Le Chambard in Kaysersberg - a real gem; Cheval Noir in Beaune - not so.
Thank you CHs, especially Ptipois, for recommending Olivier Nasti's Le Chambard in Kaysersberg. What a special gem in the middle of a picturesque (albeit very touristic) wine area. My husband and I arrived at the hotel a little before our 12:30 reservation for the gastronomic restaurant. I was glad that I had reserved because the place was packed. And it seemed, from the constant flow od diners arriving while I was trying to check into our room, that the winestub was also a very popular lunch destination.
We enjoyed glasses of Champagne as the attentive wait staff presented several amuse bouche, including smoked quail eggs, pumpkin soup, foie gras and another small morsel of meringue morsel that quickly disappeared into my eager mouth. Because the menu was only in French, I felt a bit unsure about all the dishes available. However, we managed to figure out most of the dishes, and several of the wait staff spoke a few words of English and were very helpful in assisting us. We had the choice of a la carte or 3, 4 or 5 courses plus dessert. We chose the 3 course. I started with a refreshing mushroom and feld salad, my husband had the foie gras with nougat. Both dishes were well prepared and flavorful.Then I had e turbot and my husband had the scallops, potatoes with 3 grams of white truffles from Alba. All eyes turned to our table when our waiter brough out the truffle and placed it on the scale, After he shaved off the slices for my husband's dish and asked if it was enough, he put it back on the scale so my husband could see how much he had received- 3 grams. Before my husband took his first bite, I had to smell his dish - gorgeous! My turbot was also delicate and well presented but his dish was extra special because of the white truffles. My third course was the local deer and my husband had the canard. Orignially I had planned to order the chicken with escargot but the waiter convinced me to try the deer by telling me that it was local deer and very unique. I am so glad he did. The petit deer medallions were cooked perfectly - so tender, so well seasoned, so perfect with the cassis, brussel sprouts and home-made spaetzel. There was nothing left on my plate! For dessert, my husband had the tartlette caramel and I had the feuille...(I can't remember what it was called but it was little layers of various thin pieces of chocolates served with chocolate ice cream.). After dessert, they rolled out a gorgeous tray of over 20 different petit fours- nougats, macarons, eclairs, marshmallows, etc. The waiter even tried to present and present them all in English, which I thought was cute and very friendly, but when he realized that we knew most of them, he quickly switched back to French. With cafe and a bottle of 2003 Hermitage, our total bill came to €425. Without the white truffles and bottle of wine, the meal would have been closer to €200.
What I loved about Le Chambard was the excellent service, the small size of the gastronomic room, the small portion sizes, and the quality/ presentation of the food. I am glad that we opted for the 3 instead of a larger course. I was sated and content after all the food we ate; however, had I opted for more courses, it would have stuffed me to the rim and I am not sure if I would have enjoyed it as much.
We stayed at the hotel for the night and it was a very lovely stay. We had a quiet room with a terrace overlooking the wine yards in the back. The hotel has a small pool and sauna, the staff are very friendly and helpful and it is right in town so we can easily walk around the little town and up to the old tower on the hill. The next day we enjoyed a tasty breakfast of fresh squeezed blood orange juice, freshly baked bread, croissants, organic yogurt and eggs. The entire experience was so wonderful that I slightly think I may have made a mistake by starting our trip with that as our first restaurant.
When we had dinner last night in Beaune, I found myself comparing it to the meal at Chambard and being rather disappointed by the meal at Cheval Noir. Would I go back to Le Chambard? Yes, and I look forward to it eagerly. Would I go back to Cheval Noir in Beaune? No, not really.
Thanks again for all the tips CHs!
How on earth are you comparing those two meals? Having eaten at the Cheval Noir in Beaune, I thought it was perfectly fine, if a little bit pricey for what you get, given that it's in the provinces. But well executed food at a fair price.
But the meal I ate there was less than 100€ for two people. You're comparing that to a more than 400€ meal? If the 4-5x more expensive meal wasn't much, much better, I would be irate!
Tmso: you're so right! I wasn't trying to compare the two per se, I was trying to underscore that, by starting off with Le Chambard, I was setting myself up badly for whatever came next, which happened to be Cheval Noir. And Cheval Noir was one of the few places open this past Monday, a French holiday.
We originally wanted to go to 21 Blvd, a new restaurant in Beaune, but it was closed. We did end up going to 21 Blvd the next day for lunch and I preferred it to dinner at Cheval Noir. I think 21 Blvd's price point is more comparable to Cheval Noir, but I preferred the atmosphere, food and service at 21 Blvd over Cheval Noir. As you mentioned, Cheval Noir is 'perfectly fine.' The food was fine, the service was good, but IMHO the atmosphere reminded me of a sterile business-hotel lounge room. Have you tried 21 Blvd? What were your impressions?
Admittedly I try not to get too irate about meals unless something is disturbingly off. For instance, I just had a wonderful meal at Il Centro in Priocca, in the Piemonte region of Italy. The meal was half the price of Le Chambard, but equally as enjoyable (if not better, according to my husband). Both experiences were different, both were good, and both are two places I would recommend to others.