Sunday, May 8, 2011

Rainey's Night in Avignon: A Reader's Restaurant Review

Rainey Vivier (American, from Florida) and her husband Pierre (a retired French pastry chef and chocolatier), recently moved from Tallahassee, Florida, to their home in a small village near Uzes in Provence. Their daughter, Dominique, and her husband, Christophe, also live in France and lead culinary tours. Rainey came to me late this winter asking for Avignon restaurant suggestions; with input from my dream team of Avignon experts I sent her a list. Rainey came back to report that the family had loved their meal and so I asked her to tell us about it. Other suggestions appear under comments, following Rainey's post.
Looking for a nice Saturday night out with Dominique and Christophe, we thought Avignon would be fun. Well through the wonders of email, I received a great list of recommendations. (One of the recommendations used the word "tasty!"  I love the word tasty--it sounds kind of sassy.)

The restaurant we chose, L'Isle Sonnante, is in the center of Avignon, right behind the opera--a perfect location. We called on Friday afternoon and were able to get a table for the following evening. Glad we did: when we arrived the sign on the door said "complet"--meaning full. 

Chef Boris Chevtchenko and his wife Ann have been in this location for eight years. The name may be Russian, but Boris is second-generation French.  We actually forgot to ask if they speak English, but I read somewhere that they do.

The interior is charming and tiny, with lots of antiques, dramatic accents of bright pink, shiny brass and simple but elegant table settings.  There's a small patio, but it was too cold for that.  We were warmly greeted and felt relaxed and welcome. Good start to our evening.

The menu reflected Avignon's southern location and the winter season, so the emphasis was on truffles, olive oil, tapenade and winter vegetables. Everything we ordered was delicious and beautifully presented.  The lamb was cooked to a perfect rosé color, as was the foie gras; the vegetables were so fresh and yes, "tasty!"  The only negative comment we had was that the taste of truffles was almost overwhelming in the duck confit dish.  But that's probably just personal taste anyway.  

Wines come from the Rhône Valley and were obviously carefully chosen because Ann knew every one on the list.  She was very helpful and willing to answer our questions.  While talking with Ann we learned that L'Isle Sonnante is listed in Rick Steves' Provence book.  It was charming how naïve she seemed as to the power of Rick Steves.  Refreshing, actually.

Dessert was copious.  Since Dominique is pregnant (due in mid June) and has a serious sweet tooth right now, she was tempted by both the chocolate terrine and the pot de crème à la vanille with caramel.  We decided to order both, plus the baba au rhum.  All were delicious, but the chocolate was our favorite. It was a perfect evening and we're looking forward to returning, maybe in warm weather when we'll sit out the patio. Dinner for four with wine was 200€...good value for money...and delightful atmosphere.

L'Isle Sonnante
7, rue Racine 
84000 Avignon
The restaurant has no website, although many reviews appear on TripAdvisor and other sites. You can see it on the Avignon map here.  More Avignon restaurant suggestions appear in the comments section below. Click 'comments.'


  1. Interesting to know what other restaurants in Avignon you had on your list.

  2. Hi David, that's a great idea to post the other suggestions, thanks!

    Here are some of them. I'd love to know if you have others...and would love to hear from other readers!


    La Fourchette

    La Cour du Louvre (Rue St. Agricol)

    Basilic Citron (Place Principale)

    L'Essentiel (rue Petite Fusterie)

    Au tout Petit (Rue d'Amphoux)

    Pace e Salute (for Corsican food on the Place des Carme).

    Restaurant Christian Etienne

    Hotel D'Europe

    Le 5 Senses


    Entre Terre Et Garrigue (Chef Serge Chenet's restaurant a bit outside Avignon. My chef friend Jon says "awesome.")

  3. And my very foodie French friend Benoit says: "La Mirande is outrageously expensive but quite an experience in great service."

  4. So nice to see the remaining restaurants on the list. I did enjoy Rainey's review and cannot wait to try some of the other suggestions

  5. Great review! Is this restaurant a good "date place"?

  6. Thanks for the tip . I will try it at my next stop in AVIGNON



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