“Wow, what in the world is this??” My wife Jun exclaimed in the middle of our meal at Jan, a fine-dining modern French restaurant in Nice, France. She was pointing at the banana butter where you can extract banana-flavored butter from the blackened peel. It was not only clever (Jun kept asking the server who this was possibly made, and the server gave some fairly generic answer, “You just need to put butter into the emptied out banana!”) but so delicious that Jun, who normally doesn’t eat more than one piece of bread, ordered another one just to have more of this butter. Besides this revelation with banana butter, Jan, which is led by a South African chef Jan Hendrick, had plenty more to surprise us during our meal when we were in Nice as part of our honeymoon/summer vacation. The food at the restaurant had just the right degree of ingenuity to bring the French cuisine forward in a way that provides a ton of satisfaction without being overwhelmed by gimmicks.
Jan doesn’t offer any a la carte options; there are only two tasting course menus. Jun and I opted for the shorter “Menu Marche.” Even before the meal starts, you get a bunch of freebie amuse bouche pieces, including a beetroot wrap with shrimp paste inside that is hidden in a rose petal. Despite the potential for French food to become too rich and overpowering over the course of meal, I was very impressed with the way each food kept its balance of flavor very well, starting with the first course consisting of a risotto-like dish with white asparagus, morels and 24-month matured Comte cheese that may look too creamy at first sight but turned out to be not too heavy and had nice textural balance. A combination of garden peas, scallops and mussels that followed was another refined dish that I very much enjoyed, a harmonious marriage between the garden and the sea.
White sea bass, crab, zucchini and melon meringue was also beautifully prepared, and was accompanied by rooibos tea to add a nice aroma to the dish. For the meat dishes, we were able to choose between beef and duck (I went for the beef, and Jun for the duck). Both meats displayed juicy, tender texture and the seasoning was also on point, but what really stole the show was a side of bobotie (a traditional South African dish of spiced minced meat, from the chef’s South African root). Its spiced curry flavor was not only delicious on its own but somehow worked seamlessly with the meats as well as a perfect sidekick. Next time Jun and I have an opportunity to visit South Africa, we will certainly seek out this dish. For dessert, a dish displaying the flavors of strawberry, rhubarb and black and pink pepper looked simple yet had a nice complexity to the flavor.
Jan is one of the hottest dining destinations in Nice and it is a relatively small restaurant, so I highly making a reservation in advance. The minimalistic dining room gave a Gothic feel to the overall atmosphere that seems to project discipline and quiet confidence of the kitchen. It certainly is a great restaurant for a date night when you are in Nice. There is an extensive wine list from all over France; we decided to go local and ordered a bottle of red bandol from the Provence area that turned out to be quite well-structured to our liking. When we took a taxi from our hotel room to Jan, our taxi driver said Jan is a very special place to dine in Nice and a class on its own. We didn’t go to enough restaurants in Nice to find out if it is the best restaurant in a popular beach city with plenty of dining options, but if you are in Nice, it is a place not to be missed if you are looking to have an upscale dining experience with a high degree of sophistication to cooking modern French dishes.
KenScale: 8.5/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.5/10)
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 9.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 12 Rue Lascaris, 06300, Nice France