This cheese is so great it doesn’t require accoutrements.
3696 Fifth Avenue, San Diego
When I think of France, I think of food: real food, fresh food, quality food. Freshly baked baguettes, perfectly ripened cheeses, savory charcuterie, and of course the Mother sauces: béchamel, espagnole, hollandaise, and allemande. Even the word “chef” is French.
David and I have had some of the best meals of our lives in Provence, and we discovered firsthand that the food isn’t too shabby in Paris and Nice either. Though I enjoy all of the French-themed restaurants here at home, it wasn’t until a few nights ago when I stepped foot inside La Bonne Table that I felt transported back to one of those perfect Provençal bistros I adore.
La Bonne Table
The illusion was made whole by the adults and children conversing in French at the tables surrounding us. For a moment I thought we’d need to ask for menus in French, but our server turned out to be as American as apple pie. And his lack of accent, for whatever reason (call it mono-lingual insecurity), made us feel that much more comfortable as we settled into our seats in the dining room that wasn’t much larger than my mother’s living room.
We began with a cheese plate and aperitifs. I got The Saint ($10), a gin-based martini with St. Germain, and David ordered the Automne en Normandie ($10), a warming cocktail with Calvados (apple brandy), honey, and lemon.
But the cheese. Forget all those crackers, nuts, and fruit compotes that come with most cheese plates, this cheese (imported from France via Epicure out of Los Angeles) is so superb it doesn’t require accoutrements, though we appreciated the poached baby pear and balsamic reduction. Of course we were provided fresh, warm demi-baguettes, but we mostly enjoyed savoring just the naked nibbles of the Saint-Nectaire, Morbier, and triple crème cheeses.
Confit de Canard (duck confit), with lentils and fig glaze
The menu is sparse, with only six appetizers and six entrées to choose from. Our server explained that the chef/owner prefers it this way so he can focus on his best execution of each. David went for the Confit de Canard ($24) with “crispy and tender” duck thighs, lentils, and a fig glaze. He is a bit of a duck confit snob and heartily approved of this iteration. He enjoyed the contrasting flavors and textures, from the earthy lentils to the rich, sweet fig sauce, as well as the refreshing dressed salad nestling in a radicchio leaf.
I didn’t taste David’s dish because I was too busy enjoying my own, a Truite Amandine (trout almondine, $23). The ten-ounce trout was roasted whole and served with giant asparagus spears, toasted almonds, and a lemon butter sauce that made me want to lick the plate. The filet was tender and moist and contrasted nicely with the satisfying, nutty crunch of the toasted almonds. But the real star of this dish was that delicate sauce, which seemed to highlight but not overpower the natural flavors of the trout, asparagus, and almonds.
We didn’t make it to a third course, but we’re going to try to get back to La Bonne Table soon to continue tasting our way through the rest of the menu.