Friday, January 12, 2007

Au Crocodile

On a side street off of one of the main squares, Place Kleber, lies the only two-starred restaurant in Strasbourg proper, Au Crocodile. Last night we had reservations there and we had an amazing time. And thank your lucky stars, because I have pictures of everything we ate except the first amuse-bouche.*

We were first served the obligatory palate cleanser, which in my case was more of a gag inducer because I wasn't ready for the extremely cold temperature: it was a mint and lemon sorbet that had been flash freezed with liquid nitrogen! Ouch! And the quantity, a large dollop, was fixed on the spoon so I didn't have a chance to test the waters before downing it. I was still recovering when we were served our first amuse-bouche, the tiniest gamba brochette standing in a dish of minced cucumbers, peppers, and olive oil, and leaning against a speck of endive. Given the tiny proportions I felt like I was a child again, having my own make believe tea party with my miniature tea set. Don't take this as a complaint: it was delicious.

We next had squash soup topped with a squash tuile:Mmmm...squash soup is one of my favorite winter dishes, and the lardons hidden at the bottom were a great addition. We had a glass of champagne to accompany all of these amuse-bouches.

Next up was the foie d'oie, lightly cooked and served with a mango chutney and a glass of Pinot Gris Vendages tardives.I can't stand the taste of any type of fois so I couldn't really appreciate it. But with the appropriate proportions of toast and mango chutney, I was able to get a few bites in before turning it over to the boyfriend. The topping you see is two strands of chives balanced on the star anise.

Afterwards came one of my favorite foods, scallops, served on a bed of risotto and accompanied with a glass of Riesling. So good. There were tons of little veggies in the risotto, and I think I even tasted a pineapple. The red sauce around the plate is massala.

Then bambi, served with Domaine de la Chaume.This was the first time I have ever eaten deer, and it was so good. I know I suck - I just say that everything is good. But how can I explain it? So tender, so rich, with the slightest hint of orange in the wine sauce, it was better than any steak you could imagine. I never eat red meat, but I would order it again without hesitation (though one pitfall of trying out a new food at a starred restaurant is that any following experiences probably won't compare). The fromage blanc dumpling off to the right was yummy (I'm a sucker for dumplings), but I didn't eat much of the pear because I wanted to savor every bite of the deer.

And finally we have arrived at dessert. We first got a preview of things to come with this delicately layered mousse.Rasberry puree on top, whipped fromage blanc in the middle, and an incredibly bitter cherry puree at the bottom that I couldn't touch it made my mouth pucker so. We had a gorgeous glass of Gewurztraminer Vendages Tardives to accompany all our desserts. I'm no good at wines: I should have my boyfriend do the commentary on them to provide you with actual insight. This being said, Gewurztraminer is one of my favorite wines and this was probably one of the best glasses I have ever tasted. So sweet, so fresh, you couldn't even taste the alcohol.

Then came the real dessert, a layered black and white chocolate mousse served with pistachio ice cream and a small chocolate and raspberry.This was the weakest dish of the entire evening. Nothing seemed to go together, and nothing was even that great. Disappointing. I didn't like the white chocolate mousse so I had to dig out as much chocolate mousse as I could before the top layer caved in (I know, elegant). And you see that green sauce framing the plate? Don't be fooled and assume it was mint, like I did. It is tarragon! Maybe someone can explain this randomness to me.

Next came this lovely platter, as delicious as cute.On the left were macaroons. I don't like macaroons, even though I have tried them at all the must-dos (must-tastes?) in Paris. But these were a little bit different because the filling was more creamy and buttery than ones I have tasted before. Not enough to make me suddenly like macaroons, but enough for me to finish one. Next to the macaroons was a chocolate bowl filled with peach puree. Simple and delicious: perfection. Second from the right was what looked like a green millefeuille. I really had no room in my stomach, but the boyfriend refused to try it for me, and I couldn't let something like that just sit there, so I had to take a bite. (Yes, that's it: I was compelled.) It was some type of pear and almond pastry. I didn't finish it. And on the far right is the straightforward crowd-pleaser, raspberry tart.

And our final dessert was this chocolate assortment, accompanied with a glass of kirsch.
And now here comes the kicker, where your mouth is guaranteed to drop open when I tell you how much we paid for this technically 4-course dinner with wine pairings and including water, coffee, and the digestif. 86€ per person. What a deal, thanks to the association Etoiles d'Alsace and their annual promotion, La Formule Jeunes. November through April, there are five two or three-starred restaurants in the region that offer similar everything-included 86€ menus if you are under 35. The only catch is that you have to tell them you want it when you make the reservation, and certain restaurants might have limits, like no Saturday nights. The same association has two other categories of restaurants with lower price points, and if you are coming to Alsace soon I highly recommend you check out the website for ideas. All of the other menus are available on Au Crocodile's website if you want to get an idea of the "normal" prices, which would start at roughly double of what we paid.

Before boring you even further I must mention the matriarch, Monique Jung, a petite woman in a blaring red 80s power suit who made the rounds throughout dinner. We could see her bobbing through the main dining room, visible by her updo from almost any point in the restaurant. What a character. I must almost mention the decor, which was so kitsch it made me cringe. Strands of white feathers hanging from the lights, sparkly and white everywhere - it seems like the wonderland that would result if my 8-year-old cousin was in charge. But this was still an amazing experience that I will never forget. And I have about a decade left to take advantage of the Formule Jeunes, so you know I'll be returning!

Au Crocodile
10, rue de l'Outre
67000 Strasbourg
03 88 32 13 02

Reservations required.

*Sorry if the pictures are dark - no flash because I didn't want to annoy everyone.



Anonymous said...

Holy cow, looks like I'm gonna have to plan a little trip to Alsace.

Etienne said...

Hell yes, this deal makes it *so* worth it. SRSLY!