The main event of today was lunch at Mirazur, which is No. 11 on the San Pellegrino 2015 World’s Best Restaurants list. I took the regional train from Nice to Menton Garavan station (I was originally going to take the cheaper bus 100, but I realized in the morning that Mirazur is quite far (30 min walk) from the main bus/train station.
My reservation was for 12:15 but I arrived at the location before 11am to get breakfast and coffee. Since I was right at the France-Italy border, I wanted to try the fabled “coffee in Italy, breakfast in France” joke/myth. Surprisingly (thank EU) there is no passport control at the boundary. There is a large police station, but the cops just smile and say “Bonjour” as you pass. about 2 minutes after passing the border, there is a “bar” by the side of the highway. I ordered a cappuccino and a cafe (espresso). This made the owner slightly surprised, but I hadn’t had coffee yet that morning, and I am an addict. The cappuccino had a thick dense foam (no latte art here) with some cocoa powder sprinkled on top. The foam is the traditional Italian style, and it really did taste much better than the cafe cremes served in France. The espresso had a wider range of flavor but it was on the very dark side, and I must say it didn’t taste that much better than the ones in France. Perhaps I am too biased, but I do think “Third/New Wave” espresso in the US is the best. To complete the dream though, I walked back to France and bought a croissant. This was quite possibly my ultimate romantic dream of European slice of life. The view of Menton at the border is also one of the best in all the Cote d’Azur:
Finally, it was time for lunch. I got the “First Tracks” (80€) menu rather than the larger 120€ menu since I just wanted a nice meal and not a full tasting menu.
Amuse-bouche Fried sardine and lemon confit, Macaron with black pudding filling and slice of Granny Smith apple, Beetroot jelly and goat cheese.
The small fried sardine was crunchy while the lemon was subtle and paired well without being overpowering as I often find lemon juice in fish recipes. The macaron shell was like those asian shrimp chips (very airy).
Oyster Cream of shallot, pear, tapioca, pear juice
A huge whole oyster that was beautiful to behold and eat. The pear was light and everything emphasized the freshness of the ingredients, which is what this restaurant is all about.
Recipe from the Chef’s grandmother. Served right out the oven with a local olive oil that was ginger infused. I didn’t like the ginger in the olive oil so much, but the bread was good.
Squid Bagna Cauda
Calamari sliced into thin linguini with a squid ink chip, artichoke, and artichoke puree. There was also a garlic butter sauce. The calamari was tougher, but this was intentional (also slightly charred) as the whole dish was like eating a pasta excellent with the seafood element inherent to the dish. Very creative.
Saint Pierre Pimprenelle, dark garlic puree
This was the dish that ruined the meal. Saint Pierre (or John Dory depending on who you ask) was presented skin side up. Beautiful looking but then I tried to cut the skin with my knife…and it was impervious! The flesh was also stuck to the skin, a sign of undercooked fish. I had to saw the flesh off to eat. The dark garlic puree and onion was good on the side. The dark garlic is garlic that has been fermented at the bottom of the sea (Japanese technique). The more I think about it, the more I think I should have called the waiter to send this dish back to the kitchen. This kind of basic technique flaw is unacceptable at a 2 star restaurant. I just did not have the brazenness to do so at the time. I wanted to complain afterwards, but the waiter simply asked “Did you enjoy the fish?” while already whisking away the plate and about to leave. All I could reply was “Thank you” begrudgingly.
Challans duck Plums and red shiso, vanilla
It was hard to recover from the previous course but I tried to be open minded. The duck is a thin slice, with some plum compote on the side, and a sauce made from the duck’s own juices. I am never a fan of duck dishes on tasting menus, as I find the thin slice does not give enough of the crispy skin that makes a magret de canard great. This was about as good as a duck pairing in such a small portion can get though. The last bite of compote had a nice presence of vanilla, which I had forgotten was announced as one of the ingredients.
Cheese plate This cost 19€ extra, but I could not resist the cheese cart (yes a cart of cheese is wheeled to your table) of a Michelin restaurant experience. I wasn’t sure how much I could select or how the pricing worked, so I only selected 4, one a specialty of Provence, another soft slightly strong one from Burgundy, a goat cheese, and Gorgonzola blue. The Gorgonzola was my favorite.
Indian fig vanilla cream
Fig flavored shredded ice over a vanilla cream.
Naranjo en Flor Saffron, almond foam, orange sorbet
Almond foam (dense) over orange sorbet with a thin saffron flavored wafer on top.
Tartlet coffee, parsnip, pistachio | Grapes
I was quite looking forward to this meal as the pinnacle of Cote d’Azur cuisine. There is a lot of hype on the internet and I haven’t seen any negative reviews. But I must say I was severely disappointed. The amuse and entree were creative while respecting the freshness of ingredients, but the mains and dessert did not impress. And that fucking fish.
The seafood I had in Copenhagen was much more impressive. Who would have thought that New Nordic Cuisine would prepare fish better than Mediterranean Cuisine?
Some people around me were having the longer full tasting menu, which looked like it had more creative dishes (and the fish was a different species). But I expect the chef to be able to show his vision even in a 6-course menu, or at the least not make rookie mistakes. The service was also very stiff, which might be the norm in France. Dress code was very casual: I saw some people wearing faded jeans, shorts, flip-flops (don’t do this, have some self respect).
The view was great, and going to Italy for coffee made my day. I guess if you come here get the full tasting menu to avoid mediocrity, but I really can’t say I think this place deserves either 2 Michelin stars or it’s World’s Best Restaurant ranking.