As of late, I’ve been pretty lazy when it comes to restaurants. I’ve been to some very good ones and visited my old favorites, including eating at the Indian restaurant on the corner every week. So in order to get the restaurant side of this blog running again, I bring Le Jardin du Sommelier which is located not far from my apartment.
The restaurant, as far as I know was started by the Sommelier, who long story short, loves wine and loves to share his passion with people. He’s there when you come in, greets and seats you and then leaves you to mull over the menu and wine list.
An amuse-bouche was served – I took a bite of mine before snapping a photograph.
This was morue, a type of fish used usually in Caribbean cooking – although don’t quote me on that. It was topped with capers and marinated tomatoes. I’ve been trying to stay away from fish lately, but I like morue and couldn’t resist tasting it. It was soft and served fresh. The fish was flavorful without being overly fishy. The capers were nicely salted and the tomato well marinated.
With a name like Jardin du Sommelier, the highlight of this restaurant would have to be its wine. A sommelier is a trained and certified wine steward. Someone who specializes in all aspects of wine including wine and food pairings. And since this restaurant is owned by such a specialist, he had a nice offer – a glass of wine chosen to go with each course. We both decided to go with this offer and the sommelier came over to ask us if we would prefer a white or a rosé to go with our first course – the entrée. He suggest a white for both of us, and since he’s the guy who knows we agreed.
For the entrée, I ordered something I wasn’t expecting: slices of patta negra – Spanish ham – melon in mint and a croustillant de fromage frais which I have no idea how to translate except to say it was a rolled, crusty cheese thing, lightly fried. Ok, so I expected the ham, but I didn’t expect how fatty or thick it would be.
Talk about fatty right? And the thing is, you’re supposed to eat the fat in order to get the full flavor of the ham. It was very excellent, despite its heaviness, and the fat which I had to force myself to eat at first, added a really nice buttery taste to offset the salty and meat of the pork.
The melon with mint and a hint of muscat (a sweet white wine) was delightful. I didn’t know it but the melon season in France this year has had a great crop and no one is buying them.
The wine selected for us was from La Londes, about one hour from Toulon. It was light when it first entered the mouth and dry. I was afraid it would be totally lost in the heaviness of the ham, but the after taste of the wine was very fruity and stayed in the mouth to work well with the ham.
For the main course, I had something just as heavy – probably worse – margret de canard or duck breasts with spicy chorizo sausage slices laid in between. On the side was a light (thank god) quinoa and tomato blend. Margret de canard is a lot like a piece of steak. If it’s not cooked properly it can end up chewy and bland. If not cut correctly, it’s surrounded by fat that takes forever to cut away without making a huge mess. I’ve had a lot of badly cut and badly cooked duck over the time. This was none of those things. There was not a trace of fat on the slices and the meat was tender and tasty and didn’t take me 10 minutes to chew. The breast was pink and cooked through without being bloody – which is a good thing. I would have never thought of adding chorizo to the duck, but it added an extra zesty, spicy flavor, something totally unique. The quinoa was light, buttery and a perfect side to such a heavy meat. I wish my husband liked quinoa because I would love to make it for myself.
The husband made a much wiser choice for his main course: roasted sole (a type of white fish) with a lemon sauce.
Underneath the sole was a craquant de tomates fraiches, which I can only translate as fresh tomatoes surrounded by a toasted crust. One the side was a basil sauce. He said that everything was absolutely delightful, except the basil sauce kind of overpowered the lemon sauce. Personally, I just thought the presentation kicked butt.
For wine, the sommelier served me a red, after learning that my favorite wine is Chateauneuf du Pape which he said he didn’t have any of in his cave. This red was very close to Chateauneuf and fit incredibly well with the spiciness of the chorizo and heaviness of the duck. After I had eaten the sommelier came over to have me guess where the wine was from. I guessed somewhere in the Cotes du Rhone region where Chateauneuf is from. Nope. It is a Cotes du Provence, from Pradet called Domaine de la Navicelle. I quickly wrote that one down, as I’m always looking for new wines locally made and it can be difficult to find a good red in a region that is famous for its rosés.
The husband had a white to complement his fish, which I tasted and founded very fruity without being sweet. Also surprisingly, this was a Bourgogne which is a region famous for its reds.
Finally, dessert: I had a huge vanilla macaron surrounded by strawberries. I was terrified that this was going to be as rich and as heavy as everything else I had ordered but the macaron was very light and airy and the cream was rich without having a thick butter taste. The strawberries were fresh and sweet, reminding me that it was soon the end of the season and the next day I ran out and bought strawberries of my own.
Husband had a dessert full of his favorite herb- mint. Complemented by my favorite dessert – which I had to refrain from – a molleaux du chocolat. A chocolate cake with a melted center. I had a taste of the mint “ice cream” which is in the center bottom of the photo with the spoon sticking out of it. It was fresh, light and very minty. Not really ice cream, but more of a frozen mint ice. To drink, the two of us both had a “simple” as the sommelier described it monbazillac which is a sweet golden wine used either with desserts or foie gras. It’s a very good wine and one of the husband’s favorites.
Jardin de Sommelier was a great find in a city that really doesn’t have many gourmet restaurants. The sommelier loves to talk about his wines, which creates a very welcoming and comfortable atmosphere. The room is small but well decorated and each table is very private. The husband and I both admonished ourselves for not visiting before and told the sommelier we’d be back.