It’s not often a restaurant boldly comes up with a name “essential”. When I was looking up different restaurant options during our stay in Avignon, I initially chuckled at the name and figured why not give a chance at the place. My wife Jun and I were coming back from a full-day wine tasting tour with a rather big lunch, so we were not completely starving when we entered L’Essentiel’s lovely courtyard. Still, we ended up having a very solid meal here, as all the dishes we ordered had something nice to say about.
You can go with either one of the tasting menu options or simply go a la carte at L’Essentiel. Given that we weren’t terribly hungry, Jun and I opted for the latter and ordered one appetizer, two main dishes and a dessert to share together. I don’t know why we saw tomato gazpacho only just now near the tail end of our two-week honeymoon/summer vacation; in any event, the one that the kitchen put together was quite refreshing, perfect for a summer appetizer with mozzarella di buffalo cheese in the middle. While cod with orange sauce infused into jasmine and creamy polenta looked pedestrian in plating, there is no denying that the fish was expertly cooked with ideal temperature and texture. I was initially worried that the fried foie gras accompanying the beef Rossini filet might simply overpower the meat with too much richness, but the server assured that won’t be the case. Listening to her turned out to be a smart idea because the foie gras had a surprisingly delicate side to it that complemented the beef filet quite well. With roasted potatoes on the side, the filet was a winner dish. For dessert, a rather artful display of chocolate ganache and crispy peanut on top of chocolate dulce emulsion (with black chocolate ice cream submerged below) was as delicious as it looked.
I secured a reservation at L’Essential through my credit card concierge service so I don’t know how difficult it is to get a table at the restaurant; if you want to go for al fresco dining in the summer season at the courtyard that makes you feel like you’re eating inside a small but lovely palace, it does seem like a good idea to book in advance. There is a multi-page wine list focusing on the wines from the region; we ordered a bottle of nice vacqueyras that worked well with the dishes we had ordered. L’Essentiel is somewhere in the middle in terms of value proposition; it is not as pricey or fancy as three Michelin-star haute cuisine establishments but it certainly is more refined than an everyday bistro, which also means it works on a more variety of different occasions. If you are staying in Avignon and feel like you want to have an elegant meal without breaking the bank, L’Essential is a good option to consider.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 2 Rue de la Petite Fusterie, 84000 Avignon, France