The Best Meal We Ate In Europe

We struggle every day with the question of where to eat. Ultimately, we usually end up pulling what we lovingly refer to as a "Classic Josh And Renee", which refers to the process of agonizing over a menu at a restaurant that looks as if we will really enjoy it, deciding that there is probably a better meal to be eaten somewhere else, wandering around for twenty minutes, and then deciding to eat at the next place that serves food because we are sick of looking. Then we extoll the virtues of the hypothetical eatery we should have chosen had we been better people. Funnily enough, this is a very similar story to how two of our friends got married, but that's a story for another blog.

While we were in Lyon, France, we were lucky enough to not pull a CJAR (That's a Classic Josh And Renee if you skipped the first paragraph, which is a weird way to read a blog, but it's your world). We essentially had one day to spend in the "Belly Of France", and since it has been established that we lead with our stomachs when deciding daily activities, we knew we had to nail both our lunch and dinner choice. In the end, we only needed to make one choice, because Comptoir Du Vin was the only meal we ate that day. We wanted to leave Lyon with the memory of that food on our lips. 

After taking the bus into the city center, we realized that we were going to need to hike it to our destination, as the City Center of Lyon is in a valley which is surrounded by hills. Do you see the 23rd? That's when we climbed to Comptoir Du Vin.

Once we arrived, we entered into a humble French restaurant with a few locals strewn throughout. We took our seats and waited for our server to come over, which she soon did; when she asked us what we might like to drink and we responded with quizzical smiles and shrugs and "Sorry, English?" responses, she gave us a broad smile and said in a broken French accent "My English is not good, but I will try!" before bringing over the handwritten chalkboard menu. She painstakingly described each item on the chalkboard, utilizing her own body to describe what parts of the animals were being served, my personal favorite being when she grabbed her love handles and said "Pig! Pig!" I'm still not sure what that dish was, but I'm sure it was delicious. 

Our first course was an unbelievably fresh salad simply tossed in an aged balsamic vinegar and olive oil, topped with sliced duck breast and sauteed chicken livers. Let me tell you, if you're rolling your eyes at the chicken livers, you are not the only one. When I first bit into one of these chicken livers, my eyes rolled back in my head and I let out an audible groan. This is what salad should taste like. The duck breast was perfectly cooked, the lettuce springy and tangy, and the vinegar provided a needed acidic contrast to the creaminess of the meats and eggs. That salad didn't last long, and immediately after this picture was taken, we soaked up this vinegar with some of the crustiest bread we'd had in France.

Our main courses both came with the best cooked fried potatoes I've ever had along with the same basic salad which began the meal topped with different meats. We both went a little on the "lighter side", as we hadn't been eating very well the past few days (French diet of baguettes and cheese for almost every meal means we were both feeling a little dairy-bloated), but of course, I say that to you after you just read about us having chicken liver and duck breast AS AN APPETIZER. Mine was topped with strips of unbelievably creamy and salty prosciutto, complimented by a sharp Roquefort bleu cheese that had me doing the Guy Fieri- trademarked "Eye Roll And Gutteral Moan" with every bite. Renee's was topped with a delicious pork and pine nut saucisson and caused our waitress to bring out perhaps our favorite part of the meal - the most dijon of all dijon mustards. So spicy, peppery, and horseradishy in each bite, I was literally spooning it onto my bread once we had exhausted the proteins on our plate and inhaling sharply with each bite. "That's some good ass mustard!" is the only sentence my stupid American brain could put together after each inhalation.

Great meals come and go. This one was absolutely fantastic and exactly what we wanted in a French meal (plus a bottle of fabulous Cotes Du Rhone - I mean, when in Rhone, right?), right down to the jaunty French chef cooking our meal in a small open kitchen near the bar. After we had finished and were sipping our espressos, debating whether we should just call it a day and end on a high note at 2 PM, the jaunty French chef came out to have a conversation with us. But he didn't speak English. Not a word. It didn't stop us from having a spectacular ten minute conversation about multiple topics, including, but not limited to:

  • He has never been to America, but would love to visit soon, if he can stay with us.
  • His "cherie" lives in Salem, New York. He proudly showed us a picture of her, followed by her exact address. We are not sure whether this was his girlfriend or daughter.
  • He loves to bet on horses - Don't ask how this got across.
  • Lyon has the biggest park in all of Europe - This seems suspect, but he was very animated about it, so I'm inclined to believe him. No googling necessary.
  • He then gave me specific directions to said park, without any street names or English words, even pulling me out to the street corner to ensure we went in the right direction.
    • Side note - we did not go to this park.

These are the kind of interactions that take a good meal to great, and we won't soon forget our time at Comptoir Du Vin. If you're ever in Lyon, it is not somewhere you'll want to miss. And if you're ever in Salem, be sure to look up our chef's daughter/girlfriend, we have her exact address.