Saturday, 21st September 2019 – Restaurant le 4, Mulhouse
Having got ourselves organised, we headed out and managed to circle round the centre of Mulhouse at least once before finally being sucked into an underground car park which we hoped was near to our restaurant for the evening, the Restaurant le 4. I was pleased to note that the car park had a section for women to park that was well lit, close to the doors, and under scrutiny from CCTV. While I don’t think we should have to need such spaces, we do and so I am pleased to see this practice spreading to France now. Car parked, we then failed to navigate the streets of Mulhouse very efficiently either (Google Maps is sometimes more trouble than it’s worth and you can never tell in advance when it’s going to be one of those evenings) but we did eventually arrive at the correct address, a modern-looking space, all large windows and light airy decor.
We were soon seated and drinking an aperitif of a Ginglinger crémant from a very fine aperitif list, nibbling on olives, and studying the short but appealing menu (4 starters, 4 mains written on a small blackboard and presented to us once we were properly settled in).
We were then presented with an amuse-bouche of cucumber based mousse, soft, refreshing and a great way to start.
We decided we needed to go piscine to start with, the promise of lobster roll, with coleslaw salad proving too hard to resist. I was glad I’d caved in and not gone for the obvious choice of foie gras when the dish arrived. If coleslaw was always like this one, I’d be prepared to eat it in the UK. Sadly it so often isn’t. This was crunchy, crisp, and creamy, and the lobster was utterly delicious, big chunks of meat in a mayonnaise dressing, served in a light, brioche roll. I could have eaten that all night and been a happy woman.
We also shared a dish of pan-fried scallops, served with a mousseline of parsley root, dukkah, and caramelised passion fruit and a large slice or two of truffle for decoration and extre oomph. This was delicious too, with the scallops cooked just right, caramelisation on the outside, tender and delicately fishy in the middle, with a couple of parsnip crisp twists to add sweetness. Fabulous.
For mains we stayed with seafood for one dish, a magnificent combination of Madagascan red prawns, with the most amazing golden chanterelle and pancetta risotto that may be the second best risotto I have ever eaten (the Derby Grill in Monza still holds the top spot for me) and believe me I’ve eaten a lot of risottos in my time. It came with pak choi and a seriously deeply flavoured lobster emulsion that could have been served in a bowl and I would have eaten just that on its own – though I’m glad I didn’t! I would not have wanted to be deprived of a brilliant dish. The sheer depth of flavour was very special indeed.
The other dish was duck breast, the skin rendered to golden crispness, with an accompanying portion of fregola with Parmesan, little blobs of aubergine caviar, delicately braised baby fennel, and what translates as a “full-bodied jus” or a “spicy jus”. It was indeed full-bodied, rich in flavour, the meat pink and the vegetables matching so well with the meat. It was a good dish, and I was happy to share it, but the star of the evening for me was the prawns.
We decided we couldn’t possibly eat a dessert and opted to share a cheese course. This provided an assortment of farm-made cheeses, with fruit chutney (local plums), and toasted brioche. The cheese were nicely kept, at the right temperature and not too large a portion, which meant we were able to finish it along with our wine.
We took the advice of the charming Tatiana as regards to the wine we should drink with our dinner, and were more than happy with her recommendations. These were a Riesling Alsace Grand Cru ‘Saering’ 2015 from Domaines Schlumberger which worked a treat with the fishy first courses. This comes from a plot that was first mentioned in 1250, and has been sold under this name since 1830. The grapes are handpicked and whole bunches pressed, and it is then fermented in temperature-controlled tuns, followed by rising on the lees for 8 months. Te resulting wine is a bright golden yellow with green reflections of good intensity and the aroma is of citrus fruits, lemon zest, lime and white flowers. This evolves into blood orange and papaya with a mineral and smoky touch.
The other wine was from the seemingly ubiquitous Domaine Pierre Henri Ginglinger and was the Rubis 2017 we’d tried during the afternoon visit to their shop. This wine is from a plotcalled Stribicher which is right next to the Grand Cru Eichberg and has a clay-limestone soil. It’s harvested by hand, destemmed and subject to maceration and fermentation for 15 days before it goes into oak barrels for malolactic fermentation. It has a beautiful purple hue, and a very fruity nose with hints of wood and red fruits. In the mouth there are powerful notes of cherries and blackcurrant. It’s best served between 12 and 14ºC and the restaurant certainly made sure they did.
More than satisfied, we retraced the trail of breadcrumbs to the car, and were soon back at the apartment, having not been charged to park.