L’Ardoise Restaurant Chinon, France – Avoiding the Backroom

L’Ardoise is number two on Trip Advisor. Like other highly ranked Trip Advisor restaurants they cater to English speakers. Great if you don’t speak French and have no intention of trying to, not so great if you want pretend you’re in France and practice your language skills.

I’m also beginning to wonder if some restaurants systematically exile the non-French to the backroom. This way the front of the restaurant stays pure and no one has to admit that there is actually English being spoken in the back behind the curtain. Don thinks I’m paranoid, but this time we were actually first seated in the front by the server and then moved to a “better” table in the back by the Maitre d’.

She was shocked that I preferred the table in front, even though it was near the bathrooms. But honestly, if I’m in France I don’t want to sit in a room full of Americans and overhear loud American conversation. I want to sit in a hushed room and spy on the French. My question is, if it is not deliberate how is it that all the Americans end up in one room and the French in another?

Well, enough ranting. We were reseated at the table in front and had a delightful and most interesting meal. The theme of the menu seems to be food served in unusual containers and presented on heavy slate trays, their favorite apparently being the little clay flower pot.

The shrimp appetizer came in three small pots, two with Thai spiced vegetables and one with rice, each topped with a tempura shrimp.  The crème brûlée au brie de Meaux (a savory, cheesy crème brûlée) I imagine doesn’t work as well in a clay pot so it was served in small bell jar. A scrumptious blend of salty, sweet, creamy and pungent.

For the entrees the cod was served in a large clay flower pot on a bed of straw. Even with a lemon slice separating the fish from the straw it was difficult to eat a bit of fish without eating strands of straw.  Nevertheless, the brined cod was beautifully steamed. The kidney casserole was served in a small copper clad sauce pan with sides of sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes, each served in tiny flower pots. The rich casserole was reminiscent of the flavors of burgundy – red wine, bacon, onions and mushrooms.

The menu warns that the lemon tart is like no other, and it isn’t – a mélange of textures and crackling in a rich tart cream.  Although I loved the lemon cream, much like a good tart key lime pie, the composition was overwrought and in need of editing – garnished with crunchy meringue, a crisp biscuit, chewy nougat and exploding sugar. A party in a parfait glass. You may love or hate l’Ardoise but you certainly won’t be bored.

For links to all the posts in this series see the Other Destinations in France page.

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