Monday, October 06, 2008

Le Crocodile

"As they approached Rahmaniya, the troops finally neared the sweet water of the Nile, though for strangers in unfamiliar territory its charms were attended with danger. The grenadier Francois Vigo-Roussillion recalled, "The entire army -- men, horses and donkesy--threw themselves into that sought-after river. How delicious these healthful waters seemed to us. Nevertheless, many men were mutilated or carried away by crocodiles."
Napoleon's Egypt
by Juan Cole.

On September 30, 2008, I dined at the Alsatian restaurant Le Crocodile in Vancouver.
These two are not unconnected.

Legend has it that the crocodile which takes pride of place in the restaurant today was brought back from Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign by a Captain Ackermann, aide-de camp to General Kleber.
A passionate hunter at home, Ackermann finally overcame a crocodile on the banks of the River Nile, exhibiting it triumphantly in the camp.
After the war, he returned to his native Strasbourg with his 3-meter long trophy, bought an old farm on 10, Rue de L’Outre, refurbished it and made it into a tavern. It soon became popular and known for the strange stuffed reptile that decorated the establishmen

From the website of Au Crocodile in Strasbourg, which inspired the creation of the very restaurant I would dine in . The first French food I remember is Quiche Lorraine which I learned to make during my jr. high infaturation with things French. In search of a good French restaurant to dine in after a couple of hours of photographing Vancouver in some of its best light. I'd heard good things about this place and was delighted to find it open at 5:30.




This is called a Boogie Boogie. It was strange to order and have the waiter repeat the order but I order drinks because their ingredients sound promising and this delivered.
My amuse bouche is a micro quiche I mistake for the appetiser I'd just ordered, the onion tarte for which this restaurant and French region is famous. Wolfed down before I can photograph it. Instead of the ordered onion tarte, this tiny wonder features gorgonzola cheese with chives in a pastry that transceneds description. Your tongue takes wing. Better than I thought pastry could possibly get. I ask the waiter if this is my appy and am assured it's only the amuse. How could Le Crocodile top this?



Well, they didn't. The pastry was too hard. On the other hand, I have never had a more delicious bite of onion and bacon together than in this tarte. The custard reminds me of a nutmeggy custard from my childhood.

I eat mini quiches from local stores all the time, but the difference between them and this is the difference between a drawing of a star and an actual star. Your tongue turns into a choir of angels bellowing Hallelujah at the ridiculous delicousness of this tarte.



This wasn't on the menu. One of the daily specials, this is sea bass with mashed potatoes and some other vegies in a bernaisy thick lobster sauce. The more I eat, the more the potatoes seem like islands to hold on to, like watching planets being formed from clouds of dust. The sheer oddity of combining sea bass with mashed potato makes me wonder if this recipe was devised by Harlan Ellison.

When one of the restaurant people came by to ask how I liked the fish, I said the fish was indistinguishable from the sauce. She appologized but I meant that as a compliment. Sea bass can be a tough fish and I've had it done perfectly in Sorrento and Puerto Vallarta so Le Crocodile has a high standard of comparison. It's not That good but the potato combined with the bass is a delightful texture. I can't finish it, take some on the long collection of buses home and it still tastes great the next day. I wish the wine had been kept colder and the sea bass hotter but it was a superb meal and I look forward to eating at Le Crocodile again.

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