Paris. Perpignan. Some city names definitely sound more promising than others...
You might have heard of the latter if you're fond of Catalonia. But did you know there is a French Catalonia? After a 4.5-hour high-speed train ride, you can travel from Paris to Perpignan, if you get off the train before crossing the border and getting to Barcelona. In Perpignan, we were in search of a very different style of food than the one in Paris, a more southern style. We chose to dine at one of the most affordable Michelin-starred restaurants in France, called La Galinette. The modern chic decoration included an impressive collection of whisky from all over the world.
For the "apéro" (the first drink and snacking before lunch or dinner in France), we were offered some snacks to dip in baba ganoush. Now, if you have no idea what baba ganoush is (like I did before: it's essentially an eggplant-based spread similar to hummus) and if you easily get triggered by funny names like "baba ganoush," you would have liked this restaurant.
The first course was a very very interesting beets declination with a cod compote. The dish offered a range of tastes from subdued to strong. The salty fish component really helped balance the sweetness of the beets. A bunch of 'croustini' (a word that made me laugh again) brought a final welcome crispy touch to the dish, which was honestly one of the main highlights of the entire trip.
The main course couldn't unfortunately match the level of that first course. The waiter announced a fish "bouillinade". If you understand a bit of French and sense the fanciness of that name, you might not be able to help laughing, as I did, after hearing 'bouillinade'. Michelin-starred restaurants and fancy cooking sometimes deserve criticism for taking themselves a bit too seriously. In the end, the name was too pretty for what it was (an anise-based fish broth), which was decent but not our favorite.
Dessert was also a bit of a disappointment, as it was made with pear, a fruit I generally have a hard time enjoying. The pear was cooked in wine, served with some vanilla ice cream. To their credit, they managed to completely eliminate the sourness of the red wine while retaining its flavor, and the dish, with its little crisps at the bottom, was actually quite good.
Ultimately, we appreciated La Galinette's effort to offer a very affordable Michelin-star lunch menu featuring local products (like anise), but there were disparities in the quality of the dishes, with the first course remaining one of the most impressive we had.
Our next stop will take us to a completely different style of restaurant: a gourmet buffet. Yes, you read that right!