Friday, May 18, 2007

Restaurant Review: Cavaillon

On my way to work recently, I drove past Cavaillon, a new restaurant with a promising French name. I mentioned it to Jay and we were both excited at the prospect of having another fine dining establishment so close to home. Last week, we finally made it out to Cavaillon for dinner.

We had no reservations and quickly learned that they were a must even on a Thursday. The MaƮtre d' informed us that the wait would be about 40 minutes. Luckily, the wait was only about 20 minutes -- just enough time to enjoy a glass of wine at the small and crowded bar.

I started with the Panisse Marseillaise (Crispy Chickpea Cakes) served with housemade aoili. The plate arrived with four yummy-looking crisply fried sticks (not quite cake-like). At first bite, these seemed an excellent juxtaposition of the delicate, fried outside and the creamy inside of the cakes. By the second bite, I found the texture to be overly rich and cloying. I've had chickpea cakes before and enjoyed them. The consistency of those were similar to a very smooth hummus. Cavaillon's were more like a thick, runny cheese and not what I wanted at the start of a meal. They weren't awful and could be employed in some other capacity on the menu. I'd serve just one over a salad of arugula or cress and dress it with a lemony vinaigrette to balance the extra-rich texture and taste.

Jay started with a special soup for the day, the bouillabase. I'm not one for fish-based soups, but Jay's dish looked bright and had a pleasant, not overpowering aroma. He finished the bowl, while there were three chickpea cakes still sitting over on my side of the table. I'll leave it at that.

I ordered up the Salmon, which was seared to perfection and served with asparagus and "basil-eggplant caviar". I wolfed down the salmon, then tasted the "caviar". Mind you, I've had plenty of non-caviar caviar dishes. I had a carrot caviar that was minced so finely and sauteed with spices so as to mimic the mouthfeel of true caviar. However, Cavaillon's caviar didn't cut it for me. The caviar was smooth, and not unpleasant texture-wise. I couldn't make the association with real caviar here, unless the chef was mimicking that weird caviar that's sold in a toothpaste-like tube and consumed by nearly everyone in Sweden. I love eggplant but could taste none of it in this dish. It was ALL BASIL, ALL THE TIME here. I do love basil, but I was looking forward to the chef balancing the two tastes together. Ah, well. At least the asparagus was lovely.

Jay's entree' was the Arctic Char. It was perfectly cooked -- moist, yet flaky, and served atop a bed of mushroom risotto. I didn't taste the risotto, but it smelled fabulous and Jay cleaned the plate.

For dessert, Jay had the housemade pistachio ice cream, which was absolutely lovely. I had the coconut ice cream, which transported me to a tropical dreamland for a second. The texture was creamy and the coconut so very fresh.

Even though there were clearly some low points at Cavaillon, there were enough brilliant spots that I'm planning to go back. Try it if you're up for French food in a very unexpected suburban area.

French food; Beer and wine only

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