Lyon, France is famous for its bouchon restaurants. In the southern states of the US, we call it “home cooking.”
Bouchon is known for being modest food made from inexpensive ingredients like organ meats. We have chitterlings, tripe and hog’s feet served in restaurants throughout the southern states of the US. We call them “innards” and “parts.” Bouchon takes “parts” to a new level — cow’s foot, veal nose, veal paunch (stomach) — just to name a few tasty bits.
Early bouchon gastronomes in Lyon were the silk merchants who frequented the downtown café. Now there are so many restaurants that serve bouchon there is a rating system to help differentiate the “authentic” from the “tourist-traps.”
“Since 1997, Pierre Grison and his organization, L’Association de défense des bouchons lyonnais (The Association for the Preservation of Lyonnais Bouchons), bestow annual certifications to restaurants as “authentic” bouchons. These restaurants receive the title Les Authentiques Bouchons Lyonnais and are identified with a sticker showing the marionette Gnafron, a Lyonnais symbol of the pleasures of dining, with a glass of wine in one hand and a napkin bearing the Lyon crest in the other.” (Wikipedia)
Bouchon de l’Opera
Bouchon de l’Opera is a little restaurant with a big heart. When I arrived without reservations I was seated at one of the two small tables the owner’s wife designated as “unreserved.” Looking around, it was obvious all the other settings were for groups of six or more. Soon the place was filled with couples and friends who seemed to know the place well as a friendly stop after work.
Decorations in the homey cafe are vintage kitchenware with a big emphasis on “piggy” collectibles.
There were only two people working in the restaurant — the owner/chef and his wife.
The chef was chopping away on salad fixings, then he’d turn to stir a pot on the stove. It was all open to view if you peered into the back.
His wife was scurrying around the front of the house with menus and carafes of water and house wine.
“English menu?” she asked, figuring quickly that the tall blonde she’d seated didn’t appear to be French.
Fortunately there was a menu in English. The items would have been hard to explain in French.
Yes! I ordered the Bouchon de l’Opera salad…
Veal’s nose and cow’s foot and all…
It reminded me of the andouillette at the markets in Uzes. Unlike the cajun variety of andouille, the French sausage is made from pork intestines (chitterlings) and stomach (tripe). It was just a bit more unusual to see it served here with pieces of herring.
My main course, or “plat,” was another extraordinary taste-test: home-made pike quenelle — a mixture of creamed fish, bread crumbs and egg served in a cream sauce.
Tripe: another bouchon plat choice
Tripe (cow’s stomach), breaded and pan-fried. It was served with a cornichon (gherkin) “mayonnaise” that tastes much like tartar sauce.
Served with vegetables
For dessert …
There was no way that I was going to finish the night without a dessert. Below are just two of the choices –terrine glacée au chocolat noir and the tarte tatin et sa confiture de Beaujolais nouveau. Fabulous!