Sunday, November 6, 2011

Carcassone - La Barbacane

It has one Michelin star but I think it was more for the awesome setting than the food.  The food wasn't bad at all but it wasn't the best star on our trip.  But we still got a kick out of dining at an institution set on the grounds of the beautiful Cite de Carcassone, a UNESCO heritage site since 1997.

The restaurant is situated within the Hotel de la Cite with a beautifully manicured garden overlooking the city of Carcassone as well as the Castle towers.

The dining area keeps within theme and is similarly medieval in decor and feel, and we felt we should have made an effort to come in costume, as a knight or m'lady.  But a group of 20 elderly Japanese tourists at the neighboring long table brought us quickly back to the 21st century, or is it the 20th since the 21st is about mainlander tourists??

Trout with Creme Fraiche and Caviar
A combination which cannot really go wrong.  Nice accompaniment to the apertifs we did not order..

Amuse Bouche
I don't remember much of the amuse bouche.  It was quite good but just wasn't that memorable.

Duck Foie Gras with caramel-coated peanuts, orange marmalade and warm brioche bun
The region is famous for foie and La Barbacane prides itself on its house made terrine.  And it was very good, very livery fragrant.  The use of the crushed sweet nuts was clever in adding texture and taking away any cloying richness so you can enjoy the whole thing without feeling sick.  Of course the marmalade with a hint of citrusity gave it an added dimension.  I didn't think we needed the brioche at all and was happy just eating this as presented.

Extra fresh egg served soft-boiled, Brittany lobster and ceps in a fine passion fruit ragout, cream of mushrooms
This was just a decadent breakfast in a bowl.  Egg was perfectly cooked and the freshness did come through, coming away with the feeling this was rushed from coop to kitchen.  Nothing overpowered and the combination of all the ingredients worked surprisingly well since I wasn't initially sure about the passion fruit ragout.  

Charolais beef fillet stuffed with foie gras, braised beef cheek, truffled potato and onion churros, Périgourdine sauce
The beef stuffed with foie was simply quite divine and it was a good cut balancing meatiness and marbling so only moderate effort in chewing to savor the taste of the cattle was required.  The beef cheek stacked with vegetables I wasn't so sure about.  It wasn't bad but just not my thing.  Cheek was purposefully dried out to allow for the streaks to be flavourful but I didn't fancy it getting between the teeth.  

Fresh Fig on an almond pie, a flan, vanilla Chibouste sauce, pine-nut ice cream, house-made rhum arrangé flavoured with sugar, lemon and vanilla
I love fresh figs and almond pie so this was perfect.  The condiments were just complementary but I could do with them or without.  It was just about the 2 main actors.  

Petit fours
Traditionally pretty but we were a little too stuffed to enjoy them although we snuck the jelly and sword swooshed macaron in.  Nice touch.

Overall, I thought the wow factor came from the beautiful medieval setting of the restaurant.  The food was certainly good but just paled in comparison.  Recommended for those who are first time visitors to Carcassone.  after all, it is a beautiful place to chalk up another star, for those who collect them.

Hôtel de La Cité
Place Auguste-Pierre Pont
11000 Carcassonne, France
Tel: +33 4 68 71 98 71

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