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Restaurants & Bars 10

La Mare aux Oiseaux [Pays de la Loire] - Rio Yeti report

Rio Yeti | Jun 17, 201512:00 PM

It's been a while since I've taken the time to translate one of my reviews in english for the good folks at Chowhound, and the main reason is that I have taken way too long to finish the reviews of my trip in South Korea... But now that I'm back for good, I'm not going to start lightly, as I am going to talk about a lyrical flight I recently took at "La Mare aux Oiseaux".

Taking the car from Paris was a bad idea... long roads... backache... assholes leaning on their horns... my t-shirt wet... my brain pumping...
And then here it is, the peaceful Mare aux Oiseaux.
Watching the pretty birds (which watch you back in return) flying freely in the gardens. Petting the owner's dog. Relaxing in the jacuzzi. And then... eating in Chef Eric Guerin's restaurant for the voyage to go a little further...

- Amuse-bouches -
Little chirps of crunch, of punch, of colors... The "langouille" which is an andouille made from pork tongue was salty in a good way and tender. But the little star was the buckwheat chip with hummus, olive and grapefruit : contrast, harmony and fun. The perfect ambassador for the meal to come.

- Raw tuna, mozzarella, quinoa, citrus vinaigrette -
I'm barely starting the second description and already I have a feeling I will repeat myself... Here again the crunch of the quinoa whirled around the marine and suave tuna, the milky and caressing mozzarella, and the fruity and tonic vinaigrette : contrasts, punch and beautiful colors. (I will not comment on the plate which looked like it was bought at Ikea, which is particularly surprising as the rest of the tableware was very elegant).

- Leeks vinaigrette, free-range egg and coregone (whitefish ?) -
And here we have the aforementioned "punch" (new repetition) becoming a proper uppercut. The egg yolk, cooked at low temperature, poured over the leek cream, the fried leek, the cooked on a flat-top leek and the leek sauteed with love me, love me not, love me, love me not... love me butter ! The coregone eggs added snap to the dish.
It's hard to express how this simple plant can knock oneself out so vigorously. Maybe I should have recorded audio while eating, it would have sounded something like this : "Mmmmmmmm...".

- Asparagus, black pudding, grilled squid -
The green asparagus was intersected with its white cousin, all of it delicately dressed on a cream of asparagus which was slightly to gummy. To escort it, there was a zigzag of black sesame cream, and a little chunk of black pudding one could throw his face on the table for... and a little piece of squid, so tender it would instantly heal the nasty bruise caused by the previous incident...

- Smoked catfish, new potatoes, vegetable caviar and Nantais butter -
The fish was voluptuously cooked, the potato was tender and fragrant, the butter was served on a shortcake, which was a bit weird but not enough to distract from the dish, and everything was resting on a chervil emulsion or an "herb jus", depending if you trust my server or the one at the next table... A good dish which wasn't as powerful as the great ones surrounding it, but which was licked off the plate nonetheless.

- Red mullet, strawberries, olives and parmesan -
The masterpiece of the night. I know what you're thinking : "Strawberries ? With fish ? And parmesan ?". Yes, yes, it's totally bonkers. It's a dish Roger Rabbit would have enjoyed, and so did I. This potential catastrophe managed to walk on the thin thread between madness and genius.
Everything was harmonious, everything was there for a reason... I don't know how to convince you... it was magical.

- Lamb, mushrooms, almonds -
I'm getting tired of so many superlatives... let's try to be brief.
Lamb : tender like the buttocks of a baby.
Morels and mustard sauce : tip top.
Vegetables : perfect.
Mushroom stuffed with frangipane : stodgy but revived once dipped into the sauce.

- Fourme d'Ambert, white chocolate -
Aha ! Finally I will be able to bring out my critic schmitic's canines and sink them into this weakness in an otherwise indecently perfect dinner ! The white chocolate was too sweet, and with the cheese it made for a slightly sickening dish. Ok, let's be honest, it was more of a dissonance than a real wrong note...

- Opera in Brière -
A take on the classical "Opera" cake, which I love and was my favorite cake during childhood. Unfortunately there was no butter-cream to be found, and I just couldn't taste this as being an opera... If I had ordered a "coffee cake, with coffee ice cream", I would have greatly enjoyed the rich arabica and balanced sweet taste of this dessert. But I had "opera" in mind, and not in the plate.

- Mignardises -
As always in those "gastronomic restaurants", they want you to walk out on your belly, and hence came the chocolate mignardises. Just a few remembrances : a buckwheat custard, an apricot cream surrounded by white chocolate and coconut, orange gianduja... and... cream... dark... sweet... eat... too... much... infusion... good... sleep... please... stop...

I rarely mention maitre d's because my nose is always buried in my plate. But the one at La Mare aux Oiseaux was particularly charming, nice, fun and discreet. A big thank to him for a delightful evening.
I would also like to talk about that small cute black bird which during dinner service was trying to get inside the room, peering at every possible window. This poor little fella, who was apparently used to the place, was looking inside and seemed to be saying : "Hey guys ! Be nice, open the door... come on guys, stop joking, it's not fun... let me in !".
Little bird, if I was in charge, I would have let you join the party, but you know, some grumpy old men could bitch about a small character flying over their bread baskets... even as cute as you are...

What a night my friends ! Eric Guerin's cooking is fascinating, he works with playfulness and a great mastery of the craft. His way of pairing savory with sweet is particularly remarkable, especially since it has no connection to asian cuisine which is used to this contrast. A lot of times we're pretty near danger, but paradoxically every dish seems so level-headed. The experiments are not here to pose as "gastronomic art", they are just here to give pleasure. So we warble, we warble...


As always if you understand french and want to read the review in my native tongue, or if you just want to drool or wonder in front of some pictures of the dishes... please head over to :

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