Another week, another slightly disappointing restaurant. This is getting tiresome. Once again, a friend and I had high hopes for a bistro, La Bécane à Gaston, based on word-of-mouth recommendations.
Decor-wise, La Bécane resembles the restaurants I have reviewed in the past three weeks, with a bar and shelves of wine and preserves, but here there was also a fridge promisingly full of fresh vegetables.
Nothing on the fixed-price lunch menu, at €24, appealed to me, but with hindsight, I should have ordered it anyway, as my lunch companion Mary did. Instead, I ordered from the rather pricey daily specials.
A good example was my starter of asparagus (€14). For that price, I think one has the right to expect something special. It was anything but – just a big plate of asparagus overcooked to the point of grayishness, drowned in an ordinary vinaigrette and sprinkled with what appeared to be feta cheese (at least that would have added some flavor) but turned out to be mimosa (in this case, bits of cooked egg).
It made me dream of the single, perfectly cooked spear of white asparagus tempura with broccoli cream and béarnaise sauce flavored with meadowsweet that we had at Virtus recently. I’ll take one spear prepared like that over the seven I had at La Bécane any day, even if it costs a little more.
Mary had a generous helping of terrine de campagne (country pâté) with cornichons, which was a fine but not extraordinary example of its genre.
She followed that with what may have been the tastiest dish of the meal: carciofi gratinata (there is a strong Italian influence here), a gratin of artichokes, the house’s own preserved tomatoes with mozzarella di bufala, béchamel and Parmesan.
My main course was a big leg of pintade (guinea fowl) cooked in a cast-iron casserole with whole garlic cloves and shallots, with just-okay mashed potatoes on the side. The meat was fine but not meltingly tender as one might have hoped. The sauce was oily.
The set menu came with cherry clafoutis, which we shared. Mary, who is egg-averse, was sure she wouldn’t like it, but she did, and I did, and we demolished it pretty quickly.
I just noticed that La Bécane brags on its menu that its focaccia is “legendary.” Unfortunately, we didn’t try it. It also says that eating there is like eating at home. I can second that, but perhaps it’s a little too much like eating at home. When you go out to eat, you want something out of the ordinary.