated from the best food in Gigondas to the best wine and food in Gigondas. They purchased the wine cellar of the former La Mère Germaine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape in addition to renovating the interior of the restaurant. Expect to find wine industry folks on business shoulder to shoulder with tourists and vignerons here now. Laurent Deconinck, the longtime in-house chef for the Perrin family, has taken over the kitchen.
As is the Perrin way, the restaurant has a Twitter account and Facebook page, will decant a bottle of wine of your choice before you arrive and offers a fully bilingual staff—modern touches that don't diffuse the French flavor of the place. The young generation of the family, Charles Perrin, runs the front of the house.
Loup de mer en croute aux truffé was a homerun during my last lunch there. The menu ranges from turbot braised in white Vacqueyras to ris de veau and more.
Note: L'Oustalet is closed until mid-January, when it will re-open with a menu celebrating the truffle season.
[You can now follow James Molesworth on Twitter, at http://twitter.com/jmolesworth1]
David A Zajac — Akron, OH — December 8, 2010 2:40pm ET
James Molesworth — Senior Editor, Wine Spectator — December 8, 2010 6:20pm ET
David A Zajac — Akron, OH — December 9, 2010 8:47am ET
Keir Mccartney — League City,TX — December 9, 2010 3:48pm ET
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