Mauro Colagreco: the Argentine chef with an Italian name who cooks in France. He worked for some of his adopted country’s most esteemed culinary talent–Alain Ducasse, Alain Passard and Guy Martin–before opening Mirazur restaurant in 2006. Long story short, Mirazur went on to receive a slew of critical acclaim including two Michelin stars along with a coveted slot on the World’s 50 Best restaurants list, eventually climbing the rungs to its current ranking: number three!
Before I knew anything about Mirazur, I was immediately drawn to the name. I don’t speak Spanish, but I do know that it translates to something along the lines of “look at the Azure” or “look at the sea”–a fitting name for a restaurant nestled into the leafy hills of the Côte d’Azur with sweeping views of the Mediterranean. Located in Menton, Mirazur sits inside a 1930s rotunda building practically straddling the French-Italian order, snuggled into what seems like a vertical acre of verdant lush flora.
Arriving at Mirazur feels like arriving at someone’s home. We climbed the stairs to reach the dining room, which faces a wall of bay windows overlooking the Mediterranean, a pristine blue blanket splashed with occasional streaks of white that danced like shooting stars along the sea behind the boats they tailed. The azure sea stretched all the way to the horizon to meet the cloudless blue sky. With Italy to my left and France to my right, I was in heaven. Tom Dixon lamps dangled above wood tabletops in the unfussily elegant dining room, which was bathed in the natural light that shined through the bay windows. I felt like I could have been sitting down to pranzo della domenica at the seaside pied-a-terre of my imaginary long-lost fairy godmother…however, the food was much fancier than anything I could have ever imagined her cooking up.
Colagreco sources food locally, showcasing top-notch ingredients grown onsite in Mirazur’s vegetable garden as well as in Liguria and the south of France. Now, I was in excellent company and didn’t want to throw off our fun-loving laughter-rich vibes by whipping out my notebook and jotting down everything and anything we ate and rank, so please know my recap isn’t as thorough as I had hoped, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. Here’s a look at Mirazur’s Inspiration menu…hopefully I got the wine pairings correct!
Amuse bouche quartet
After a rosé Champagne aperitif and an amuse-bouche quartet, the meal kicked off on a poetic note….literally. A delightfully comforting bread, the recipe of Colagreco’s Italian grandmother, was accompanied by a printout of Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Bread and a lemon-ginger olive oil for dipping. Loved how the bread soaked up the sweet-yet-spicy bite of the ginger coupled with the bright citrus note, and I interpreted my palatal pleasure as a harbinger for the forthcoming meal…and my interpration was spot on.
Gillardeau Oyster with shallot cream, pear, wild watercress and borage flowers
It was difficult to bring myself to eat this because I didn’t want to destroy its precious daintiness…but I was glad I did! All subtle flavors came together as refreshingly as a September afternoon on the Mediterranean, and I loved the starchy texture of the tapioca broth.
Wine pairing: I believe it was a Blanc de Morgex.
Beet with Caviar
A creamy milky caviar sauce was poured over silky salt-crusted beet strands from Mirazur’s own garden, making for a texturally harmonious bite. This might have been my favorite! A perfect marriage of the land and sea that brilliantly encompassed the spirit of the restaurant and the chef.
Fricassee of Mollusks with pesto
This kind of rocked my world. If you know me, you know that I love, love, love pesto, and the flavor that Colagreco coaxed out of these tiny basil leaves harvested in Mirazur’s garden exploded with sharp, bright and refreshing notes. Again, a perfect marriage of the sea and the land: the brininess of the mussels, clams and squid coupled with the unmistakable sweet, yet pungent notes of basil. Honestly–and I know this is a slightly lowbrow wish for a restaurant of this caliber–but I wish they had sold this pesto in a jar because I would have bought several because I wouldn’t mind with pasta!
Wine pairing: Chateau Simone’s white, a blend from Provence
Grouper with black olive puree and licorice hollandaise
This made us laugh as I–the only non-Italian at my table–left the skin on mine while my Italian companions opted to remove theirs. The nicely-seasoned lean fish was moist and tender, and the salty black olive puree and rich yet delicate hollandaise sauce enhanced the flavor.
Wine Pairing: Domaine Saint Sylvestre Red
Challons duck with plum compote
Duck and stone fruit go together like white on rice as the fruit serves as a sweet acidic counterpoint for the rich fatty duck meat. According to traditional French gastronomy, so do duck and orange...duck a l’orange is a staple of French cuisine. Here, Colagreco shakes things up a bit by making the traditional duck sauce but substituting plums for oranges. I believe this is also a nod for his admiration for Asia as the Chinese love their duck with plum sauce. The variety of colorful funnel-shaped plum pieces were sliced as thin as flower petals and plated beautifully with the compote. Needless to say, we finished our savory courses on a glorious note.
Wine pairing: Recontre Mentou Salon 2016 a pinot noir from the Loire Valley, a silky red that tasted of berries.
Need I say more?! I don’t remember what we selected but I remember we enjoyed every last bite.
A raspberry soup with yogurt gelato to clear our palettes, that was so good, it honestly could have been a dessert in and of itself.
Maison Duplanteur Bali chocolate “cru” 70 % with burnt rosemary gelato and Sospel olive oil
See, I’ve got a thing for olive oil desserts and I’ve got a thing for chocolate, throw some burnt rosemary was thrown into the mix, and you’ve got a palette-dazzling dessert that captures the spirit of Mirazur’s territory while prompting us to ponder what we ate. This dessert was a veritable treat!
Wine pairing: Coteaux des Travers La Bartalas Granat 2015, a natural white wine from Grenache grape
Concord grapes and pesto tarts
These post-dessert bites were a nifty way to finish the meal!