Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rabbit Virgin, No More

I had a long week- trying to meet my self-imposed deadline for the newsletter, while dealing with backlog at work; going to the gym while still on starvation mode; and, of course, the ongoing preparations for the wedding. By week’s end, I was physically and mentally-drained, as well as deliriously hungry.

Fortunately, I had Friday dinner to look forward to, which Matt and I decided mid-week would be at our favorite French resto, Je Suis Gourmand. We have not been back since last December, when we just passed by to grab a log of Foie Gras Terrine and bottled Peppercorn Sauce for Christmas Day dinner. Matt has always been picky with his food, so I’m happy that we have a shared affinity for this popular bistro (along with a few other restaurants) which we try to visit as often as time and budget would allow.

I brought a bottle of Chinon Le Grezeaux 2002 which I bought from Sommelier Selection (through The Bluefrog) a year ago. Wine connoisseur and serious foodie Bernie Sim was at a table nearby with his charming wife, and instructed me to have my wine chilled and decanted immediately.

Looking through the familiar menu, I thought I would give my favorites a rest and inquired about the specials. Although the server eloquently enumerated the dishes, I missed out on a few of the details. Good thing Mr. Sim came up to our table and recommended that I have the rabbit dish which was one of the specials that evening. He claimed that it would go very well with my Cabernet Franc from the Loire region.

I smile uncomfortably and tentatively order the dish. I would actually call myself an adventurous eater, having had my first balut (duck enbryo) when I was 9, and even braving an appetizer of crickets at Fely J.’s recently. But, for some reason, I have consciously avoided eating rabbit. Maybe because I had a pet bunny at one point in my childhood, and so have always put the cuddly creatures in the same category as Shih-tzus and Shetland ponies. But, since Gourmand has yet to disappoint me, I decide that it’s time to- as Elmer Fudd loved to say- “Kill the wabbit”.

When I told Chef Marc Aubry about my concerns, he scoffed in his typical French way and said, “Oh, don’t worry! I saw the one you’re eating tonight, and it’s an ugly one.” Ok. I feel a lot better.

Our starters finally arrive. I ordered the Mesclun Greens with Bacon, Roquefort, Egg and Wallnuts tossed in a light vinaigrette. This is something that I would love to make at home, being so simple and yet so satisfying. I would pretty much call it “star-studded”, containing practically every ingredient that I would want to find in my salad. The flavors were perfectly-balanced and they were very generous with the bacon. I can’t complain.

Matt had a bistro staple, Onion Soup, topped with Gruyere and a toasted slice of baguette. This was followed by his favorite Gourmand dish, Lamb Shank with roasted vegetables and potatoes. Instead of the usual potatoes, he asked for reosti (Swiss pan-fried shredded potatoes, typically with bacon). Good thing Chef Marc remembered that Matt does not eat pork, and so made sure that there was no bacon in it.

And finally I come face to face with my main course, Stuffed Rabbit Saddle with Garlic Tarragon Pasta. I discovered that rabbit meat had an unusual texture- quite rubbery and dry. I learned from Chef Marc that the rabbit itself does not have a lot of flavor, especially these farmed ones, so it soaks up all the flavors and aromas of its accompanying sauces and side dish. The stuffing of rabbit liver and kidneys was deliciously earthy and succulent, truly making the dish a perfect match with the wine and its moderate-to-heavy tannins. It was an earthy and brawny wine, something that I could imagine standing up to even meatier dishes. The pasta, although quite simple, was flavorful and intensely aromatic. Matt- occasionally picking from my plate- asked me, “You can make this, right? Try to make this at home, ok?”

Once again too stuffed for dessert, we finished off our wine outside with a few cigs. Chef Marc, who usually joins us for some smokes and conversation, was noticeably absent. Later on, he tells us that he has decided to quit the smelly habit. He did chat with us a bit before we left, Matt and I making the effort not to smoke in front of him. Although Chef Marc said that he doesn’t mind, I personally would want him to enjoy his new life devoid of carbon monoxide.

It was a wonderful dinner, but I must admit that I am not a fan of rabbit. Although the dish itself was tasty, rabbit meat just does not have the juicy succulence of steak or the sublime gaminess of duck breast.

Bunnies everywhere can give out a sigh of relief.

Je Suis Gourmand
Net One Plaza
Fort Global City, Tagiug
Tel. no. (632) 8158801


Miguel said...

I've always eaten rabbit the regular way - roasted or in a Paella. The way Marc Prepared it looks good.

I'll be going there soon - I hope he still has so I can order it...Can't wait.

Chinkee said...

Hi Mig! I'm guessing he would still have it. The preparation was really good, although I was not a big fan of the texture of the meat. Oh well... I figure I should try rabbit paella:-)

Noel said...

Hmmm, I eat rabbit occasionally but it's not a favorite of mine. My wife tends to eat bunnies more than I.

The best I've tried was our first evening's dinner in Chenonceaux (Loire) - my wife ordered it and I had lamb but picked off her plate. We had it with a 1990 Jadot Beaune Clos des Ursules Premier Cru. The wine was very memorable.

Chinkee said...

"The best I've tried was our first evening's dinner in Chenonceaux (Loire)..."

Hay, sarap naman. I remember my trip to France back in 2001 and I feasted on McDo and chinese food. Galing noh?

Hopefully when Matt and I go to Europe in September, we could stop in France. Of course Mr. French Hater says no, so I say, "Can we at least go to Alsace? They used to be occupied by the Germans naman eh!" Hahaha!

Socky said...

The first and last time I tried a rabbit dish was many, many years ago at this French restaurant run by Vietnamese nuns along UN Avenue (I think) in Paco, called L'eau Vive. Like you, I felt compelled to try rabbit - if I were to be a compleat gourmet, ha! ha! - and like you, I wasn't impressed and still much prefer my succulent cow. At least we can say: been there, done that!

Chinkee said...

Hi Socky! Yeah, true... At least we know what it tastes like. I actually did not know what to expect, but for some reason I thought it would taste better. Oh well, at least I know its not just me.:-)

Ines said...

Try the rabbit at Purple Feet, the nice part is that you can tell them the style you would like to have it cooked. A Portugese friend of mine tried it "mediterranean style" one time, as rabbit is popular in Portugese cuisine, and he declared it to be quite good :)

Chinkee said...

Hi Ines! Hmmm... Purple Feet? I used to like that resto until my last couple of meals there when I was not too happy with the food. But, heck, I wouldn't mind giving them another chance.:-)