Saturday, August 30, 2014

Restaurant Review: Le Passe-plat

Le Passe Plat  Restaurant

It seems to me that since I have been preoccupied, a bunch of new restaurants have cropped up in Nice.   So now, since I am mobile again my friend June and I  have decided to explore some of them for lunchtime dining.

Trip Advisor seems to have the most active review source so we decided to look there first and found  Le Passe-plat on the port at 4 Bis Quai Papacino which had just opened in May.  

  If you live in Nice, you have passed this little place a hundred times without perhaps realizing that it has changed owners.  It used to be the Magic Pumpkin ( le Zuccha Magique), a vegetarian restaurant fond of cheese.    Having dined there once and having been overstuffed like the proverbial fatted calf  I vowed that though delicious.... it was not my kind of place.   

The traditional building looks exactly the same as the former restaurant.  So it was a surprise to enter and see that the interior has been completely modernized.   Now instead of a dark cave-like room, one sees the "passe -plat" window where the young chef is at work.  There are a handful of well spaced tables and a small bar has been added.  The interior now feels modern, light and airy.  And for those not bothered by the proximity of the street, there is the choice of sitting outside. 

The restaurant specializes in fresh market finds and keeps the menu small:  4 entrees,  4 mains, and 4 desserts and a "plat du jour" all reasonably priced.  The main courses range from 19-23 euros. 

 We were pleased that looking at the offerings we didn't see any of the tired old menu items one is used to in many Nicoise restaurants.  The chef specializes in original dishes with a contemporary twist.  I saw echoes of Asian paired with French cooking, for example.      

  I understand that the restaurant is owned and operated by a husband and wife team.  He is the chef and she does the service.      For our waiter this time we had a friendly young man who answered all of our questions and brought us each a glass of exceptional good white wine to sip while we made our choices. 

Everything on the slate looked promising but we decided to skip the starter and head straight for the "plat principal"   

 June chose the restaurant's signature dish of roasted lamb cooked for 7 hours.   It was served with a row of jaunty potatoes and rich gravy.  She was quite happy with her choice and if I were to come back I will try that succulent looking lamb dish myself.

 I chose the sliced ahi tuna dish which was done with an Asian sauce served on the side for dipping and a melange of carrots in a delicate red sauce.   I wasn't keen on the tuna marinade but the vegetables were heavenly and I like tuna underdone so that was fine.  

For dessert I opted for a "chocolate molleux", a little cake served with a soft, runny center.  The surprise in this one is that the inside  sauce was made of speculoos (as in the Dutch cookies) .  The main spices in speculoos are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper.   So the flavor with my chocolate was a kind of carmel sauce with a kick.    The chocolate molleux was served with a huge dollop of Chantilly.   

June was much more "sage".  She chose the mango tiramisu for dessert.  Since I was in a kind of trance while I mainlined my chocolate, I never found out if hers tasted as good as it looked. 

Ok, so yes we had a good dining experience but I can still nit pik. 

My first gripe is that we were given only two flavors for our main plate.  Yes, we could have ordered a starter but they looked sizable ( all around 12 euros)  and there was no small green salad or vegetable offered.  Not everyone will be wanting three courses for lunch.  I can imagine that I could have been given a few tablespoonfuls of cold soba noodles or a Japanese cabbage salad in a tiny bowl with my tuna and June could have had my carrots , for example to go with the "meat and potatoes".   As it was I couldn't finish my tuna because it got boring with just the carrots to pair it with. 

 It reminds me of the story of the kid who liked to eat his peanut butter and jelly sandwich off of three plates , one with the peanut butter , one with the bread, one with the jelly.  I don't like that my meal is split up so profoundly that I can have only two flavors at a time. 

My second gripe was the use of "ardoise" plates.  Now think about it ..... slate might be trendy but does dark gray really set off the colors of Ahi tuna slices or orange carrots?  Much better to serve them on a simple white plate.  And that's another thing, why serve two of the same color dishes at all?  Two red dishes on a black plate just was not visually interesting or enticing to me. 

My third suggestion is not about noise so much but about intimacy in dining.  This restaurant just happens to be on the section of the port that is closest to the coast highway.  It is a heavily trafficked street without a view of the water..... just some huge yachts and a parking lot to gaze at.  Although the restaurant is quiet inside,   my suggestion for outside is to put as many tubs of trees and bushes as are needed to shield the two outside tables and make a cozy hide-away.  It would soften the look of the place and the plants would be seen inside too. 

Would I go back again to Le Passe-plat?

  I would like to try some of the other offerings and get to the bottom of this chef's skills.  And I would like to dine there in the evening and take in the lights of the port on the way home or maybe get a pedal bike to take us up "the promenade".  

    But seeing how picky I am,  I will want to see what else is out there for the same price range and see if I can come up with my dream dining experience.   But , if my gripes don't resonate with you then you will probably love it. 


Friday, August 15, 2014

Steve McCurry: Retrospective

This iconic image was taken by Philadelphia born, Steve McCurry… He became famous when he introduced his haunting images of the conflict in Afghanistan.  

  This particular photo of an unknown Pakistani girl made its way around the world in 1984.  The girl with the green eyes aroused such curiosity that a National Geographic team was sent to try to locate her.   In 2002 they found the girl's identity and the photo taken 17 years later is displayed in this exhibition as well.

Each of the 27 images that make up the exhibition is carefully chosen and tended to achieve maximum impact.   And each is a masterpiece of composition, light and color.  

 I found that McCurry's sensitivity to the beauty found in the rugged faces of the struggling peoples he sought to photograph  to be remarkable.   The portraiture is stunning.

This free exhibition ( until September 21)…. is housed in the  gallery called Theatre de la Photopraphie et de L'image ….. 27 Blvd de la Dubuchage , Nice.  

  If you haven't already…..Go!

Walk into Town. Yes!

August 13

I buy three lined notebooks as if I have something of great import to say or maybe I am going to write " the great American novel". 
 But today is a marker of a day….. even if I don't write about it.  

It's the first day since May 28  that I have walked down the street to the bus on both legs…. "sans" crutches,  sans boots or straps.  

My intention was to take the bus to the center of town and then walk up to FNAC where there is always the best selection of lined notebooks in town,( not quadrilled… as the French prefer) , then proceed back down.  

  Now, after an hour or so of standing and browsing in Fnac I have made my way down to Starbucks in Nice Etoile.   I need an excuse to sit down and Starbucks is the only place where I can order half real coffee and half decaf in the same cup. 

Its 11am in Starbucks and everyone is having a sweet: a muffin , a piece of carrot cake with his coffee.  Still, no one in the bar is "as big as a house" as you find now in America.    But I am afraid I have seen the tendency of corpulence even here.  We now see husky teenagers and children in France that we didn't see 20 years ago.  All these snack bars along Jean Medecin are not helping.  It's too easy now to stroll and "grignoter" ( to nibble).  But a snack at 11H00 is a simple pleasure and it seems harmless enough once in a while. 

The 3 months of a useless ankle have left me rudderless in more than one way.  Not being able to walk properly felt final, as if it were the edge of not being able to do other important things….like create, or think, or go out on one's own again.   

A strange dullness took over during my convalescence and all I wanted to do was sit in the garden and pull the weeds. ( Maybe this is a metaphor. ha!)  But today I feel hopeful.  

 My ultimate destination for today is to see Steve McCurry's photography exhibition at Le Theatre de la Photographie at 27 Blvd Dubuchage. 

 I am guessing that walking and gazing at his work will inspire me and get some oxygen to my brain.   

 Maybe I will fill the notebooks after all.   Ankles crossed. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Samantha and Christophe

My nephew and his new bride are visiting for a week as an extension to their Parisian honeymoon.  We are all having a peachy and amusing time swapping stories, feasting on summer fare ( team effort) and visiting just a few select attractions.   It's quite hot now in August for sightseeing and we are glad the couple wants to just "be" here with us.   

  The pair will be heading soon to live in the town of Annandale on Hudson in New York.   For his graduate studies Christopher has a full scholarship from Bard College in operatic voice and choral directing.    Sam will be working towards a museum curator's  degree or finding work in the town.  

 While here, Samanitha and I have been having a "gay old time" playing dress-up with my vintage clothes collection.  I am pleased that she wants to take some of the pieces with her.     Its time to pass on these clothes to a young and beautiful woman who will really wear them.  My niece Sarah and her mother have modeled them for me in years past with great style and panache.  Now Samantha is the only other person I have met who can actually fit into them.  

Like Sarah and Martha,  Samantha wears these outfits I enjoyed and collected with grace and charm.   In fact they look like they were made just for her. 

Barney's New York….. modern fox fur hat with modern coat

 60's Bill Blass sequined jacket with 30's straw hat

Straw and velveteen cloche from the 20's

Silk crepe silver studded 20's long gown cut on the bias

Leopard print deerskin hat from 50's
Beaded bonnet from the 20's

"Irene" designed suit probably from 40's or 50's

This is a hat I made from a nondescript felt hat and fur pieces found at the thrift store.   I wore it as part of my costume for Masha in THe Three Sisters in my theatre days in S.F.    This is my red scarf and thrift store coat I found in Nice.

This is a rare scarf that Monsieur gave me that is woven with gold and silver threads. It also has interesting tassels and is a 20's piece.  The necklace I bought in Hong Kong 30 years ago.  

Samantha models a cut velvet coat from the 30's

This dress is part of a collection of bespoke dresses Monsieur bought from the niece of the Reynolds Linoleum heiress in America

It is a fox fur trimmed velvet dress designed by Don Loper who also designed for Marilyn Monroe

A brass studded gown from the 30's

A 40's cheongsam with a myriad" hooks and eyes". That's what makes it fit like a glove. 

Christopher models a men's japanese kimono from the 30's.  Too bad I can't convince him that he will use it.

It was wonderful to have the newlyweds here and we hope that they will put us on their agenda for a future visit.  After all, Samantha hasn't yet visited her roots in Sicily.  And that would be as good an excuse as any for the couple to come back our way.  But knowing how "way leads on to way" I may have to visit them first.