We very nearly had lunch at a Japanese restaurant called Okinawa by the Ponts Jumeaux in Toulouse today. I say nearly because we decided to get up and leave after sitting down on sticky chairs and opening up sticky menus. It’s Restaurant 101 to get the hell out of a place when the decor sticks to you.
Instead, we went just a little bit further into town and walked past the noisy, chatting, smoking teenagers of Lycée Ozenne and into the surprisingly calm Place Saint Sernin where the red-brick basilica with its unusual hexagonal tower and many-windowed façade holds court. It was a beautiful sight to see, lit up by a few warm rays of sunlight through the clouds!
Our destination: 7, Place Saint Sernin and Catalan chef Benoît Cantalloube’s kitchen. We almost missed the entrance of the restaurant which is discreet and looks rather like the private residence of some old Toulousaine family, and once you make your way past the wisteria growing exuberantly around the awning and step through the front door, the impression of being let into some well-kept secret stays with you.
Well… it stays with you for a few minutes, at least. We were greeted by a neat young man who opened with “We’re all out of Menu du Jour.” We told him we would still like to eat, so he led us to a table for two in one of the smaller salons. It turned out they were also out of the Iberian pork on the next, more expensive, menu. It was barely 1 o’clock. Anyway, wine was poured and food was ordered and conversation ensued.
We had a nice lunch, although I would say it was a 50/50 hit and miss. I had a lovely starter of fresh prawns with coconut shavings and a tropical fruit vinaigrette, the chef did something interesting with cold cauliflower, radish brunoise and floating cockles and caviar. Also, the hubby’s pigeon was delicious. It was accompanied by samosas stuffed with the bird’s offal, an innovative and very flavourful way of making sure there would be no waste. The bouillabaisse-style cod with basil gnocchi, however, had me wonder about textures (squishy), tastes (Which of the flavours doesn’t work? Is it the infused oil?), temperatures, and the whereabouts of the pipkin of salt. The desserts… well… just have coffee. What is with the current infatuation with home-made marshmallow???
I’d go back, though. Every challenge deserves a return match, no?