Thursday, August 5, 2010

Le Jardin des Sens

Coming twice to Languedoc in the past year, you’d think that our list of “Things to Do / People to See in Languedoc” would become shorter.  Au contraire!  We add more to the list all the time, and bump some things further down.  Like going for dinner at Le Jardin des Sens.  (Note to Ottawa hockey fans:  Le Jardin des Sens is not where local hockey players hang out in the off-season.)  JDS is a Michelin 2-star (“worth a detour”) restaurant, right in Montpellier, about a 10-minute walk from our apartment.  The Pourcel twins, Jacques and Laurent, who focus on Mediterranean cuisine, run it.  Although focus may not be the right word.  The Pourcel brothers follow the conglomerate chef model made famous by the likes of Alain Ducasse, Gordon Ramsey, et al:  13 restaurants in France, Japan, Thailand, Morocco, Algeria…a wine store, many books, cooking workshops…Thank God, there’s 2 of them.   

But dinner at JDS suddenly jumped right to the top of our list when Michèle received a very generous birthday gift:  a voucher for dinner for two – yay! – from Bob (her brother) and Nathalie.  WOW!  Luckily, we snag a reservation for the following Monday evening. 

From the outside, the restaurant looks quite ordinary, sitting on the corner of a busy street.  (Maybe it’s just me but the French seem to put very little emphasis on building exteriors.  Is this a property tax dodge?)  But the interior reception area is modern and subdued.  The reception itself is oh so cool.  Escorted out into the garden for an aperitif, the almost instantaneous transformation from the hustle and bustle of the hot Montpellier streets into the coolness of a tranquil garden, in just 30 or so short steps, is striking.  We take our favourite local aperitif, a glass of the Picpoul de Pinet.  A glass of wine, some appetizers, a quiet garden, this is the definition of an oasis.

Finishing our aperitif, we move into the dining room.  It’s Monday evening and it’s full.  The dining room is a high-ceilinged glass cube surrounded on 3 sides by the garden and a waterfall.  Very modern.

For the first course, Michèle takes Les petites ravioles de foie gras de canard aux cèpes et parmesan, purée de petits artichauts violets, bouillon de volaille au fumet de cèpes, chips d’artichauts.  (Little ravioli of foie gras with cèpes and Parmesan, purée of purple artichoke, chicken stock flavoured with cèpes, artichoke crisps.)  Foie gras, cè's a winner.

For me, it’s La composition autour de l’huître : en croquette au tourteau, crue au citron, caviar et pamplemousse, en tartare et granité de pomme verte.  (Oyster medley: with crab in a crispy croquette, raw with lemon, caviar and grapefruit, tartare and green apple granité)  Oysters are a regional specialty and you don’t often see them treated with the kind of imagination shown here.  But I am mystified that they haven't separated the oysters from their shell.  Is this to assure the client that the restaurant hasn’t slid some cheap oyster into an expensive shell?  My utensils are about a foot long and the knife is as dull as an accounting convention.  Much wrestling with the oysters ensues.  Messieurs Pourcel, you missed the mark on this one.

With the first course, Michèle and I each have a glass of a 2008 Viognier from Languedoc, which the sommelier recommends with both dishes, not that he has much choice.  (The wine list is comprehensive but it’s almost exclusively in bottle format; just 3 white wines by the glass are available.)  Aromas of grapefruit, almond, and white flowers.  Citrus fruit on the palate, with a pleasantly bitter finish.  Medium-bodied and medium acidity.  But not a great match with either dish.

On to the main course.  My choice is Le filet de bœuf Charolais en brochette aux cèpes, grillée minute, croustillant de pommes de terre au confit d’oignons doux, jus au vin de passion.  (Fillet of lightly grilled Charolais beef on a skewer with cèpes, grilled à la minute, crispy potatoes with caramelised sweet onions, stock with passion fruit wine)  Delicious.

Michèle takes La fine tarte de confit de lapin aux noisettes, escalope de foie gras poêlée, filet de lapin rôti, son jus en vinaigrette tiède, salade de saison et compotée de poire à la vanille. (Fine tart of rabbit confit and hazelnuts, sliced warm foie gras, quick pan-fried fillet of rabbit, vinaigrette with roast meat jus, seasonal salad and stewed pear in vanilla)  More foie gras.  Michèle uses her highest compliment:  decadent!

Dismissing the sommelier, I choose the Ermitage du Pic St. Loup Cuvée Ste Agnes 2007, AC Pic St Loup (Languedoc).  A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre.  Still a bit young, aromas of cassis, plum and lots of Garrigue (dried herbs), then spices, and liquorice.  The black fruit dominates on the palate, a bit of minerality.  Medium acidity and young tannins.  Great with the beef, perhaps a bit too heavy for the rabbit.

The portions are generous, so we pass on dessert, knowing that some sweet goodies will come our way…and they do.

Merci, Bob & Nat, for a wonderful evening!!!

Subscribing to this blog through RSS or email is easy! Just click on the subscribe link to the left ←

1 comment:

  1. Haven't dined here since just before the days of three Michelin stars - they only held three stars for a few years. While it's a wonderful present to receive, I have to say that from reading this I don't feel the slightest inclination to return. Given the spend involved, plus they offer menus with matching wines, the sommelier standards appear to leave much to be desired.