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. 


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