Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lunch at Chez Emile

Chez Emile was a recommended restaurant—both online and in travel guides—so we knew that we would have to have a meal there while in Toulouse. Sadly, the first time we stopped by, the restaurant was closed (the majority of restaurants are not open seven days a week in France, even in large cities). The second time around, we called ahead to make a reservation before coming there, and we got the earliest lunch seating possible. It is well that we did so, for the restaurant was quickly full within about 30 minutes, both upstairs and downstairs.

The décor was upscale, but not overly fancy. I wouldn’t eat there in shorts, but no need for men to go in a dress shirt; a polo would be fine. I would definitely recommend a reservation though. Or, if not, show up exactly at noon (which I believe is when they open).

Though there were prix fixe menu options, we decided to just order four main courses.

The gigotin d’agneau de lait des Pyrénées, Champvallon (30€), which translates, I believe, to lamb shoulder, was very good. The perfectly cooked meat sat in a fragrant sauce. The lamb was tender and succulent. I think it was a more fall type of dish, as it was somewhat stew-like and the flavors were very earthy, but it wasn’t heavy. We gave it a 9 out of 10.

Their cassoulet au confit de canard de Francis (20€) was a little too salty, and while it was good—nice and thick, with soft, flavorful white beans—it just couldn’t stand up to the one that we’d had at Le Magret. We were slightly disappointed by the fact that it was a little one-dimentional and lacked variety. Though it was delicious, the huge portion got a little… boring after a while. Perhaps if you really like the flavor of cassoulet, it would be different. We gave it a 7 out of 10.

This magret de canard du Gers grillé, échalote et gros sel (22€) was beautiful. And it tasted as good as it looked. Cooked rosé, or medium-rare, it was juicy, tender, and mildly sweet where the meat had been caramelized. The bed of sauteed vegetables accompagnied the duck nicely, providing a mellowness that made the dish feel light and summery (as opposed to sauces, which often make a dish feel more serious, more autumn, and less summery). All in all, it was very good, 8 out of 10.

The pigeon aux épices, cuisses confits et panisse (27€) was presented in which I thought was a simultaneously artful and amusing manner, although I suppose if avian feet scare you, you might enjoy it. From the “deconstructured” dish (picture on the right), you can see that there were different cuts of the bird, including a very succulent breast. If you’ve never had pigeon, it tasted like quail. If you’ve never had quail, it tastes like duck. If you’ve never had duck… please, go try some duck. It is delicious.
I liked the seasoning and the vegetables (especially the miniature zucchinis), but it wasn’t a “wow,” and because of the boneniness of the bird, I don’t know if there was as much meat as the other plats. I would say it was a 7.5 out of 10, simply because it was fairly expensive for something that didn't make me ooh or aah. I might ordered it again, or I might not, depending on what else was available.

The soufflé au Grand Marnier (8€) was very pretty, lighty, and airy. I personally thought that while the flavor of the liquor was there, it was a little bit… eggy? The scent was definitely present. The ice cream combined nicely with the warm soufflé, and the little tuile was deliciously crispy and sweet.

This moëlleux aux chocolat (8€) was… average. But when I say average, take in mind that I am comparing to restaurants of a similar reputation. It did not wow me, but it was by no means bad. I liked the dessert, but I thought the chocolat flavor could have been more pronounced (remember though, I am a dark chocolate girl) and while the orange sorbet, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, and tuile were all good, it just didn’t wow me. Is it so wrong that when I eat, I want to be wowed?

The macaron (8€) you see there, it definitely did wow me. First, it’s presentation was artful and whimsical, and secondly, it tasted beautiful. It was a little symphony in my mouth. The raspberry macaron wasn’t overly sweet (as can be a problem with macarons), and the scent of the red fruit in there was very nice. The raspberries, pineapple sauce, raspberry coulis, and pulled sugar all came together with the macaron to make a perfectly balanced dessert with sweetness and acidity. I would definitely order it again.

Chez Emile
13 Place St George
Toulouse, France
Tel: 05 61 21 05 56

Overall rating for the price: 8 out of 10... (the service and ambiance contributed to this score)

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