Friday, May 05, 2006

Lunch at Café des Fédérations

Café des Fédérations is on our list of places to take visitors in town that are interested in eating in a Lyonnais bouchon. There are so many restaurants in Lyon that have the “Official Lyonnais Bouchon” label, but so few that really give a good quality sampling of the specialty dishes of Lyon and the region. Many of the restaurants in Vieux Lyon are faking it with inferior industrial products and the tourists are none the wiser.

We arrived without reservations, hoping for a table and got lucky. When we were seated, and before we ordered, three dishes, served family style, were served – Caviar de la Croix Rousse, named after the neighborhood on the hill, which is simmered lentils served with chopped shallots and vinaigrette, Salad de Museau, a charcuterie salad of brined beef muzzle, sliced thin and served with a caper vinaigrette, and an assortment of saucisson sec (dried sausage) and pickles. While we sampled these dishes, the waiter came out and let us know what was on that day: Tete de veau (that’s veal head), pork cheeks, tablier de sapeur (the flat cut of tripe which has been cut into a rectangle and fried), andouillette (chitterling sausage Lyonnais style), chicken in vinegar, quenelle, boudin noir (blood sausage), gâteau de fois de volaille (a serving sized poultry liver terrine, prepared with the white livers from the poulet de Bresse).

Loic’s andouillette was perfect and the kind we like, Alison’s pikefish quenelle indeed was the good kind (although the sauce Nantua was a bit reduced and salty), my pork cheeks in red wine sauce were divine (photo above), and Rick’s chicken in vinegar sauce was just right. The service was breezy and attentive, and the Côte du Rhone was surprisingly good - meaning the quality was velvety and rich and seemed better than the cost of the regular pot they offer, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think we were being given something better than we ordered.

We have instinctively sought out the best vendors of products like the Lyonnais quenelles, andouilette sausages, and cheeses here in Lyon over the years. My brother-in-law Sebastien, first guided by his very Lyonnais grandmother, instructed us to seek our quenelles at Le Petit Vatel in the 6th, and ever since we have always done so. It was nice to see that the quenelles served at the Café des Fédérations came from this supplier. We get our andouillette from Bobosse at Les Halles in the 3eme, and when we have a special cheese plate that includes chèvre or mountain cheeses, we always go to Le Cellerier, also at Les Halles - these two vendors also suppliers to this bouchon.

The cheese plate was a cute assortment of only local cheeses – the classic fromage fort in the center, which I actually tried and liked this time, St. Marcellin, a rustic tangy chevre which is macerated in Marc de Bourgogne with crunchy dried raisins full of seeds called the Arôme Lyonnais (I have seen more tame versions of this cheese constructed with seedless sultanas and merely painted with Marc by the cheese boy in fancy restaurants, no doubt inspired by this classic cheese), and a Picodon.

Desserts were very good, with an assortment of tarts and classic desserts on offer. The winner of the table was the pear simmered in red wine.

Lunch for 4 people was 98 euros with the standard family style appetizer of three dishes, a main course from the list above, a 'demi' and encore a 'quart' (because it was so good) of Cote du Rhone, cheese at will from the communal plate, and dessert. We will go there again.

Café des Fédérations
10-12 rue Major Martin
69001 LYON

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