While I usually chronicle my culinary journeys in Manhattan, this post will be about another fascinating city in the world: Saint-Tropez, France. I was lucky enough to spend a week there with my family where we shamelessly indulged in the finer things in life (aka. foie gras, truffles, and cheese) and had the opportunity to dine at some of the finest restaurants in the south of France. From Saint Tropez's most renowned 3 Michelin star restaurant, La Vague D'Or, to an unnamed creperie in a charming alleyway, here is a restaurant review roundup of my very fattening vacation.
This hip, fast paced restaurant is right on the port with outdoor seats facing the street (great for people watching if you don't mind the frequent smoker sitting a table away) and a dark, edgy interior. Around dinner time, Le Quai becomes the life of the Saint-Tropez party with loud live music, table side bottles of champagne, and dim red and purple lights brightening up the room. Unfortunately, the majority of customers are tourists who come to eat and people watch in front of the colossal yachts docked in the port. The good news is that after spring time, other fun bars and clubs open which helps the tourists disperse. Anyway, when it came to the menu, the food was pretty eclectic ranging from sashimi to truffle spaghetti to lamb chops. Our meal was good but it wasn't groundbreaking.
La Vague d'Or
With a 3 Michelin star rating, La Vague d'Or is the most renowned restaurant in the south of France. Located in the lobby of the beautiful oasis of a hotel, La Résidence de la Pinède, it is the perfect restaurant for an elegant family dinner or a very very extravagant date. Through the glass doors is bright lighting, white tables, elegant wooden chairs, and dedicated servers who rush to your every need (they even walk you to the bathroom). The menu is presented as a "gastronomic adventure" crafted by Chef Arnaud Donckele, a man who paints a plate with food as Van Gogh would color a canvas. Donckele is a culinary scientist and artist who crafts unique dishes with a variety of eclectic ingredients and presents them in a beautiful and delicate manner (each dish was literally brought out to the table on white stones). My family and I went for the over indulgent eight course meal aka the "Epicurean Adventure" which ended up being an adventurous three hours of ingesting unique food combinations and abusing the wine list...and my dad's wallet.
Casa Cri is a quaint “Italien” restaurant in one of Saint-Tropez’s off the map alleyways that may seem a bit dangerous past dark. Luckily, the sun doesn’t fully set until around 9:30 p.m. and the alley isn’t dangerous (Americans just tend to be paranoid about alleyways so I thought I would throw that out there). The restaurant itself has outdoor seating in a courtyard around back while the inside is dimly lit, white, and clean with a glass roof over head. Considering this is a quaint Italian restaurant in France, we were not expecting a great selection of Italian wines. However, the wine list proved us wrong and we ended up choosing from a good amount of “vin Italiani.” When it came to the dining menu, the dishes were textbook Italian with selections such as parmesan eggplant, tagliatelle Bolognese, and scallops with the classic French addition of truffles.
Creperie (unnamed, between rue d'Eglise and rue Sibille)
This creperie was cute, quaint, and classic. Compared to all the touristy creperies on the port, this one was the most authentic. The service was great and the crepes were light, crispy, and delicious.
Le Bistrot à la Truffe
Don't let this place fool you. Although it is not a complete tourist trap, this restaurant gives off a cheesy vibe with pictures of the "beloved" Bruno de Lorgues smelling a truffle on everything from the menu to the wall. There are even photos of truffles on every plate with the word "Bruno" printed above in fine gold cursive. Basically, Le Bistrot à la Truffe feels like a shrine to a man smelling a fungus instead of a restaurant. The food was average (basically normal dishes covered in truffles to make them taste good), with the standout dishes being the foie gras terrine and a baked potato in a truffle cream sauce topped with shaved truffles (a really basic dish that would actually be easy to make at home if you had a truffle at hand). Basically, this place was a ripoff.
Before we get started, here is the picture of Bruno on the cover of his own menu (what Bruno wants, Bruno gets).
Hysteria [Café Chic]
This restaurant was right along the port on the edge of town next to the VIP Room night club. The sidewalk outside was lined with tall barrel-like tables adorned with cheap red and white table cloths that could easily be used for a family picnic. The inside was pretty dark and grungy with the musty smell of old smoke and fresh alcohol lingering through the air. The menu was pretty standard with a selection of sandwiches, salads, and pastas and the food was a bit below average.
Les Trois Saisons at the Chateau de la Messardiere
When it comes to the beach, La Résidence de la Pinède is the ideal place to stay. But when it comes to enjoying the beautiful French landscape, Le Chateau de la Messardiere is the best choice. Not even a 15 minute drive from the city, this hotel is located in the middle of the luxurious French country side with hills, mountains, trees, and a vineyard all in view. Not to mention, le Chateau de la Messardiere has a top of the line restaurant: Les Trois Saisons. Out of every restaurant, this was my favorite. The dishes were original (but not off the wall like some from La Vague d'Or) and the waiters and waitresses were extremely friendly. The menus ranged from a 7 course tasting menu, a lighter 4 course "discovery menu," or à la carte. My mother and I chose the discovery menu (with the exception of replacing the lobster with foie gras) while my brother and father opted to go for the 7 course tasting menu.
The Discovery Menu
After spending the day in Monaco, we came back to the city grab a bite. We ended up going towards the park and having dinner at Le Sporting, a fun sports bar/restaurant. The vibe of this grungy bar/restaurant was relaxed -- the people were happy with drinks in their hands and food on the table. The French Open was playing on the TV screen across the room, chandeliers made of wine glasses dangled above the fully stocked vintage wood bar, and fresh air came in through the open outdoor seating area along the street. The food was pretty good and the portions were very large (another ploy to make Americans spend money).
Rivea at the Byblos Hotel
Rivea is a well known restaurant by Alain Ducasse at the Byblos Hotel. Considering this highly known restaurant with a renowned chef and located in one of the most popular Saint-Tropez hotels, I was expecting a pretty good dining experience. However, the food was just average, maybe even a bit below. The menu was pretty basic with options such as flat breads, pastas, and meats and the ambiance just screamed "resort restaurant where Americans come to spend money."
So I ate all of this food.....
and now here I am back in New York fighting the battle against eating healthy or making my regular 3 a.m. pizza runs. Either way, Saint-Tropez was definitely a fun culinary adventure, not to mention it is one of the most beautiful locations on the Mediterranean. Each restaurant (big or small) had its own vibe and offered completely different dining experiences. This was a once in a lifetime binge-eating extravaganza that I will never forget.