Monday, December 6, 2010

Bayonne II: Cidrerie Ttipia

23 August

A little past 7:00, my mom and I headed out to dinner at the Cidrerie Ttipia for our first big meal together in France.  I had read a number of great reviews for the restaurant, which were backed up by the colorful display of Routard recommendation stickers in the window above the door.

When we got to the restaurant around 7:30, we were told they weren't open until 8:00, so we found a pleasant bench and waited until it was time to eat.  We were already hungry, but I am so, so glad we waited - this was one of the best meals I had.

See the two chalkboards flanking the door?  That's tonight's menu.  I don't mean the specials - I mean the entire menu.  Unlike any other restaurant I visited in France (or, actually, anywhere, for that matter), the Cidrerie (which translates as cider maker or cider house) has one set menu of four items available each night.  You can order the whole menu, or just part of it - but that's all there is on offer for the evening.  So I can't make any recommendations as to what to get, but I can tell you that everything I tasted was excellent!

Once we could finally come in and be seated, I was immediately in love with the place.  The tables are long and the seating is comprised of wooden benches.  We shared our table with a large family.  In the walls, there appear to be large wooden casks.

Now, I'm fairly certain that these appearances are a little deceiving, but the wooden barrels give the pseudo-illusion of being cider casks stuck in the wall.  I say pseudo-illusion because there is indeed cider that pours from the spigots.  The Cidrerie is bringing back the Basque tradition of making hard cider, and along with your meal you are invited to pour yourself cider from these two casks à volonté - as much as you like.  Each cask had a different kind of cider: one was declared to be "plus brut," while the other was "plus fruité" (drier vs. fruitier).

But enough about the decor and the cider - on with the food!  We started with a baguette and an omelette à la morue:

Morue is - wait for it - cod.  This was an omelet made with big hunks of cod, and seasoned with the region's ubiquitous piment d'espelette both in dried form and with small pieces of the peppers.  That's not a combination I ever would have made on my own, but it would have been my loss because this was one of the best things I ate all summer.  The piments added just a little heat in the back of the throat, as well as a fresh sweetness.  The fish was cooked perfectly and added a new texture to the bite.  But the real star were the eggs, which were just perfect.  This was heaven.

We probably should have stopped here... but it was too good not to finish!
After the omelet came the merlu à l'espagnol:

Loving the bold Basque red and green
Hake, known as merlu in French, is a popular fish in Basque country, and this one was done "in the Spanish style," which apparently meant with green pepper, more piments, and caramelized garlic.  The fish was just a little crisp and a little sweet.  The peppers, garlic, and fish made a perfect bite: smoky, sweet, just a hint of acidity, very well rounded.  Almost homey - though this is a far cry from what I grew up eating.  Delicious.

But all these were just appetizers for the gargantuan dish to come - a gorgeous, saignant chuleta:

I'm not sure if this photograph really does it justice, but this steak probably weighed a full kilo - it was enormous.  And, I might add, super delicious.  This was truly a beautiful cut of meat, and it was cooked just enough to get a crisp sear while holding in all the juicy goodness of a rare steak (called saignant in French - literally, bloody) as only the French can do.

I know I ate too much steak, but it was too good to stop!  It was still sizzling when it was served, and it was seasoned simply with a little salt, which really let the perfect beef flavor shine through.  The steak also came with a simply dressed salad, which provided a nice lightness to the heavy, rich beef.

We couldn't come close to finishing our oversized steak, which is a real pity because it was so good.  But once they took it away, we still had another course coming!  We finished with a fromage de brebis et pâte de coing et noix:

The sheep's milk cheese paired very well with the quince and nut spread, which brought a fruity sweetness that was a nice balance for the heavier, richer cheese.  I'm glad the portions were small - I couldn't eat too much more at this point.

What a beautiful meal - every course was so good, but that omelet really stole the show.  If you're ever in Bayonne, I highly recommend the Cidrerie Ttipia!

Coming soon: seaside rendez-vous in Saint-Jean-de-Luz - so 'très charmant,' my dear.  (Queen? anyone?)

A bientôt,

1 comment:

I need orange said...

My that was yummy.

I probably should have had nothing, by myself, and should have just helped you eat one serving's worth.....