High on my “things to do in a lifetime” list is dining in a Michelin – starred restaurant. Of course, when I traveled to Strasbourg, I took full advantage and ended up having lunch at “Au Crocodile”, a restaurant which, in 2019, held a Michelin star (the restaurant is not listed in the 2020 Michelin guide and I can’t really tell you why not). Here is my take on what it’s like eating in a Michelin – starred restaurant.
I chose the restaurant based on its location and availability. The entire experience of having lunch at “Au Crocodile” was pleasant. As I am more accustomed to visiting restaurants which are intimate, personal, I found the atmosphere of “Au Crocodile” to be a bit impersonal.
The maître d’ and the staff were nice, trying to accommodate my needs and wishes, but all the while, my feeling was that it was a bit rehearsed and their behavior did not quite have that personal touch, that I prefer when I am out eating. The dining room was a bit stuffy for my taste, everyone was whispering, not talking and you almost felt afraid of dropping your fork by mistake and make the smallest of noises.
I did however, thoroughly enjoyed the food. Beware, in a Michelin – starred restaurant (especially in a French one!), there will not be any aromas coming from the kitchen to entice you, there will be fancy dish names, which more often than not, do not really explain what you are eating.
So, I prepared myself for the So, I prepared myself for the surprise of enjoying dishes, whose name I could not really pronounce, in a menu available only in French. Despite the fact that the staff did their best to translate what I was eating in English, I must confess, half of the time, I had no idea what I had in my mouth 😊
When you go to a French restaurant, there is something you should be warned about. You get these small samples of various dishes, called by the French amuse – bouche. These are served both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse of the chef’s style. You might get a full belly indulging in these, before your actual meal arrived.
Before the first course arrived, I got to experience various types of amuse-bouche. In the order of their appearance on the table: I indulged in finger food like items, made up of a foie gras tart, a cheese ball covered in ink crust and a butternut squash purée macaron; these were followed by a typical French pastry, which was served warm, waiting for it to be buttered up and a rather strange dish, made from mushrooms, with a reduction of white wine, covered by a mushroom mouse.
The pasta like side that you see on the plate is not pasta, it was something chewy and I have no idea what it was. But it was tasty 😀
By the time the appetizer of the tasting menu arrived, I also already a bit full, but looking forward to seeing and tasting the dishes. Just to get something off my chest, one of the surprises that I got in this restaurant was the size of the servings. I had this idea in my head that the servings were going to be small, really fancy and hard to eat. In reality, the servings were of a perfect size for one person to enjoy, the dishes were nicely plated, not too sophisticated, but delightful. I ordered the tasting menu, which consisted of four dishes, including dessert.
The Tarbouriech oyster is named after the French farm where it was grown. The oyster was cooked to perfection, stuffed with pork meat and cress purée and decorated with the puffed pork ear. It was interesting to find out that cress, in France, is also known as the oyster plant, as the aftertaste that is left after eating it resembles the taste of oysters. The puffed pork ear was not to my taste. Maybe because I have memories from my childhood, where we’d eat the pig’s ear almost raw, after the pig was cut and roasted as part of Christmas preparations. The taste and the texture did not match my memories, so I was not impressed 😊 As I am a huge fan of seafood, though, the oyster made the dish charming for me!
To be honest, this dish was an unexpected surprise for me. I am not a squash eater. I find the taste of squash a bit vapid. This variation of the butternut squash purée, chestnut and pinot noir sauce however left me with a thrilling aftertaste. The tender fish meat, the sharp pinot noir sauce, combined with the sweet sensation of the butternut squash purée and the woody taste of the chestnuts made this a different, but yet pleasant dish for me.
Full disclosure – before I tasted it, I thought that the meat was veal. Although I usually eat my steaks a bit more cooked than this, I found this one to be perfect. There was a nice balance between the center part of the steak and its edges, which made the entire serving to be quite tasty. Despite what was in the menu, the actual dish contained roasted asparagus (which is one of my favorite vegetables) and a different kind of sauce than the one advertised. Nevertheless, the dish was more than rich and satisfying. I was, again, amazed by the combination of sweet and savory, with the beet purée perfectly combined with the asparagus.
As we, Romanians, say, the “cherry on top of the cake” of the lunch was the dessert. This different rendition of the famous Tarte Tatin beat even the original. Firstly, I was impressed by the aspect of the dish. The careful arrangement of the apple slices shows the dedication put in the making of the dish. The crème Bresse was smooth and light and the apple caramel sauce beautifully added its own taste to the dish. The crispy shortbread made the dish complete.
At the end of the meal, I was, of course, provided with some more small desserts, a coconut ball and a lemon madeleine, on behalf of the chef. Top that with an espresso and you have a lovely way of ending a meal.
I much enjoyed the food at this restaurant, I was surprised by the servings and the dishes, but I was not too thrilled with the restaurant itself. I would probably not go back to this particular restaurant, but I would, however, like to try out some more Michelin – starred restaurants.