While I usually chronicle my culinary journeys in Manhattan, this post will be about another fascinating city in the world: Saint-Tropez, France. I was lucky enough to spend a week there with my family where we shamelessly indulged in the finer things in life (aka. foie gras, truffles, and cheese) and had the opportunity to dine at some of the finest restaurants in the south of France. From Saint Tropez’s most renowned 3 Michelin star restaurant, La Vague D’Or, to an unnamed creperie in a charming alleyway, here is a restaurant review roundup of my very fattening vacation.
This hip, fast paced restaurant is right on the port with outdoor seats facing the street (great for people watching if you don’t mind the frequent smoker sitting a table away) and a dark, edgy interior. Around dinner time, Le Quai becomes the life of the Saint-Tropez party with loud live music, table side bottles of champagne, and dim red and purple lights brightening up the room. Unfortunately, the majority of customers are tourists who come to eat and people watch in front of the colossal yachts docked in the port. The good news is that after spring time, other fun bars and clubs open which helps the tourists disperse. Anyway, when it came to the menu, the food was pretty eclectic ranging from sashimi to truffle spaghetti to lamb chops. Our meal was good but it wasn’t groundbreaking.
Foie gras terrine
Lamb chops with ricotta cheese
The ricotta cheese side dish was smoky and crumbly. However, the lamb chops were tender and flavorful.
Scallops and celery root purée
Truffle foie gras spaghetti
La Vague d’Or
With a 3 Michelin star rating, La Vague d’Or is the most renowned restaurant in the south of France. Located in the lobby of the beautiful oasis of a hotel, La Résidence de la Pinède, it is the perfect restaurant for an elegant family dinner or a very very extravagant date. Through the glass doors is bright lighting, white tables, elegant wooden chairs, and dedicated servers who rush to your every need (they even walk you to the bathroom). The menu is presented as a “gastronomic adventure” crafted by Chef Arnaud Donckele, a man who paints a plate with food as Van Gogh would color a canvas. Donckele is a culinary scientist and artist who crafts unique dishes with a variety of eclectic ingredients and presents them in a beautiful and delicate manner (each dish was literally brought out to the table on white stones). My family and I went for the over indulgent eight course meal aka the “Epicurean Adventure” which ended up being an adventurous three hours of ingesting unique food combinations and abusing the wine list…and my dad’s wallet.
Pine nut encrusted marshmallow tree (one of many complimentary starters)
Amberjack fish and crabmeat marinated in local Mandarin oranges
Baby lobster and sea mullet (in two forms)
Zitone pasta “delicately” filled with black truffle and foie gras
Drumfish “meunière” (delicately cut) slowly cooked and clams sauce
Fennel sorbet and thyme sherbet ice
Before you say “ew” I must defend this delectable palate cleanser. Fennel ice cream is probably the most atypical combination up to date, but this sorbet was extremely creamy and fresh with a bit of a buttery taste. It was not too sweet nor did it taste like frozen greens — it was a light, smooth, and buttery transition to the heartier course that came after.
Blue lobster and farm guinea fowl stew with vegetable, herbs, and marinated ginger
Rove Brousse goat cheese and soft sheep cheese
Prepared two ways.
Rhubarb and green apple soufflé with sorbet
This was my least favorite dish — I was not fond of the green apple soufflé. The light soufflé tasted like warm candy and was very overpowering.
Considering my family and I were staying at the Résidence de la Pinède, we went for drinks after dinner in the lobby. I ended up ordering the Golden Star, a champagne cocktail with a splash of Whiskey, vanilla, and a gold powder. I thought this was post worthy.
Casa Cri is a quaint “Italien” restaurant in one of Saint-Tropez’s off the map alleyways that may seem a bit dangerous past dark. Luckily, the sun doesn’t fully set until around 9:30 p.m. and the alley isn’t dangerous (Americans just tend to be paranoid about alleyways so I thought I would throw that out there). The restaurant itself has outdoor seating in a courtyard around back while the inside is dimly lit, white, and clean with a glass roof over head. Considering this is a quaint Italian restaurant in France, we were not expecting a great selection of Italian wines. However, the wine list proved us wrong and we ended up choosing from a good amount of “vin Italiani.” When it came to the dining menu, the dishes were textbook Italian with selections such as parmesan eggplant, tagliatelle Bolognese, and scallops with the classic French addition of truffles.
Parmigiana alla melanzane (parmesan eggplant)
Risotto al tarufo (truffle risotto)
Gamberoni alla grigli (grilled prawns)
Plat du jour (Plate of the day: veal in a truffle cream sauce)
Creperie (unnamed, between rue d’Eglise and rue Sibille)
This creperie was cute, quaint, and classic. Compared to all the touristy creperies on the port, this one was the most authentic. The service was great and the crepes were light, crispy, and delicious.
Ham & cheese crepe
Crepe with prosciutto, goat cheese, pine nuts, arugula, and honey
It had some fancy name on the menu that I can’t remember, but either way, this is a great light choice packed with a bunch of flavor.
Le Bistrot à la Truffe
Don’t let this place fool you. Although it is not a complete tourist trap, this restaurant gives off a cheesy vibe with pictures of the “beloved” Bruno de Lorgues smelling a truffle on everything from the menu to the wall. There are even photos of truffles on every plate with the word “Bruno” printed above in fine gold cursive. Basically, Le Bistrot à la Truffe feels like a shrine to a man smelling a fungus instead of a restaurant. The food was average (basically normal dishes covered in truffles to make them taste good), with the standout dishes being the foie gras terrine and a baked potato in a truffle cream sauce topped with shaved truffles (a really basic dish that would actually be easy to make at home if you had a truffle at hand). Basically, this place was a ripoff.
Before we get started, here is the picture of Bruno on the cover of his own menu (what Bruno wants, Bruno gets).
Foie gras terrine
Truffle scrambled eggs
This dish was bland and boring. Literally just scrambled eggs in cream with an olive oil drizzle, pepper and truffles.
Take a $.30 potato and add cream and truffles. It is quite tasty, but just imagine the ripoff and it’s enough to induce nausea.
Decent. Puny scallops, a bit salty, good sauce.
Chocolate raspberry dessert
They told us dessert was “chocolate with raspberry caviar.” Unsure what that meant, we just went with it. What they meant was that they were going to give us chocolate whoopie pie halves and a cup of mashed raspberries. Not to say this wasn’t good because it was definitely appetizing. However, this could easily be done at home and wasn’t worth the price or the title “raspberry caviar.”
Hysteria [Café Chic]
This restaurant was right along the port on the edge of town next to the VIP Room night club. The sidewalk outside was lined with tall barrel-like tables adorned with cheap red and white table cloths that could easily be used for a family picnic. The inside was pretty dark and grungy with the musty smell of old smoke and fresh alcohol lingering through the air. The menu was pretty standard with a selection of sandwiches, salads, and pastas and the food was a bit below average.
The cheese plate: lamest cheese plate in
France the world
With the exception of the goat cheese which had decent flavor, these cheeses were dried out and bland. Many restaurants in Saint-Tropez give complimentary cheese plates better than this one, so this was a disappointment.
Truffle foie gras pasta
Les Trois Saisons at the Chateau de la Messardiere
When it comes to the beach, La Résidence de la Pinède is the ideal place to stay. But when it comes to enjoying the beautiful French landscape, Le Chateau de la Messardiere is the best choice. Not even a 15 minute drive from the city, this hotel is located in the middle of the luxurious French country side with hills, mountains, trees, and a vineyard all in view. Not to mention, le Chateau de la Messardiere has a top of the line restaurant: Les Trois Saisons. Out of every restaurant, this was my favorite. The dishes were original (but not off the wall like some from La Vague d’Or) and the waiters and waitresses were extremely friendly. The menus ranged from a 7 course tasting menu, a lighter 4 course “discovery menu,” or à la carte. My mother and I chose the discovery menu (with the exception of replacing the lobster with foie gras) while my brother and father opted to go for the 7 course tasting menu.
The Discovery Menu
“7 year-old” Aquarello risotto au vert with provencal garlic, frog’s legs, and lemon cream
This was the most divine risotto I have ever had. It was creamy, rich, and light with a kick of lemon. The frog’s legs added a meaty element to the buttery risotto and really complimented the eclectic selection of ingredients
Pan-fried foie gras in a mushroom sauce with roasted artichokes and a black garlic and grenache gravy
Grenadin of farm-raised calf with sage, breaded with squid ink, and garnished with a truffle-scented blanquette
Creamy Paris-menton with lemon and verbena chantilly
Green asparagus from Domaine de roques-Hautes and served with spiny lobster tartare, petrossian Caviar, a pea Coulis, and confit egg yolk
The foie gras came next, but I already showed that so we will skip to the third course of the tasting menu.
Escalivada style flaked cod with cooked and raw fennel, sweet pepper and espelette oil, and caramelized sweet onion
Bavarian beef filet lacquered with red wine and a shallot fondue with fresh Madagascar pepper and baby chanterelle mushrooms
Personal cheese plate
Vanilla sorbet with caramelized pineapple.
Milky caramel mousse on Brittany shortbread with white chocolate macaroons, kalamansi zests, and citrus fruit sorbet
After spending the day in Monaco, we came back to the city grab a bite. We ended up going towards the park and having dinner at Le Sporting, a fun sports bar/restaurant. The vibe of this grungy bar/restaurant was relaxed — the people were happy with drinks in their hands and food on the table. The French Open was playing on the TV screen across the room, chandeliers made of wine glasses dangled above the fully stocked vintage wood bar, and fresh air came in through the open outdoor seating area along the street. The food was pretty good and the portions were very large (another ploy to make Americans spend money).
Goat cheese salad
The French concept of a goat cheese salad is a bit different (in selected restaurants). Instead of light goat cheese crumbles, this salad came with a slab of creamier baked chèvre with honey.
Four cheese, prosciutto, and truffle pizza
Penne pasta with mushrooms and parmesan in a cream sauce
Rivea at the Byblos Hotel
Rivea is a well known restaurant by Alain Ducasse at the Byblos Hotel. Considering this highly known restaurant with a renowned chef and located in one of the most popular Saint-Tropez hotels, I was expecting a pretty good dining experience. However, the food was just average, maybe even a bit below. The menu was pretty basic with options such as flat breads, pastas, and meats and the ambiance just screamed “resort restaurant where Americans come to spend money.”
Fresh tomato burrata
This was a great dish — fresh, creamy, and light.
Foccacia di Recco (flatbread with cheese inside)
This was a very boring and bland appetizer (I mean look at it). It basically tasted like holy communion with a hint of cheese.
Seared line-caught bass with zucchini and edible flowers (similar to zucchini, just flowered form)
Farm veal, 36 asparagus and morel mushroom
Bread wheat pasta lobster bolo
Potato, sage, and parmesan gnocchi
Surprisingly, this was a pretty bland dish. The presence of the parmesan was lacking and the dish needed a little salt.
So I ate all of this food…..
and now here I am back in New York fighting the battle against eating healthy or making my regular 3 a.m. pizza runs. Either way, Saint-Tropez was definitely a fun culinary adventure, not to mention it is one of the most beautiful locations on the Mediterranean. Each restaurant (big or small) had its own vibe and offered completely different dining experiences. This was a once in a lifetime binge-eating extravaganza that I will never forget.