In France, during the holiday season, along with Père Noël (Santa Claus) coming to town, you can usually expect foie gras, les huîtres (oysters) and a bûche de Noël cake for dessert. On 24 December, people will start wishing you a “Joyeux Noël” and if you’re surrounded by Frenchies come midnight on 31 December, be sure to tell everyone “Bonne Année!” with a full glass of champagne in hand.
Every country in the world that celebrates Christmas and New Year’s is full of time-honoured traditions, comfort food that keeps the cold out (even if the cold is more figurative than realistic in Saigon), and seasons greetings that convey the good humour and optimism of the holiday season. Yet, there is just something special about the holidays in France. Perhaps, it is the fact that the French are known for their culinary delights year-round and the holidays are no exception. The French roll up their sleeves, roll out the pastry dough and splurge on the absolute best products for a memorable evening washed down with French wines.
Special Holiday Menus at La Villa French Restaurant
If a trip to France is not on the cards for the holidays this year, why not take a culinary voyage to the country at La Villa French Restaurant in Thao Dien’s District 2?
Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in France are called réveillon,which comes from the French word réveil (waking, in English). The word is apt because you should be prepared to stay awake late on these festive occasions for long dinners complete with multiple courses. Though the word is the same, there are differences between réveillon on Christmas Eve vs. New Year’s. Christmas réveillon is usually a more intimate feast shared between close friends and family and historically is a Christian celebration, while réveillon on New Year’s Eve is the moment for a more all-out evening of fun with family, friends or colleagues from any background and any religion.
An Unforgettable Christmas Eve at La Villa French Restaurant
When you enter La Villa French Restaurant on Christmas Eve, the quiet luxury of the restaurant will put you immediately at ease. Flickering candles on each table highlight the cosy atmosphere while the sparkling Christmas tree decorated in an elegant mix of reds, greens and gold make the restaurant the perfect place to go to feel the true joy of the season.
Once seated you’ll be offered a special selection of canapés to pique your interest about what’s to come. And truly, what comes next will be nothing less than spectacular. Melanosporum, or Périgord black truffle, is a black truffle that can only be found in France during the wintertime. It is one of the most expensive edible mushrooms found anywhere in the world. For the amuse bouche, Chef Thierry Mounon has created a “bonbon” raviole, which is filled with La Villa’s own homemade foie gras and is accompanied by the earthy melanosporum truffle.
Next up, the starter consists of braised veal sweetbread served with a “vrai jus” sauce made of morel mushrooms, Armagnac and drippings from the meat.
In France, since a réveillon is meant to showcase the best products and dishes that the host can offer, the meal will often have two main courses separated by an interlude meant to cleanse the palate and whet the appetite. La Villa French Restaurant will first offer a delicacy from the sea: a roasted half blue lobster tail imported from France and served with artichokes “barigoule” and Iranian saffron “beurre blanc”. The term barigoule refers to a cooking method created to preserve the delicate artichokes and to keep them from browning. The artichokes are first cooked in a stock consisting of vinegar and plenty of citrus plus aromatic herbs, then they are left in the stock to ‘pickle’. Chef Thierry Mounon serves the artichokes in a silky white butter (beurre blanc) sauce accentuated by the highest-quality saffron imported from Iran.
The interlude that follows is often called a “Trou Normand”. This gastronomic custom consists of drinking a small glass of Calvados between courses. Chef Thierry pairs the strong flavour of the apple liqueur with a tart green apple sorbet.
Now for the pièce derésistance! Canette duck from Mieral, the top exporter of AOC duck in Bresse, the region of France most celebrated for its poultry. The duck is served with a Burgundy red wine sauce and is accompanied by pommes dauphine. If you don’t know what pommes dauphine are, imagine a crisp potato puff made from mashed potatoes and pastry dough. They are fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside and entirely delicious.
No French meal, especially a holiday meal, would be complete without an excellent cheese. Much has been written about the cheeses on display on La Villa’s cheese trolley and the Christmas Eve selection maintains this record. The fromage of the evening is a Ciré Bleu from the artisanal cheesemongers Les Frères Marchand. The cheese is a lovely example of the velvety texture that a good blue can have. It is made from ewe’s milk and has strong blue veins running throughout the creamy cheese. For the holiday menu, the cheese is served en espuma, which means the cheese is frothed into an airy foam.
But now you may be asking, “What’s for dessert?” The famous French cake called baba au rhum is the perfect end to an incredible feast. The spongey cake is imbibed with a strong dose of rum infused with the flavours of Christmas: cocoa and orange. A hint of lavender adds the promise of spring to this wintery delicacy. Save room for some small mignardises and a shot of espresso to finish off the experience.
The Christmas Eve meal at La Villa French Restaurant is VND2,690,000 net per adult diner. An additional 1,890,000 is added for the optional wine pairing. Children over the age of six are welcome for the discounted fee of VND2,020,000 net/child excluding drinks.
A Gourmet New Year’s Eve at La Villa French Restaurant
After a short pause for some shopping, wrapping, gift opening, holiday carol singing and plenty of family time, we are back at La Villa French Restaurant to ring in the New Year!
Chef Thierry Mounon presents his brand-new New Year’s Réveillon menu on 31 December. Diners can choose to pair the dinner with a special selection of wines if they so desire for an additional VND1,990,000/adult. The meal itself is VND2,990,000 net/adult excluding beverages.
After the canapés, indulge in the evening’s special amuse bouche, which consists of a Burgundy duck confit and truffle raviole with a consommé (richly flavoured poultry stock). The starter takes the meal to the level of luxury with Hokkaido scallops from Japan and a “Tristan da Cunha” rock lobster served as carpaccio. This fresh seafood delight is served with Osciètresturgeon caviar from the house of Kaviari. Maison Kaviari’s caviar comes from the Caspian Sea and is known for being one of the first houses in the world to produce caviar in an eco-friendly way.
The first main course comes from the sea with a steamed tooth-fish fillet from the Kerguelen Islands, French Antarctic islands. It is served with “cajun”-style butter made with fish bones and sea urchin. A vegetable tian accompanies the plate.
Now for a pause to digest and enjoy: this evening’s “Interlude” features an orange sorbet served with rum cocoa to brighten and lighten the wintery aromas.
The meat course includes the world-famous Wagyu beef tenderloin from the Victoria state of Australia. This elegant cut of beef is served with vegetable ragout and a truffled foie gras sauce. The umami flavours of the foie gras and truffle marry perfectly with the tenderloin.
The Ciré Bleu from the artisanal cheesemongers Les Frères Marchand makes another appearance on the New Year’s Eve menu. It’s a perfectly rich, savoury succession after the meat course.
A strawberry tart rounds off the meal with a sweet and lightly acidic finish. Stay around for the mignardises and a slowly sipped digestif to make it until midnight. “Bonne Année!”
Image source: La Villa French Restaurant