Weekday lunches are one of the most affordable ways to try out “gastronomique” restaurants. That usually works better for the wife, but on the rare occasions, I get to attempt to be a foodie at a more wallet-friendly price.
After Bordeaux, Nice was the second city in which I had the chance to experience the lunch scene all by myself without the wife’s trusty menu French and esoteric food knowledge. Nevertheless, she had to first provide the recommendations. Calling restaurants for 1-cover lunch reservation on the same morning should be much easier, but in fact the first recommended restaurant I called told me it was full. The second restaurant, the Michelin 1-star l’Aphrodite, could accommodate me, despite the call dropping many times as the train hurtled towards the city.
I arrived at the restaurant 5 minutes before opening hours, but the server was kind enough to chuck away my luggage and have me seated right away. The daily lunch menu offered no choice, but that was fine with me. What was a problem for me was that the dishes weren’t written anywhere, so I explained to the server that I was there so that the wife could live this meal vicariously through me and it’d be great if she could write down the menu for me. It’s tough to be a good husband. The sommelier came by after that and recommended a glass of Chardonnay from nearby Aix-en-Provence, delightfully round and fruity, with a spicy finish.
The amuse bouche was to me coldly refreshing (or is it refreshingly cold?), creamy with the asparagus broth and crunchy with bits of nuts.
The fish entrée was a play on contrast – warm and crunchy (anchovies) vs cold and chewy (bonite). The server assured me that for the anchovies from Cap de Nice, “tout se mange”, so I gladly gobbled everything up. I was also told that bonite was like tuna. (readers will realize my food knowledge remains extremely rudimentary).
The fish plat was equally great. The liche was fried on top to have a crunchy layer, but the meat below remained juicy and firm. The tomato had for me a surprisingly chewy interior, the wife surmised that it wasn’t cooked completely. I asked the server why the onions were yellow in color, he explained that it was the natural color of cooked onion. He seemed bemused with my constant questions, but was too polite to highlight my gastronomic ignorance.
I asked for the two types of bread available, Provence and country, to go with the algae butter. The bread was warm and soft, but I didn’t find out what’s the difference between these two variants.
The dessert was a pleasant surprise – I had thought that it would be vanilla ice cream but it was in fact yogurt ice cream, which makes the dessert much more healthy at once. The ice cream also went well with the warm pear and pineapple. The sauce seemed somewhat spicy to me, and the server tried to explain that it shouldn’t, since it was made of only orange, peanut, and honey. At the end he conceded that it might be the sugary tuile (wafer thin cookies named after Mediterranean roof tiles) that might have some spices within – I mean, the customer is always right!
I asked for the bill without ordering tea or coffee, and the server suggested that I have some mignardises to finish off the meal. I told him I would have it if he insisted, and was glad that he did. Of note, the red pâte de fruits tasted like Shan Zha Bing, something I’ve come to find quite often at French restaurants.
At a price of 27€ (+8€ for the wine), I felt like a king served by 4 different servers who were very attentive and approachable. That is to be expected for a restaurant of such calibre, and makes the experience of lone dining much more tolerable.
Address: 10 Blvd Dubouchage, 06000 Nice, France