“Let’s go there - they have a menu du terroir!” Annette said as we walked up the street in Arnay-le-Duc.
I’d been tempted by another, smaller restaurant, but when we peeked in the lights were off and the place looked deserted. So, Chez Camille it was. The menu looked decent, and better yet, they had a pastry chef in addition to the chef and sous-chef (pastry chefs are quite rare in restaurants back home, at least restaurants that I can afford).
After asking for a table for two, we were ushered into a small, dimly lit lobby crammed with furniture. We sidled between pieces of furniture, wondering if someone found too good a bargain to pass up, brought the furniture to the inn and crammed it into the lobby.
The chef, a tall somewhat gaunt man, greeted us as he moved to another room, where he was having his lunch. The kitchen would survive without him.
We were given menus. A small plate of amuse-gueles arrived. Charcuterie in aspic, more charcuterie en croûte.
We ordered two prix fixe lunches - “Menu du Terroir” - featuring an appetizer, main plate and dessert (or cheese). Other people with reservations were ushered quickly into the dining area, no lounging required.
We remained in the lobby.
“Um, this ever happen to you before, being stuck in a lobby?” I whispered.
“Non, jamais,” my wife replied.
“So presumably we won’t be eating in lounge chairs with bent knees off a too-small table?”.
“No. I think not.”
Happily she was correct. The lounge interlude was just a pause before entering. The dining area lay under a twisted ficus benjamina, pruned artistically to crawl along the underside of the skylights. The kitchen, with large windows open to the action, nestled against the far wall. An ancient stone stairway led underground to the wine cellar, leaving the waitress about two centimeters of clearance between her head and the keystone.
The tables featured white tablecloths with large decorative plates bearing an illustration of the restaurant. As soon as we were seated, the fancy plates disappeared. It’s normal to have expensive display plates, but usually guests get to enjoy the artwork prior to the plates going back to their niche.
Another waiter arrived with a basket of rolls: bacon, normal and grain. Bacon in bread always strikes me as a bit American, a gimmick to spend less time developing the bread’s flavor by adding a bit of smokiness and fat that wouldn’t otherwise be there. The plain roll was competent, if not exquisite.
Our entrées were a lapin en gelée and a bouchée à la reine. The first was bits of cured rabbit put into a mold and covered with aspic and chilled. The bouchée is a columnar puff pastry filled with bits of meat and vegetables, typically in a béchamel sauce - although I think they might have used velouté here for lightness. Both were competent, with the edge going to the rabbit.
Our main course sautéed Charolais beef with scalloped potatoes and a somewhat sour version of Bordelaise sauce. We couldn’t drive by all those fields of grass-eating cows without dining on one.
Dessert was a good Mousse au chocolate and a type of fruit mousse thing whose name I forgot.
The chicken will be for tomorrow. Placed on a bed of garlic, carrots and shallots and roasted, a sage-based sauce whipped up from the jus to drizzle over the meat. It won’t need anything more, since these chickens are bred and raised for flavor.