L’Epuisette is on top of a rock overlooking the cove of Marseille and the Mediterranean Sea. Chef Guillaume Sourrieu, who started here in the 1980’s, prepares local and Mediterranean cuisine that is created around what he can obtain from his local fish and vegetable suppliers. It is a medium-sized place and received one Michelin star in 2001. The dining room is striking with windows on two sides that look out to the water and the stone cliffs, however visibility is limited at night, but you could see boats and late night fisherman. There are some lights hanging from the ceiling that looked almost like jelly fish. Hanging fish, paintings, mirrors decorate the room with well spaced white cloth-covered tables. Music is in the background (it was turned down when more people arrived) and the lighting is lowered at night. Sound dampening panels are on the ceiling The menu offered tasting of 7 or 9 courses (a cheese course supplement is offered for 12 euros), a bouillabaisse menu and a la carte dishes.
We started with a Pastis which is an aniseed flavored apéritif common in Marseille. They added water at the table which turns the spirit cloudy and brought a cone-shaped bowl of ice. It was light and refreshing. Service providers spoke passable English and were very friendly. Portion control was good but the pacing was a little on the slow side.
The amuse bouche had 3 pieces including a ‘bready’ cracker stuffed with olives and red pepper. The bread was buttery and good and the interior was well seasoned. A Mediterranean fish was mixed with sea urchin and asparagus for an odd combination and flavor. A fried red corn chip decorated a cup of sea urchin and violet. The urchin was incorporated in a light mousse that was very tasty and the crunchy chip added a nice texture and flavor to the bite. It was good.
Bread service offered 4 types of rolls and I chose the fruit roll and white roll. Later they brought onion and olive rolls which were both similar in texture to the others and strongly flavored. The bread had a good texture and chew, with a crisp exterior around the dense interior. The fruit bread was a dark one and good.
A bouillabaisse aspic was on a potato slice and covered with a saffron mousse. The inside of the dome tasted like seafood soup and went well with the well cooked potato below it. The potato still had some texture but was mildly flavored and made a good balance.
Scallops carpaccio and lobster had a truffle dressing and Provencal herb, violet. The lobster was very lightly cooked and sweet with lots of chunks and shreds of it. This one was really good.
The live langouste was presented prior to being made into the next dish. It was paired with purple cabbage and an onion emulsion. The cabbage was in the form of a chip and in a purée. The purple cabbage went really well with the langouste and foam, which was a nice sauce for mild shellfish. The chip added a texture to the overall a mild plate except for the really flavorful foam.
Grilled John Dory with a crust of citrus fruit was with pumpkin and a crusty ravioli. The pasta was stuffed with grilled meat and broccoli and the sauce was a meat sauce. The large flake fish was nicely cooked and the rectangle of pumpkin was creamy and sliceable. Tiny bits of browned broccoli complimented the ravioli that was browned on one side. It was tasty and overall a well-balanced plate.
Sea Bass slowly cooked in chive oil, “lassi lemon thyme, with soft and grilled asparagus was the next plate. The crescent shape was filled with a foam of Jerusalem artichoke and sea urchin, but I could not taste the flavor of sea urchin. The tender and thick piece of fish had some of the brown meat on the bottom but did not have any associated strong flavor. It went quite well with the sauce and foam. The fish was topped with a piece of bread topped with butter and sea urchin. The asparagus was nicely cooked with good flavor.
Pigeon “Mieral” with truffles, cabbage “barbajuan” and foie gras was the meat plate. The pigeon was locally sourced and plated with leek, carrot, apple purée, a ravioli stuffed with foie gras and cabbage, violet flower, and all sitting in a truffle sauce. There was also a mushroom (Morrel) flan that was mixed with truffle. The pigeon was sliced very thin, tender and very rare. The pasta was crispy on one side and soft on the other and very good. The crispy texture went well with the rich, sticky sauce – that actually went well with everything. The apple purée also blended nicely with all but the lip smacking sauce was the star on this perfect bird.
The cheese course was made with goat’s milk cheese and plated with a green salad of a green that had good flavor but was mild. A little honey and salt accented the light cheese log and it was nice mixed with the greens.
The pre-dessert was a ‘piña colada’ or roasted pineapple with sweet pineapple juice topped with pineapple ice cream and a piece of crisp sugar. The sugar provided a nice textural contrast and overall it was very sweet with a good amount of fruitiness. Good textures and tastes made this one a winner.
Chocolate ganache topped with pear and pear ganache topped with chocolate was next. Both had little flavor but were attractive. The chocolate had a cookie like bottom and the pear had a bottom of crumbs and nuts that gave the interior a texture of grit like a pear has. Chocolate and orange sticks were crisp but not overly compelling.
A final set of treats contained a citrus tart, cheesecake with fennel, chocolate and coffee cream bar and a chocolate bonbon. I didn’t make specific notes on any of them nor did I finish them which says a lot.