Saturday, 21 August 2010

La cuisine est mon violon d'Ingres

A visit to a Parisian classic, Le Violon d'Ingres, that has evolved over the years and proves itself again and again.

The story has it that the painter, Ingres was enthralled with the violin. So when French people talk about their hobby or passion, they say that it is their violin d'Ingres. Such a lovely way to characterize a rather mondaine concept. My passion is definitely cooking, food and restaurants and the chef, Christian Constant was thinking the same thing when he opened his restaurant, Le Violon d'Ingres on the rue St. Dominique.

I decided to take two friends who had just arrived from Japan to lunch at this lovely restaurant. Their luggage in the cloak room, we sat and ate and talked. Le Violon offers a 30-euro 3-course lunch during the week but if you don't like the choices, you will find many on the à la carte menu.

After our celebratory Taittinger coupes de champagne, we studied the menu and decided to go for the à la carte main course offerings and dessert if we had room.

Toshio chose the grilled Acquitaine beef that was garnished with a wonderful macaroni and cheese (gratin de macaronis). Yuko chose the grilled selle d'agneau with provençale vegetables and I had a wonderful open raviolo that was filled with Breton lobster, girolles and fevettes (chanterelles and fresh lima beans). Every dish was a winner.

With my dish, I wisely chose a glass of Chablis, but as my friends were completely jet-lagged, they decided to stick with their glass of champagne.

Desserts were wonderful but after a copious main course, we chose from the more light offerings. I had a pêche melba of pêches de vigne (do we have them in the US?) They are purpley-red peaches. This melba was served with a lovely violet ice cream. Toshio had some home made raspberry sorbet.

The service in this fine restaurant was excellent and our server was very helpful with my friends' luggage as well as making sure that they got into their taxi headed for their next next stop (La Gare du Nord for the train to Brussels).

Constant is an historic contemporary chef. Those he has trained have gone off to start a young chef revolution in Paris and he himself has two one-star restaurants and two excellent bistrots on the rue St. Dominique.
He has devoted his life to changing the face of French cuisine into a continually evolving phenomenon with an attention to fresh ingredients and low-cost preparations.