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December 2023

Serving up the sea.

Each in their own way

These chefs prepare whole fish the old-fashioned way, use the bones in sauce, serve sea vegetables as a garnish, and either ferment fish flesh or use it in sandwiches. We explore some seaside specialities.

Par Eve Chatelet
Au Bistrot du port, le jambon d'espadon de Matthieu Allinei après 4 semaines de séchage.
À L'Hirondelle, le restaurant des Thermes marins Monte-Carlo, Jean-Laurent Basile fait la part belle aux produits de la mer dans sa carte healthy.

There are some Côte d’Azur restaurants that need no introduction. One such gem is Le Boccaccio in Nice. “We are celebrating our fiftieth anniversary this year. We’ve been a fish restaurant ever since the beginning”, says Philippe Cannatella. One of its specialties is sea bass in a salt crust. “The traditional method is to cook the fish whole rather than filleted, so we serve large pieces of sea bass or sea perch for several people.” Just along the Antibes coastline, chef Nicolas Davouze offers another type of crusted sea bass at Maison de Bacon. “I’ve worked with Bocuse, Stéphane Rimbaud and Franck Ferigutti, and I’ve been lucky enough to prepare this recipe with them. As a tribute to these fine chefs, I have revisited the dough that forms the crust of the sea bass and I serve it with a choron sauce. Keeping it simple is the hardest thing to do. My tutors taught me never to mix more than three or four flavours on one plate.”


Savouring the seasons and cutting down on waste

These chefs try to avoid throwing anything away, using the heads, eggs and milt for other purposes. “We work with the equivalent of 100 kg of bones per week for our sauces and juices, it’s a huge amount”, continues Nicolas Davouze. There is a concerted effort to introduce patrons to lesser-known wild species. “Our fish suppliers follow the advice of Mr.Goodfish, which provides a list of species to focus on every three months. I’m from Marseille, so I love to make braised wrasse, which I serve in a broth with saffron pesto or glazed with fermented soy miso”, explains Jean-Laurent Basile with a glint in his eye. The chef at L’Hirondelle at the Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo is proud to prioritise healthy cuisine. He replaces salt with gomasio and serves umbrina fillet with a reduction of fish stock, carrot juice and a hint of orange, which makes the sauce lighter. The same goes for the Thai-style broth vinaigrette with lemongrass and galenga. Some restaurants have also founded their reputation on international influences, like Peixes in Nice. “We serve ceviche with sweet potato or French red cabbage, sea bream sashimi with basil sauce, and we cook octopus in a tagine. It’s a scientific approach and we rely on food pairings to really give the senses a thrill”, enthuses Pierre Lorenzo, chef at Peixes.


Sea urchins for dessert

Seaweed, samphire and other algae bring a hint of salty sea air, but chefs can also call on the sea to spice up their dishes. “Instead of putting curry with fish, we can use kelp as a powder, an infusion or a broth”, explains Mathieu Allinei from Bistrot du Port in Golfe-Juan. Allinei is one of the region’s most inventive chefs when it comes to fish. His squid-ink gnocchi come with a side of sea cucumber, and sea tomato is served alongside regular tomatoes. Raw fish is paired with a broth and sorbet and sea urchins with grapefruit and vacherin appear on the dessert menu. “Fermentation is nothing new, but guests need to be accustomed to the flavours because they can be very rich. I like working with pissalat, which are anchovy alvins from pissaladière”, explains the man who prefers the humble sardine to the more premium John Dory fish.

Le Boccaccio, une institution niçoise dédiée au poisson.


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