It was a date which will live in infamy. I woke up early overlooking Monaco’s crystal blue Mediterranean sea, hopped on a bus winding through the hills of the Côte d’Azur, stopped off in Italy for an espresso, then wandered across the border by foot into the south of France to munch on a croissant and roam around Menton’s farmer’s market. This was all before 11:30am and just the precursor to the grand event: a four hour 11-course lunch of a lifetime at Mirazur.
Perched on the side of a hill on the French Riviera, Mirazur is located in Menton, a small town that borders Italy just a short ride to Nice, and kilometers away from Monte Carlo. It’s one of those destination restaurants — made for the absolute food obsessor who is willing to travel far and wide for a few hours dining experience.
Since opening in 2006, Mirazur quickly became a European dining hotspot. It has two-Michelin stars under its belt, heaps of awards and recognitions, and most recently ranked #11 in the 2014 World’s 50 Best Restaurant list by San Pellegrino, snagging the spot as the best restaurant in France. But once you’re sitting in that dining room with wall to wall glass windows gazing out on the endless sea horizon, embarking on an intimate experience with a plate of food none of those awards really matter.
Mirazur’s dishes may have traces of French, Italian, Spanish and Argentine influences, but the real food genre centers around more abstract multi-dimensional cooking: seasonality and minimal ingredients that focus on textures, flavors, temperatures and colors. The menu changes frequently and is mostly inspired by the ingredients whether it comes from Menton, France, Italy, or the restaurant’s organic herb, citrus fruit, vegetable garden directly below the restaurant.
The creator of this culinary dream setting? Mauro Colagreco, Argentine powerhouse cook and arguably one of the most talented and celebrated chefs to come out of Argentina. Born in La Plata, Colagreco moved to Europe over 15 years ago to study with some of the most accomplished chefs in the industry before opening his own unique restaurant vision with those picturesque restaurant views.
But let’s get to the important shit and start things off right with amusing our bouche on three earthy bites featuring a mini beet, marscapone citric creamy crunch, and smoky eggplant delight — paired with the elegant 2005 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. That’s real champagne, bitch. None of this espumante bullshit.
The eggplant was something particularly interesting, like a mil hoja dough, super earthy, creamy, smoky, with those tiny garnish details which I’d like to study under a microscope.
Bread can be the most dangerous part of a tasting menu. A shitty stale bread basket generally sets a sour tone for a disappointing meal — but when there’s an awesome bread selection… who has the willpower to decline a beautiful crusty pillowy bread just waiting for it to be sopped in Mandarin olive oil? Not I.
Let’s talk Mirazur bread for a minute: the pain du partage, a petal-shaped bread meant to pull apart in even parts and share with fellow eaters.. or with myself at my #foreveralone table for one. It was like the shape of the pan cremona in Argentina, except it tasted good and had soft insides with a crusty outer loaf. And just like poetic bread should be presented, it came with the words to Pablo Neruda’s poem Oda al pan.
And more wine is delivered. Fresh and bright, just what you want to be drinking while romantically peering at this setting.
Table for one = Salud to the sea.
Any meal that begins with a giant, plump oyster has gotta win some kind of award. It was as if the ocean tossed the oyster right out of the water and onto my plate — a sea breeze in each slurp, it was served on top of a shallot cream, tapioca pearls, and with fresh Williams pear both in juice and solid forms. I had to stop, look at the plate, and just marvel in the simplicity yet complex play of textures and temperatures. My mind was starting to be blown getting an idea of what surprises may be ahead…
And then this glorious number was dropped off at the table: a shrimp carpaccio with raspberry and a black berry puré, with a sprinkling of sea salt flakes, citrus and elderflower. How could a dish, with only a few ingredients, be so insanely satisfying? It made my bitchy resting face crack a grin.
I started peeling off each thin sashimi like shrimp, one by one, until, sadly, the carpaccio circle was broken.
Okay, let’s get into the asparagus salad for a hot minute. Lightly blanched and raw thin slivers of asparagus, with paper thin green apple triangles, mint, grapefruit, a honey yogurt vinaigrette, and just a pair of lemon rinds brilliantly added to the mix . This dish was the very epitome of cool, clean, crisp, fresh, bright, vibrant, smart, artistic — and all the other positive descriptors I’d like to spew out so you can get the point.
On to the next wine: Renucci Corse Calvi Cuvee Vignola Blanc aka Golden Boy from Corsica.
Beauty in a wine glass.
Next came the underdog biggest surprise of the lunch: creamy cauliflower with caviar, a smoked eel emulsion, Italian hazelnuts from Piedmont, and Granny Smith apples. Thinking about each component forming a coherent dish seems like it shouldn’t work — but the presentation, cauliflower and eel smoky flavors, with bites bursting with baby caviars and nutty hazelnut crunches, it became somewhat incredible how it worked together.
Wait, I gotta stop here and compose my perverted self before embarking on an inappropriate pornographic moment. Grilled Landes foie gras in a duck consume. Holy mother ducker, isn’t this something special.
I stared out the window, looking at that tiny French town and colorful houses burrowed on the hills, savoring every morsel of that foie, slowly sipping the wine, thinking how much I never wanted this very moment to end. So I tweeted it.. Because that’s what we do these days.
Chapon, a meaty fleshed fish, is wonderfully cooked with a glazed skin and served with potatos and garbanzos. Look at the crispy skin. The fish paired especially well with the Renucci.
And we’re off with the last wine: Chateau La Coste Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence Les Pentes Douces Rouge. Now say it faster in a bad French accent.
While I do like me to kick a paloma in the street now and again, pigeon isn’t generally the first bird I’d order in a restaurant. I’m not accustomed to squab taste or the texture, so this dish was something pretty foreign: squab with risotto, strawberries, and gizzard confit.
It’s art on a plate, it belongs in the MALBA.
I’m too turned on to type or explain all the fabulous cheeses on that magical rolling heaven cart.
Okay, spontaneous culinary cheeseboner has shrunk. I think I can stand up now in front of the class.
With strawberries and rhubarb season just beginning, this dish perfectly represents spring in a bowl – playing with shapes and textures in a clever way that really showcased the ingredients.
Sweet desserts are never my thing, so I was overjoyed to see this black sesame cake served with aged balsamic vinegar.Mmmm. Super moist, creative with stinging interesting flavors. What a wonderful way to end the meal.
Nope, nevermind, not the end. The macarons and the bark, rock and chocolate plate still hadn’t arrived.
I didn’t want this total out of body food experience to end. So I sat, drank, scribbled down my tasting notes, stared out the window at the incredible landscape, hoping time would sit still.
Over two months have passed and I’m still thinking, dreaming, and fantasizing about this lunch.
Tel: +33 4 92 41 86 86
30 Avenue Aristide Briand
06500 Menton, France