Le Rouennais

20 07 2009

In the limited planning time I had for the Rouen trip, I didn’t make it to the library for guidebooks as I normally would have done.  But in the research I was able to do, one restaurant kept coming up, no matter where I was looking.  And that restaurant was Le Rouennais.  I called before we left Paris to see if they would be open on the holiday weekend, and impulsively made a reservation for lunch on Bastille Day. 

Lunchtime Apéro

Since it was a holiday, we figured it would be ok to start our lunch with a celebratory cocktail.  (A quick hilarious story, if you don’t mind: last Thursday Nick and I went to the Musée d’Orsay.  We met on the bridge that joins the Tuileries to the Left Bank, where there are naturally loads of tourists.  I overheard a miffed-sounding American woman telling a companion that she had gone all the way over to the Place de La Bastille, and “No Bastille!”  I just about died laughing, once I was out of earshot, of course.  For those of you not in the know, the Bastille prison was completely demolished very shortly after its famous storming, and, in an ironic twist, the stones were used to build the Pont de la Concorde, one bridge over from the one on which we were standing.)  So I ordered a kir violette, and Nick was talked into the “Cocktail Maison.”  With our drinks came a little plate of apéro nibbles: puff pastry-based cheesy poofs and seafood canapés.  It seems that this is fairly common practice in restaurants in Rouen, but it’s such a nice touch.

We each got a two-course menu, as we do, and Nick got the meal started with the trio de saumon.

Salmon, Three Ways

Silky house-smoked salmon, a wedge of mousse-like salmon terrine, and a very finely minced salmon tartare were equally delicious and beautifully complimented by a dollop of citrusy crème fraîche.  Luckily for me, Nick was generous enough to share a few bites.  The seafood in Normandy is some of the best and freshest in France, and regional chefs proudly highlight it on their menus.  So for my main course I chose the marmite de pêcheur, expecting some kind of mixed seafood stew.

More like seafood pot pie!

What I got was this adorable little tureen topped with flaky puff pastry (and a pointless rosemary garnish).  Underneath the golden crust was my stew – big chunks of salmon and some kind of white fish along with tiny mussels and shrimp swimming in a rich seafood velouté.  I enjoyed every bite, mopping up the last of the sauce with bits of bread, sticking my hand into the bowl in what was certainly an undignified manner.

As for Nick, he chose the magret de canard, and was very pleased with the rosy, perfectly medium rare meat on his plate.

Canard à l'orange

It was served with a classic orange sauce, triangles of underwhelming polenta, and a portion of delicious tomato confit soufflé.  He liked it so much, in fact, that he neglected to photograph the rather unremarkable moelleux au chocolat I had for dessert.

Our bellies full and our palates satisfied, we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the mostly deserted streets of Rouen – it was a holiday, after all – before hopping on the train home.  We arrived in Paris in time to watch the fireworks from a vantage point high on the hill above Belleville.  Not a bad way to spend a Fête Nationale.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Bienvenue en Normandie

16 07 2009

As it turned out, I got a three-day “weekend” for Bastille Day.  I put “weekend” in quotes because the three days were Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  But no matter.  I found this out on Saturday, and by the time I got home from work, Nick was already researching last-minute getaways.  (Isn’t he the best?)

Can anyone guess where we went?

We found ourselves in Rouen Monday morning.  Rouen is known for its cathedral, which was the subject of a large series of paintings by Claude Monet.  Rouen is also famous for being the site of the burning at the stake of Joan of Arc.  (Incidentally, she was born in Orléans, where I went for a weekend last summer.  I swear I’m not doing the Joan of Arc tour on purpose!)

Restaurant

Rouen is located in France’s Normandy region, and since I haven’t written any Regional French Cuisine posts yet this month, it seemed like a good idea to name July Normandy Month.  (I was originally saving Normandy for September, seeing as it’s famous for its apples, but there we were, so I went with it.)  After finding our way to our hotel and getting a couple of maps from the tourist office, Nick and I set out in search of some lunch.  And by “set out,” I mean “got some beers at a café and made some phone calls.”  Holiday weekends can be tough in France, and a lot of restaurants are closed on Mondays anyway, so I wanted to make sure we’d have somewhere to go before hitting the cobblestone streets.  An affirmative response from Le P’tit Bec, which specializes in traditional cuisine prepared with fresh, seasonal products, and we were off to the incredibly charming Rue Eau de Robec.

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