Monday, November 2, 2009

Food Field Trip France: Le Nord, The End

While we did not make the trip to Paul Bocuse's flagship restaurant on the outskirts of Lyon for a number of reasons, including the time involved, getting out there, and spending 250 euros a person, we did want to at least experience a taste of his brand of Lyonnaise magic. We opted for Le Nord (, one of five brasseries located in the heart of Lyon, a fifteen minute walk from where we were staying. This was our last dinner in France and I hate to admit it, but we definitely started to suffer from eating fatigue.

Le Nord is a chic brasserie fronted by an open kitchen. It reminded me a lot of DC's Central in that the kitchen was visible to diners and bustling with constant activity. And the most noticeable difference between Le Nord and every other restaurant we ate at in France was the pacing; this was the most American in speed with courses following closely one after another. While the service was attentive, it felt a bit rushed.

As for wine, they had several house options from local producers and we chose two house pots (which are a little more than a half bottle) of Burgundy and a Bordeaux to compliment the meal. Again, we were losing steam so while I hate to waste good wine, we did leave a good amount on the table.

While we had intended to order off the prix fix menu, we instead opted for the a la carte options as we both really wanted to try the French onion soup and I was really eager to try the mushroom and scallop risotto. B & I were both happy we did.

The soup was beautiful and covered in a crisp layer of gruyere that when punctured revealed layers of cheese, bread, and onions swimming in a rich broth. This could have easily been a meal in and of itself. It was textbook French onion soup, that stood out because of the quality of ingredients, and the way all the elements came together. It was a rich, layered, warm treat that was perfect for a cool fall night.

My risotto did not disappoint either, though it was served in a deconstructed way with a rich, creamy arborio base, topped with several types of mushrooms, and lined with four large scallops in a rich broth. All the ingredients were done to perfection: the scallops had a nice sear and retained their juices; the mushrooms were flavorful and firm; and the risotto was creamy, yet al dente. And while I hate to admit to two lackluster dining performances on my part in one night (the first being that we did not finish the wine), I could only eat half of this dish. That soup did me in.

B opted for the veal scallopini which was served traditionally: a thin veal cutlet flash fried, lightly sauced, and topped with capers. It was very good, but the depth of flavor (or lack thereof) kept it from being great.

But, the real star of B's choice was the side: a steaming gratin dish oozing with macaroni and cheese and topped with bread crumbs. Last I checked this was not traditional French fare, but the quality of the cheese and the placement of a candle to ensure the dish stayed hot, made this one of my favorite dishes of the trip and the only time we were served any type of pasta.

By dessert, we were beyond full, but decided to share the chocolate mousse since we had not yet had any mousse on the trip and I would feel like a failure if we went to France and did not once try this famous dessert. The mousse was the perfect combination of texture and flavor, airy, yet with rich dark chocolate flavor. For any mousse aficionados out there, it had the texture of Central's mousse with the rich flavor of Ray's the Steaks dark chocolate mousse. And as if the dish was not rich enough on its own, it was served with a slice of brioche, which we were too full to even touch!

So while our last meal in France did feel a bit too American, it was also a rich, flavorful final chapter to a fantastic yet gastronomically exhausting journey through France. The total at Le Nord was 100 euros.

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