Saturday, August 20, 2016

Restaurant Jan (Nice, FRANCE) ★★★★☆

I was obviously disappointed to have missed out on the chance to explore young South African chef Jan Hendrik's exciting cuisine last night after arriving late from Monte Carlo. But there's no way I was going to let that chance slip away so the very next morning, I decided to head over to chef Hendrik's Restaurant Jan right before skipping town.

Restaurant Jan is a charming little restaurant just behind the Old Port that used to be a motorcycle repair shop. They have done wonders transforming it into a stylish and intimidate dining venue with lovely petrol-blue walls and antique chandeliers.

The beautiful decorations aside, what attracted me here was chef Hendrik's brand of haute comfort food. I was given the options of the regular lunch menu (2-course at €30 or 3-course at €42) and the degustation menu (€98). Since I was a bit pressed with time, I went with the 3-course regular lunch menu which seemed to represent the best value for money.

Amuse bouche was a savory squid-ink macaron with salmon mousse in the middle and topped by some caviar and gold foil. That was a pretty slick nibble. Very nicely done.

That was followed by some poppy seed and sesame bread served with two kinds of butter - seaweed and dashi. I thought both pieces of bread were excellent and equal to the task was the accompanying butter. 

Lunch officially got underway with a beautifully plated appetizer that featured fresh melon, ahi tuna and more.

This was a very busy dish with a lot of ingredients starting with the melon in the middle. It's carved into ring shape and immediately on top was a layer of refreshing melon jelly. Based on the color scheme, I'm guessing that this was an inspiration from the Italian parma ham and melon (just a wild guess here)?

Other ingredients included smoked tomato, tomato seed, lightly seared ahi tuna, fresh pepper, leek, onion and crispy garlic chip. If refreshing my palate was their objective, then they have certainly made their point!

Main course was sea bass fillet served with a vegetable terrine and all sorts of different vegetables including tomato, zucchini and green peas. Soon after the dish arrived, our server brought over a large bottle of fermented olive oil and started pouring some on top of the sea bass.

I really like this dish. There's a very nice harmony between all the different flavors with the sweetness wonderfully balanced by the citrusy acidity.

The third and final course was variations of rhubarb, highlighted by the rhubarb parfait in the middle of the plate, served with a vanilla sponge. There are also other components in play such as a piece of poached rhubarb, a toffee chip, white chocolate, avocado puree, strawberry (or tomato?) ice-cream, crumbs, zucchini and rhubarb pearls. Again lots of sweetness and acidity left and right. That was quite an interesting experience.

Like the last dessert before it, the petite four was an interesting collection of sweet nibbles like sponge cake (I couldn't remember exactly whether it's coriander or parsley.), fresh raspberry, toffee candy, chocolate, mint leaves and crumbs.

Other than the slightly dark lighting inside the restaurant which affected the quality of my photos, I had absolutely no complaints about this dining experience. Everything was spot on and I was glad that I decided to spend my remaining hours in Nice right here with Chef Hendrik and his crew.

Food Rating: 7/10
Price: €€€
Address: 12 Rue Lascaris, 06000 Nice, France
Tel: +33 (0)4 9719-3223

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