Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Where Should We Eat?


I'm always asking friends to tell me about great restaurants they've found around Provence, where the greeting is warm, the food great, the prices fair. At the same time, people ask me the same thing: where should we eat? So I decided to start a new feature --One Restaurant I Love--and anyone who wants can take a turn writing it. This week, our guest reviewer is James Clay, my smart, funny and oh-so-worldly friend in St. Remy. James isn't a hardcore foodie--he actually spends most of his free time making out with his garden--but he throws super parties, loves to eat out and, when invited (or not), is great fun as a guest. (Speaking of James' real passion, plants, in the next week or so I'll debut his monthly column "The Cocktail Drinkers Guide to Gardening." Don't miss it!) But first, let's hear about One Restaurant He Loves: Chez Gigi. James writes:
After 20 years of hanging out in Provence, I've learned to keep a few things secret. So now you're asking yourself then why's he going to tell us about this restaurant? Well I've decided I have to learn to share--they do say giving is better than receiving (though a Cartier watch wouldn't cause a problem for me anytime).


Ok, mustn't lose my train of thought which is so easily done here in Provence in the summer, what with the cicadas chirping away and the heat et al. My favorite resturant in Provence (and oh boy, is it chic--not!), is to be found by the side of the Route National between between St. Rémy and St. Etienne du Grès in Mas Blanc des Alpilles. Chez Gigi can be spotted as you drive (slowly, please) through the little village.

The first time I ate there a few years back I had a Caesar salad which blew me away....so much garlic it could have been called spicy. By French standards, very spicy.

The entrées are imaginative and made with the best local fresh vegetables and meats. In fact, some are so good it's great to chose all of them and eat them tapas style with your friends. 
The principle plates vary from basic pizzas to dorade, ribs, duck, stuffed quail and carpaccio de boeuf with a terrific sauce.
Desserts tend to be fruits in season, chocolate mousse, brownies or whatever else they dream up that day.

Chez Gigi has all the right attitudes toward food and service (which can be mildly erratic but amusing nonetheless). The menu is hand written on boards: another good sign as it changes often. The wines are mainly local and excellent. If the 'vin en pichet' is good, then you know the meal will be too. The bread is great as well.

Owners Michel and Gigi Sivauossian--he's from Nice, she's from Quebec--have travelled widely and, for that reason, the food is so varied and interesting. For a 'local' like me, it's such a relief to find dishes that aren't always typically Provencal.

Michel and Gigi (pictured above) know their market and, as the French say, are 'correct' in terms of cost. Believe it or not you can actually get a three-course lunch including wine and coffee for around 15 € per person. They do dinner during the high season on Friday and Saturday nights...make sure to book for that but it's not neccessary at lunch. And don't dress up--this place is really casual.

There's a 'terrace' (always a high point in my book) and remember this is a fun place so don't go looking for linen table cloths and crystal. I may regret spilling the beans if I can't get a table next Friday night but then I'll know I've 'shared' and that's a good thing, isn't it !? 

If you go, please mention ProvencePost.com or say I sent you! Bon Continuation!

Chez Gigi
RN #99
Between St. Rémy and St. Etienne du Grès
Mas Blanc des Alpilles
04-90-49-10-80
Photo by James Clay.

10 comments:

  1. I'm going to love reading about these restaurants to go to!

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  2. Great idea to have this weekly post! I can't wait to try the suggestion. Thank you for sharing, not an easy thing to do ;), so very appreciated.

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  3. Fantastic!I can walk there from where we live.I will go and report back.Look forward to other reccomendations.Personally I think Bistro Du Paradou is hard to beat.

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  4. Great idea Julie, I must say. I look forward to dining out in Provence next time I am there and having a good excuse to pen my own.

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  5. One of my favorite places that I visit every summer (at least once or twice) is in Fontvielle. Its called "Lou Claveau" with very old-fashioned, wonderful food. The husband works the dining room, the wife cooks in the kitchen upstairs. Very friendly, and "correct" prices! I'm hungry just thinking about it.

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  6. Sounds so perfect and I enjoyed the writing style of "James". I've noted his shared choice (I'm sure he feels better now)and look forward to visiting one day soon.

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  7. BRILLIANT! what a genius idea! have you been slogging through the provencal summer too? blimey can't wait for that autumn breeze. then i might consider lunch on a terrace! i'll be stocking up your suggestions and thinking of one i can add. our place?

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  8. This is a great idea - how many times have I wandered round gardens in Provence wanting lunch and ended up with a compromise???

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  9. Great recommendation! We lived across the road from that restaurant at Le Petit Mauleon, and enjoyed their aioli on Wednesdays...this was ten years ago! It was quite well known locally.
    Sure do miss St. Remy and the wonderful people we met there.
    Enjoy reconnecting via your posts.

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