Postcard From Tom: Dijon, France

Sunday, January 4, 2009

DZ'ENVIES (12 Rue Odebert, Dijon; 011-33-3-80-500-926, New on the scene, this chic, all-white-and-blond bistro near the city's celebrated food hall captures the whimsy of chef David Zuddas (easy to spot in twin earrings). Look to the chalkboards posted around the room for what's freshest; a late-autumn menu impressed friends and me with expertly cooked beef served with Lincoln logs of polenta and a first-class bearnaise, and whole fish accompanied by a "risotto" of potatoes and dots of lemon confit on the plate. Bargain hunters should visit at lunch, when three courses can be had for about $26. But even dinner, featuring four courses for about $40, delivers a deal. The starkness of the room is offset by pillows on the banquette, sculpture on the walls and the food that lands before you.

LA DAME D'AQUITAINE (23 Pl. Bossuet, Dijon; 011-33-3-80-30-45-65, Down, down from street level we go, until we reach our destination: a 13th-century crypt transformed into one of Dijon's most fascinating dining rooms. Any distaste for underground restaurants is erased as our eyes take in the high arched ceiling, framed stained-glass windows, stone walls and a sea of linen-draped tables. Working in concert with his wife, who is the sommelier, chef Laurent Perriguey honors the many treasures of Burgundy. His snails, lavished with parsley and garlic, are classic beauties. Poached eggs arrive in a thick moat of red wine, sweet with onions, smoky with lardons and decorated with a sail of herb-edged bread. Stuffed rabbit loin comes dappled with mustard (Dijon's own, naturally), while a haunch of lamb rests atop golden coins of potato and carrots flecked with cumin seeds. But if there's a single dish you shouldn't miss, it's the chef's decadent lasagne enriched with foie gras. Eating local means eating rich. Entrees $26-$42.

LES HALLES DE DIJON (At Rue Bannelier): Does it look familiar? Native son Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923) designed Dijon's sumptuous steel-and-glass food market, conveniently located in the heart of the city. I scored a coup with my guide, local food scribe Alex Miles, whose favorite stalls quickly became mine as well. For cheese, there's no finer selection than at Au Gas Normand, watched over by Sophie Greenbaum, whose treasures run to Comté and Epoisses and can be vacuum-packed for the trip home. And if you wish to make a sandwich of her specialties, make a beeline for D'un Pain a l'Autre ("From One Bread to Another"), where baker Fred Mougel displays dozens of organic breads. Visit early. By day's end, Miles reports, "there's not a crumb left."

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