When planning for our honeymoon, I struggled to decide where to stay in southern France. In the French Riviera area on the east, it was easier; I knew one day in Nice is probably warranted, and among the little villages, I had my eyes on Eze for a while. What about the Provence area on the west? There were so many options, from cities such as Arles (known for its spectacular Roman ruins) and Aix-en-Provence (one of the quintessential Provencal towns) to smaller villages like Les Baux and Gordes. I ended up settling with Avignon, primarily known in history as where popes used to reside, largely because the wine tour that I arranged had a pick-up available in the city. Btw, if you are in Provence, a wine tour of the Rhone Valley area is a must, and if you are looking for one in English, I highly recommend the one that Olivier Hickman does (check out his website wine-uncovered.com). Avignon turned out to be so much more, however. My wife Jun and I greatly enjoyed the bustling and youthful environment of this city with a wall surrounding it; Avignon also happened to be hosting a world-renown international films festival, so the center of the city was even more energetic with crowds looking to participate or act in one of the shows happening (Jun and I probably picked a dozen flyers even though we didn’t understand what the shows were about as the flyers were all in French). What about dining experience in Avignon? I was debating among multiple restaurants for our first night in the city, and went with Fou de Fafa because the photo of the restaurant looked very cozy. Indeed, when we showed up, we had this feeling of dining at a friend’s place in France as guests, with unpretentious décor that makes you feel very much welcomed. Fou de Fafa also delivered some very delicious food too.
When we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by one very nice French lady who was working solo. The food at Fou de Fafa is not particularly groundbreaking if you are looking for the next great haute cuisine dining experience, but where the restaurant makes the difference is its thoughtful execution that leads to more satisfaction than you expect. Pan-fried tiger prawns in satay sauce had a nice Asian touch, and worked well with fresh coriander and cashew nuts for a pleasant starter. Jun and I ordered two main dishes, one a duck breast and the other a dourade, and we enjoyed both dishes. The pan-fried duck breast had a spot-on texture (as anyone who reads my reviews would appreciate, we are very picky when it comes to duck dishes because of how much Jun loves the bird’s meat in general), and was accompanied by raspberry, stir-fried vegetables and mashed potato. The seasoning was also well-balanced and didn’t feel overpowering. Dourade was also quite aptly cooked, and worked beautifully with saffron risotto and fresh tomato salsa underneath. We both thought the seasoning on the risotto was a little bit stronger than we had hoped, but the fish helped to somewhat neutralize it. For dessert, banoffee pie with banana, caramel and whipped cream is a must-order; it was a pure decadence that looks simple but packs a ton of delightful sweetness.
I placed a reservation at the restaurant through my credit card concierge service a couple of weeks in advance; the dining room is not big (and strangely, half the tables were filled with Asian diners, so we jokingly thought that maybe a popular food blogger from Korea or China must have visited this place and really liked the food here), and we saw that the French lady who was serving our table was turning away walk-in customers so do make a reservation in advance. You will be able to find a ton of gems from the reasonably priced wine list; the southern Rhone Valley region that is close to Avignon is famous for its Chateauneuf-du-Pape reds, but after drinking a sensational bottle of Gigondas at Fou de Fafa, I feel like I should invest more in collecting these often underappreciated wines more. As noted above, the atmosphere of the restaurant works perfect if you are looking for a quiet dining experience where you get to spend some quality time with your loved ones. Fou de Fafa is the type of restaurant that makes dining in France so reliably satisfactory; the soulful cooking at this restaurant will make your visit to Avignon worthwhile.
KenScale: 8.25/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.25/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.5/10
Address: 17 rue des 3 Faucons, 84000 Avignon, France