The Restaurants of Chablis
Chablis is home to several terrific restaurants offering both traditional and modern cooking by first-class chefs. During our wine tour of Chablis we dined in several of them, both in Chablis itself and in neighboring villages of the Yonne department. What follows is a summary of the high points of our restaurant visits focusing on some of the most memorable dishes. The concluding section covers in detail one of our finest meals in the one star Michelin restaurant, L’Asperule.
L’Hostellerie des Clos is the premier restaurant in the village of Chablis. The culinary home of chef Michel Vignaud for almost three decades, it is located in a small, upscale hotel near the center of town. The restaurant offers a wide selection of traditional French dishes and wines of Chablis. The specialties include Cassolette d’Escargot de Bourgogne, Pochouse de Poisons d’Eau Douce and Andouillette de Chablis Braise.
The restaurant is elegant, the service is highly professional and the food is excellent. We dined at the restaurant twice, and each visit was extraordinary. Our memorable dishes included: Nage d’Huitres Spéciales Sorlut au Chablis, Julienne de Legumes (oysters in an aromatic broth with Chablis and thinly-shredded vegetables), Demi-Pigeonneau Royal du Maine Rôti aux Morilles, Asperges Vertes et jus au Chablis (pictured here), and Dos de Sandre Poêlé Sur sa Peau, Beurre de Legumes au Chablis (pan-sauteed perch with vegetable butter).
Au Fil du Zinc At the other end of the fine food spectrum is Au Fil du Zinc, a casual restaurant and frequent meeting place for winemakers. It is owned and operated by the team of Fabien Espana and husband and wife chefs Ryo Nagashama, (a Japanese-born chef who worked for Robuchon and Alléno in Paris) and Vanessa Chang (pastry chef). The restaurant offers a lovely modern décor; the food is neo-bistro, creative in the use of ingredients and produced with panache.
We dined here one evening and had lunch on another day. The Asperge, Parmesan & Boulgour (pictured here) is exemplary of the kind of unique ingredients and combinations offered here. A simpler, bistro-style dish was the Agneau, Carotte & Romanesco also pictured here.
Le Relais Saint Vincent. In the Chablis country side at the restaurant of the Hotel Le Relais Saint Vincent in Ligny-le-Chatel we had our most enjoyable lunch with Jean Paul Durup of Chateau de Maligny. Le Relais Saint Vincent occupies the former seventeenth century residence of the local Bailli de Ligny le Chatel. The restaurant, which is run by the wife and husband team of Sylvie and Jack Vuillemin, offers very fine traditional Burgundian cuisine.
The first courses included delicate Quenelles de Brochet a Lacuillere (pike quenelles) and flavorful Croustillant d’Escargots aux Pleurotes (snails and mushrooms in puff pastry). These were followed by Coq au Vin (Chicken sautéed with bacon and mushrooms in Chablis) and Raviole de Legumes et Petoncles, Nage Parfumée au Basilica (ravioli of vegetables and scallops in basil court-boullion). Chef Sylvie Vuilllemin did a magnificent job on these dishes, preparing some of the most savory and flavorful food of our visit.
Cheeses of Chablis & Environs Meals in Chablis conclude with desserts or cheese platters. Which to choose is never easy! The cheeses of the region are delicious and pair well with the wines of the region, especially Grand Cru Chablis or a red from Irancy. With rich cow and goat milk plentiful and readily available, creamy cheeses are widely available.
Epoisses This is a pungent washed-rind cow’s milk cheese first made back in the 15th century by Cistercian monks. It has a fine texture and soft pate with an aroma of marc (brandy). Napolean was said to have been partial to this cheese.
Abbaye de Citeaux This magnificent cheese is made by the Cistersian monks at the Abbaye de Citeaux situated east of Nuit-St. Georges. The cheese is made from cow’s milk and is developed in three integrated layers: a yellow mould, white mould and red mould from the brine.
Soumaintrain This is a soft cow’s milk cheese from the village of Soumaintrain in the Yonne. Like Epoisses, it is a washed brine cheese and comes in a similar sized disc with a bright orange rind. It is mild when young but gets more pungent as it matures.
Abbaye de la Pierre qui Vire The Benedictine order of monks at the farm of Abbaye de la Pierre qui Vire make this fresh, mild flavored creamy cheese from goat and cow’s milk.
Chaource This is a creamy cheese from both Burgundy and Champagne. It has a white bloom rind, relatively mild flavors, and melts in the mouth. It can be eaten at any stage, either very young or when it is aged and fully ripe. It is also an enjoyable breakfast cheese with toast or pastry.
Restaurant Les Millésimes-Noyers
Restaurant Les Millésimes is located in the picturesque medieval village of Noyers-Sur-Serain, 23k southeast of Chablis. It is a warm and inviting establishment, operated by chef Denis Paillot and his family. The restaurant lies behind their bakery and charcuterie. In addition to serving as sommelier, Denis’ son Pierre makes his own wine, which we tasted with him at his nearby cave. The restaurant serves many fine dishes, but the memorable ones were among the entrees and desserts. We started our meal with a decadent Tourte a l’Epoisses (Epoisses tart, served warm) with salad greens. For dessert we couldn’t resist a Tarte Tatin aux Pommes served with a caramel-butter sauce.
L’Asperule This one-star Michelin restaurant is located in the town of Auxerre located about 20 km from Chablis. It offers extraordinary French-Asian fusion and other dishes, prepared by a team of chefs led by Robuchon protégé Keigo Kimura. The night we ate at the restaurant it was serving a superb highly original six course prix fixe menu.
After the obligatory gougères, prepared with light cheese and herbs, we were served a magnificent seared Foie Gras in a light consommé of duck, fried onions cooked in white wine, fava beans and Okaki, a Japanese rice cake. A beautifully prepared vegetable dish followed consisting of asparagus and a faux asparagus made of mushroom and bacon combined with parmesan mousse and Japanese parsley.
A rich and deeply flavored mushroom soup with blue cheese foam followed. After that came a spectacular roasted salmon dish, cooked rare and sweetly spiced with a Christmas cake-like emulsion. It was ethereal in flavor. While we paired most of our dishes with premier and grand cru Chablis, for this dish we opened a 2011 Irancy, a light red from one of the region’s better-known producers.
The next course consisted of Pintade, or Guinea Fowl (the French consume more Guinea Fowl per capita than an other country), served with a rich brown mushroom sauce sweet, potato chips and turnips. Pintade is not well known in the U.S. so it was a real treat.
We concluded our meal with an aged Comté served with toast, hazelnuts and raisins, followed by a delicious fruit dish served with vanilla yogurt, lemon sorbet, frewh kiwi, strawberries and pineapple and a heart-shaped sable. The sable is a classic French cookie from Normandy that has a lovely delicate crumbly texture. It was perfect for this dish and the fitting conclusion to a superb culinary experience at L’Asperule.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler