Chez Nous is a small place in an 1835 2-story home. Around 9 years ago Chef Jill Mathias started serving the cuisine of southern France, northern Italy and northern Spain for lunch and dinner 6 days a week. She serves the same menu of 2 appetizers, 2 entreés and 2 desserts both times of day but changes the menu daily. Chef writes the new menu by hand every day in a very stylized script, with the first line in the language of the area and the second in English. The place just holds 36 guests inside and 20 on the outside patio. Music is in the background, light streams through the many windows, upstairs a bench runs along the long wall with no pillows and tiny tables. Upstairs wide plank old floors are opposite exposed ceiling rafters and the end of the room has a crumbling brick fireplace. It all works to feel like you’ve jumped back in time to enjoy a meal in a friend’s home. Don’t let anything stop you from getting to this place and eating some of her great food. We were so impressed we made a reservation for the next day’s lunch while we sipped coffee.
It definitely helped to have Alex as our wonderful server during our first visit. He shared some of the history of the home as well as helped us read the day’s menu. Since there were 2 of us and everything sounded great we just ordered one of each and figured we pass back and forth. Here’s the problem with that – each was so good you really didn’t want to turn it over. The table got a basket of baguette slices, that were nicely crisp on the outside and doughy on the inside with a wonderful chewiness that fresh baguettes have.
The celery and olive salad also contained a generous amount of sliced parmesan. It was nicely dressed with lovely flavor and lots of crunch. Everything blended perfectly – it seemed so simple and yet the flavor was exquisite.
Fried bread was paired with salami and prosciutto di parma. Also on the plate was a bowl of Mostarda (Northern Italian condiment of candied fruit and a mustard-flavored syrup) filled with sweet raisins. The little pieces of bread were nicely crisp on the exterior and doughy inside and paired very well with either thin sliced meat and a dip of the sauce. A very fun appetizer plate.
Fish with fennel turned out to be Beeliner snapper which is a Vermilion snapper found in North Carolina waters. The nice size filet was browned to a perfect crisp while the flesh underneath was moist and delicious. Also on the plate were slices of fingerling potatoes, browned and tender and the fish was topped with a few raisins. A marvelous dish, perfectly prepared and all scrumptious.
Chicken with mushrooms was 2 boneless large chicken thighs which had the skin cooked to a perfect crisp with tender moist meat underneath surrounded by a medley of mushrooms (King trumpet, cremini, button, and beech) and pork belly pieces. The chicken pieces were soaked in wine prior to browning and were wonderful with the mushrooms and pork bits. The sauce had all the flavors combined and was perfect to soak up into the pieces of baguette. This was a large plate and every bite was incredible.
One dessert was a chocolate hazelnut mousse. The hazelnuts were toasted, chopped and sprinkled on top. The thick mousse was dense and intense chocolate that you couldn’t stop eating. Marvelous.
Canelés were described as caramelized pastry and that they are. They were made to perfection with the crisp chewy exterior and custard-like interior with a sweet flavor, but the texture makes these when done right and these were. Finish with an espresso and then wait for tomorrow to arrive so you can eat here again.