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Thursday, July 21, 2011

La Mère Brazier

I was in Lyon, France recently for work, and the president of the organization for which I was working arranged a dinner one evening for our group at La Mère Brazier. Now, La Mère Brazier does not even remotely fall into the category of restaurant I normally write about—it’s far too expensive (and this was, unfortunately, a Dutch-treat affair)—but it’s difficult to resist saying a few words about what was probably the most beautifully-prepared meal I have ever been served.

La Mère Brazier has been around since 1921, but the kitchen has belonged to Mathieu Viannay since 2008, who is presumably responsible for the restaurant’s current Michelin 2-star rating (it had 3, once upon a time in its heyday). Viannay fuses elements of traditional Lyonnais cooking and modern cuisine, to my mind, completely successfully. It was a faultless meal—at least until the check came, which contained an egregious mistake in multiplication (why are these sorts of mistakes always in the restaurant’s favor?), cheerfully corrected once pointed out.

Since I was most definitely on a budget—relatively speaking—I ordered the most economical option, the menu de saison (58€ for 3 courses—around $85). It began with a paté en croûte of Bresse chicken and foie gras with a bit of warm black cherry jam. It could not have been improved: the crust light and flaky, the paté perfectly balanced, and the black cherry a marvelous counterpoint to it. This was followed by two of the most perfect chunks of milk-fed lamb imaginable on fried polenta with a jus reduction, accompanied by baby vegetables. Lovely. Dessert was a fabulous tarte soufflé au chocolat with vanilla bourbon ice cream: wonderful dark chocolate, and most importantly, for my palate at least, not too sweet. I did not feel the least bit deprived doing it on the cheap (once again, relatively speaking)... that is, until I got a whiff of what two of my companions at the other end of the table had ordered: poularde de Bresse demi-deuil. This is Viannay’s take on the classic Lyonnais dish created by mère Filloux of the original La Mère Brazier: Bresse chicken with slices of black truffle inserted between the meat and skin, then poached and served with vegetables, sauce and various pickled condiments. It looked and smelled absolutely divine, and my friends were audibly moaning the entire time they were eating it. I’d say they definitely got their 125€ ($180+!!) worth.

Still, with all its high art and perfection, this is not food that speaks to my soul. In fact, I had to be reminded of what exactly it was that I ate by looking at the website. (I did NOT, however, have to be reminded about anything concerning that chicken at the other end of the table!) It’s an experience definitely worth having, if you can afford it.

La Mère Brazier
12 Rue Royale
69001 Lyon, France
(+33) (0)4 78 23 17 20


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