Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Restaurant Prévôt: Melon Crazy in Cavaillon

Last summer, my Brooklyn, New York-based friend Seth Unger visited Provence for the first time...and I’m sure it won’t be his last. He and his family loved every moment: the wedding they attended, their hotel, the landscape, the food and wine. But one restaurant stood out and knowing how foodie Seth is, I wanted to hear all about it; what he sent appears below. But first, a bit about Seth: He grew up in Miami Beach and ran the switchboard at the Royal Palm, the hotel his great grandfather built in 1939. In 1993  he met his wife, Allison, while attending Columbia University in New York. Seth went on to run an indie label, work in the fight against AIDS and do web design. In 2001, he joined Mike Bloomberg's Mayoral campaign in New York City and, after the victory, worked in the Mayor's Office where he created NYC TV, Channel 25, in 2003. Four years later, he quit to be a stay-at-home dad to his new twin daughters, now 5. In 2009, Hamburger expert and filmmaker George Motz convinced Seth to help him with the NYC Food Film Festival, which they later brought to Chicago as well.  In 2011, Seth's company, Food * Films * America, launched its first iPhone app, Burger GPS, which locates great burgers all over America. Today, Seth continues to expand the Food Film Festival series and consults. To reach him, you can email him, follow him on Twitter,  find him on Facebook or follow his blog Condimented. And here’s Seth’s review!

From the moment you step through the door of Restaurant Prevot, you’ll know that this chef really likes melon. You’ll see melon paintings, melon topiaries, melon sculptures... and all sorts of melony provisions in the mini melon boutique next to the entrance. But this is no tourist trap. Quite the reverse: it’s a destination restaurant drawing foodies from all over who know the stellar reputation of chef/owner Jean-Jacques Prévôt. For 30 years, Jean-Jacques has been unfailingly dedicated to promoting the local produce, crafting inventive dishes and infusing the restaurant with his hospitality and warmth. Chances are you’ll be greeted by Jean-Jacques' daughter Sandra Rose, who oversees the dining room and loves to chat. Sylviane Prévôt, Jean-Jacques’ wife, works in the kitchen.

Menus are created around seasonal locally sourced ingredients: asparagus from March to May, mushrooms in October and November, game in December and so forth. 

But the most important menu, the one for which the chef is known, is the melon-based menu of summer.  Cavaillon is the melon capital of Europe; Cavaillon melons are the little ones with dark green stripes, known to be incredibly sweet. Jean-Jacques offers two Melon Tasting Menus (58€ or 69€, depending on the number of courses) and a full à la carte menu (melon and non-melon dishes priced €24 to €35.) The lunchtime three-course prix fixe, which changes weekly, is €26—a good deal. In summer, Jean-Jacques offers "Le Mac Prévôt," a ‘burger’ that contains no chopped beef, but rather roasted foie gras, parmesan,  fried onions, chopped artichoke salad, lettuce and melon ketchup. The ‘’burgers’’ change with the seasons too: In fall they’re made from mushroom and pumpkin; in winter from black truffle; in spring from asparagus. And yes, the burgers are available for takeout!

But the restaurant also offers a degustation called the Menu Carte Blanche, for 85€ (or 115€ with four glasses of wine). And since it was the height of melon season, and we had a hunch there’d be lots of melon on it...we went for it. My wife and I are both melon maniacs.

First came glasses of a sweet homemade melon spirit called Melanis, served on hand-crushed ice. Then, a small plate of mini treats: asparagus quiche with Kalamata olives, fresh melon balls and more. Next was an edible spoon tapenade with a cup of rabbit confit with fennel tempura. That was followed by a fritter and melon plate, and and a fricassee of fried prawns and melon (which tasted, they told me, like beef stew). 

Then came fish and veal loin (with caramelized melon sauce), then something called a Picnic Invitation: a gingham pouch sealed with a clothespin and inside it, a small sandwich of goat cheese, rosemary, vegetables and melon marmalade. The pre-dessert was a pineapple mango soufflé (hot and buttery on the bottom, with toasted almonds on top). And the real dessert? A trio composed of a bourbon milk shake, a strawberry-banana mille feuille and a pear-citrus sorbet. And as though we might still be hungry (!), the chef finally sent out a tray of petits-fours. 

Restaurant Prévôt is one of those rare experiences that transports you to another place...the flavors, the creativity, the hospitality. It may be the only restaurant in the world that serves an all melon menu, executed to perfection to boot.

After the meal, Jean-Jacques said to me "Partage La Passion!" meaning we share the passion for food. 

And I say: I’ll never visit Provence without a trip to Prévôt!

Restaurant Prévôt's Melon Menu and melon dishes are served from May through the end of September, as long as the fruit is in its prime. The restaurant also offers cooking classes; see the website for details. Restaurant Prévôt, 353 Avenue Verdun, Cavaillon, France,  tel +33 (0)4 90 71 32 43. The website is here and you can email them: contact@restaurant-prevot.com Prévôt is also on Twitter and Facebook.

Photos from top: 1. Jean-Jacques Prévôt (in hat) and his kitchen brigade. 2, 6, 8, 9: Seth and Allison ordered the 85€ tasting menu, a tsunami of dishes which included all the plates you see here...and much more. 3. The restaurant is celebrating its 31st anniversary in Cavaillon. 7. Portrait of a Restaurant Family: Jean-Jacques; his daughter Sandra Rose and his wife, Sylviane. 10. Melons figure prominently in the decor. 11. Allison and Sandra Rose talk food in the kitchen. 12. Each season, Jean-Jacques creates a ''burger'' from seasonal ingredients other than beef. The burgers are available to go.


  1. Bonjour. This sounds like a wonderful restaurant. Nothing says "summer" or "le Midi" to me more than a melon de Cavaillon. They are so sweet and juicy! There is a local French chef in Seattle named Thierry Rautureau (of "Rover's" fame.) He is known as "The Chef in the Hat," and he and Jean-Jacques Prevot could be twins! :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. Who doesn't love Cavaillon melons, so this sounds like a great place to place on the 'to go' list!

  3. Hi Julie,
    So funny to ready this post...we are heading over to Provence (Lourmarin) this afternoon and have this restaurant on our list of places to go because I thought I would write about it on my blog!
    I am thoroughly enjoying my exploration of your blog!

  4. Dear Julie,

    Thank you very much for this article inspired trip Seth.

    This is a wonderful story about our restaurant.

    See you in Cavaillon

    Sandra-Rose Prévôt

    1. Sandra,
      Can't wait to return!



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