Au Crocodile

March 23, 2007 at 1:17 pm | Posted in art, food | 10 Comments

Wednesday morning, inspired by Etienne Marcel’s drool-worthy review, Amanda, Brumaire, and I hopped a train for Strasbourg to eat lunch at Au Crocodile*.

What? You endured a four hour train ride, both ways, for lunch?

Oh, but what a lunch it was. This being the low-season for fine restaurants, the Etoiles d’Alsace is running their yearly Formules-Jeunes promotion, which means people under 35 can get a delectable two-star meal (and five courses worth of specially paired wines) for a mere 86 Euro.

Strangely enough, this exceptional opportunity was a bit of a hard sell to my companions — they were both ravenous by the time we stepped off the train, but our reservation was still an hour away. As we walked the streets of Strasbourg, enticing smells of choucroute and sausage threatened, siren-like, to sway them off our course. Sensing imminent disaster, I dragged them up to Strasbourg Cathedral as a distraction technique.

Strasbourg Cathedral

Nothing like a little Rayonnant Gothic architecture to stave off those hunger pangs! Well okay, maybe I’m the only person who finds old churches as engrossing as fabulous food, but my companions gamely played along.

Once inside, Jesus and a figure of Death helped us mark the minutes via an amazing astronomical clock:

Astronomical Clock Figures

The creepy little automatons were supposed to be preparing us for the final reckoning, I guess, but we were more interested in the lunch bell. Which brings us to…

Creme de Champignon

Food! This velvety mushroom soup was one of a number of “amuse gueules” meant to get us in the mood for the real repast. Not strictly necessary, but definitely appreciated. After that, we moved onto a luscious slab of foie d’oie with mango chutney, a delicate yet firm carp with morels, and…

Aiguilletes de Canard au Sang

…a rich, delectable magret of duck served in blood sauce, for the gourmet vampire in everyone. Oh, and that little pastry? On the menu it was identified as a “Galette de Béatilles,” but we had no idea what béatilles were. Brumaire bravely asked the waiter, who responded by shrugging an pointing to his mid-section. Eventually we were able to determine that the pastry was stuffed with tiny morsels of duck’s heart and liver.

Pistachio crumble

Whoops! My flash went off. Oh well, at least I got a nice photo of this red berry coulis topped with pistachio crumble. A lovely, palate cleansing combination of sweet, tart, and crunchy. And all that leads us to what was clearly the pièce de résistance:

Meringue glacee a l'Extreme

Meringue glacée a l’Extrême. What was so extreme about it? Well for one thing, the meringue was dunked before our eyes into a silver bucket of “hautes liquides,” which Amanda translated as liquid nitrogen. Then a warm strawberry soup was ladled onto the flash frozen meringue, which caused the smoke you see in the photo. Better yet, Brumaire was quick to discover that if you exhaled with some of the dessert in your mouth, it made smoke come out your nose like a fire-breathing dragon. Talk about a showstopper! I think that poor little ball of litchi sorbet in the background was developing an inferiority complex.

After that came coffee and a few post-prandial snacks (which, sadly, I could not manage to force down my gullet).

All in all, a delightful meal, one that I would have no trouble rating among the top five of my life. But what really made it spectacular was something that can’t be captured on film or digital: the wine pairings. From the Moët et Chandon with the amuse gueules to the sweet yet complex Gewurztraminer accompanying the meringue, each course’s wine and food brought out the best characteristics of the other. The 1997 Domaine Saint Martin de la Garrigue with duck in blood sauce was particularly inspired.

If you’re interested, you can check out the full meal (with wine pairings) in my Strasbourg photo set.

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*Never trust a restaurant’s own website. Despite the claim in the page title, Au Crocodile is a two-star restaurant. It hasn’t been a three-star since 2001.

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10 Comments

  1. I am very very jealous.

  2. It was wonderful. I wish we could do it regularly.

  3. Ooh – that looks great – I want to go there one day! My grandmother (paternal) was actually born in Strasbourg.

  4. You should go, Stephanie! Strasbourg is like the best of France and Germany.

  5. looks amazing!

  6. What a great post, Amy! A real pleasure to read… I’m always excited to read about others’ restaurant adventures, and more than a little bit jealous myself! A two-star restaurant experience is almost always an unforgettable one… I’ve been to very few amazing restaurants like that, but ironically enough, the one two-star I’ve been to in Paris didn’t end up impressing me as much as I had hoped or expected… I did once have an unforgettable meal in Burgundy, though, in a little town called Joigny, the restaurant was called la Côte St. Jacques.

    Oh, and how I LOVE Strasbourg, just overall — except in the dead of winter! My boy’s sister lived just outside the city for a few years, and I got to go to the Christmas market 2 years ago. I think the Strasbourg cathedral is my favorite of all the Gothic cathedrals in France — there’s just something unique about it that strikes me more than the others. I love to go back; and now there’s the TGV! I sort of wish she still lived there… We could get there much faster now. But she’s since moved further up north to Lille — so instead we need to try to make a trip to Belgium — mmmm, moules-frites!

  7. Oh, and boy would I love to take advantage of this offer one Sunday — but my boy is over 35… oh well. (but he’s still a boy to me!)

  8. Alice, what was the disappointing two-star? I want to know where to avoid… 😉

  9. It was l’Arpège. And I hate to give bad publicity or anything, but I think it was just because it came across as a bit too overdone and modern to me — the setting just wasn’t my kind of thing, and I just got the impression that everything was over the top… Maybe they don’t even have the reputation they used to, I don’t know, but it’s just my humble opinion. I enjoyed some really nice meals in other places much more than the one I had there, let’s just put it that way…

  10. Hmm… interesting.


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