Le PIQUE ASSIETTE
Pique Assiette is the art form of collaging broken objects to create a rustic mosaic. The name is taken from a culinary term, pique-assiette, “one who eats from others’ plates.” It’s also the name of a restaurant in Lyon, where the wooden walls and dark ceiling beams are as rich and burly as Chef Maxime’s meat braises and saffron dishes.
Here, a waiter will patiently guides us through the elegant French menu while Toy Story’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” plays in the background. (Is this how the french think of us?) Meat sizzles. Our waiter finally brings an appetizer, everyone in my party is hungry... ready to eat from each other’s plates, alright.
The Crème Brulee au foie gras de canard, a savory whipped duck liver, smells delicious — like burnt sugar. Who would think to spread duck liver on champagne toast? Apparently many of the French. It came from their "traditional menu", entrées that are always available. This is served with a pinch of sea salt, and only the beginning of my gastronomic mosaic.
The weekend’s special menu offers Oeufs Pouches sauce Heurette, a smooth mix of the dainty and dense. The egg yellows ooze into warm pearl onions and a light, rosy broth. I let it soak through the pores of a thick baguette and then pop the yolk. It makes a creamy base, hiding bacon bits as they sink to the bottom of the bowl.
The main course, the Vol-au-vent aux rognons de veau is a manly but delicate dish. A hollow, flakey puff pastry (the Vol-au-vent) is drenched in soft, savory jam-like sauce with bits of chewy veal kidney, hints of olive and is served with saffron rice. While the pastry and sauce overpower the saffron, the plate found unity with its mingling textures.
The saffron rice underscores a feminine flavor of another plat, the Poelee de gambas ala crème persillee. The pink, firm shrimp are drenched in sweet white cream. The rice absorbs the cream, combining sweet with salty, and a tinge of truffle.
Chef Maxime’s Boeuf Bourguignon, pommes vapeurs, is a masculine Burgundy dish. Beef braised in a frothy red wine pool is served with garlic undertones, traces of truffle, potatoes and warm carrot slices. The tender meat went weak with the slightest nudge of my fork, but by the end, a few chucks of undercooked potato sat in a bowl otherwise licked clean.
Satisfied, I press my back against the rigid booth (so rigid, in fact, that I had to cushion it with my coat) and I admire a Normandy war tapestry pinned to the ceiling and a Pieter Bruegel print of peasants in the corner. But when dessert arrives, I’m back into the art of eating.
Unfortunately, the special Crème Brulee et sa cassonade de sucre roux, tastes like a SnakPack spiced pudding, and the thin crust doesn’t even need cracking. But the Souflee glace a la chartreuse verte is a cool, dense puree doused in rosewater, mint and powdered sugar. Delicious, refreshing and like most of the menu at Le Pique Assiette, the light and the heavy work effortlessly together.