Lyon Gastronomy: Vibrant Cuisine
Lyon Gastronomy: Bouchons and Paul Bocuse restaurants
Lyon has been crowned the gastronomical capital of France. After a tour of the city, it’s not hard to understand the roots of Lyon’s gastronomic fame. Lyon is rich in agricultural produce, with the fertile lands nourished by the two rivers Rhone and Sahone. It being in the center of rich produces manifest its gastronomical crown: the fertile volcanic grounds of Beaujolais north of Lyon, the Rhone wine valleys with white and viognier grapes of Macon and Condrieu, and the panoramic plains surrounding with a diversity of sheep, poultry, and cattle breeding. The traditional markets and Halles of Lyon (including Paul Bocuse’s Les Halles) lays out the freshest regional produce, with hand-made cheese, charcuteries, and local artisan pastries topping up the shopping list.
The appeal for good food has geographical roots, while the dedication in upholding traditional cuisine led to the preservation of local gastronomy. Lyon has dedicated efforts in crowning several traditional restaurants as “bouchons”: those small, family-owned bostros that serve traditional cuisine in crowded ambience and specific décor. It consists of heavier, large portioned, and multiple courses meals. Dad and I built up a huge appetite after the afternoon’s walking tour, yet we were defeated by the portions and richness of Bouchon cuisine after 2 Lyonnaise meals haha. The food was tasty: home cooking with fresh regional produce, yet servings were huge and quick: the courses lined up one against another. We didn’t expect the typical “French fine dining” service nor food, yet you felt full in midst of the second course leaving not much appetite for desert haha.
In the following day, we visisted one of the famed Paul Bocuse restaurant. Paul Bocuse was a Michelin chef who introduced Lyon to nouvelle cuisine, characterized by lighted and more delicate dishes with an increased focus on the presentation of the food. He broke the rules of Lyonnaise bouchons and succeeded, with the north (traditional), south (Mediterranian), east, west (Island cuisine), and argenson restaurants in Lyon. We visited the Sud restaurant on Easter day, and were surprised to find the menus double in price (and set portions). We were seated on the roadside terrace with huge glass windows, closely in line with fellow diners seating opposite each other. French dining was a private and communal experience at the same time: there was respect for personal space in soft conversations, yet we acknowledged and observed those by our tables politely. There were multiple instances when the diners by our side remark “Bon appetite!”, “Au revoir”, “Bon Jour” while we were entering or leaving our seat, and it shaped a pleasant ambience throughout the meal.
We enjoyed the beautiful presentation and the savoring sensations, yet the meal was still too huge in size for us haha. The pre-entry was cold asparagus soup; entry was foie gras for Dad and traditional Pate croute (pork in pastry) for me; mains were beef and cod; and deserts tarte de framboise and rum baba. They were well presented, and we enjoyed the French dining ambience. Dad and I glimpsed the elderly couple by our side, with strong and huge appetites: apparently appreciating the sensational pleasures of French cuisine. While Dad and I were struggling to come up with the choices for our dessert as we felt satisfied enough haha (it was included in the set, and was to be decided after the main dish), they in contrast were having an active debate on the additional cheese plate AND dessert course. We gaped in awe as they savored all the courses, along with the huge bottle of wine, and coffee that proceeded. It was an interesting observation of the French savoring the appeals of gastronomy.