As I briefly mentioned in my last post, the other day I celebrated my 23rd birthday. I know, 23, no one really cares. Nothing special at all happens at 23. In fact, it is so inconsequential of a number that I can barely even remember how old I am actually turning. However, unimportant the number may be, though, the year was far from it. I was simultaneously celebrating the end to a wonderful year living and working as an English teacher in France, and celebrating it with so many amazing people who I hope will remain friends for many years to come (and for those who were not able to come, I am thinking of you too).
It was also a special birthday, however, as it was the first I was able to spend with family since high school. My mother arrived in France just over a week ago and I was so excited to spend the day together. A couple days before my birthday we went for a night-time stroll through Aix to find the perfect restaurant to have my birthday dinner. It wasn’t until the end of our walk that we finally came across a restaurant not too far from my apartment. I used to walk past it on a regular basis but never paid much attention, not being able to ever afford to eat out (only two previous experience this year).
I’m not usually one to write reviews, but I thought I should give it a try. Something to keep me writing and something a little different to my usual style. So here we go…
It’s hard to find anything bad to say about our experience at Le Bistroquet. I would recommend making a reservation first. Several other tables were already reserved when we arrived and I heard several groups who were unable to get a table. The staff was very friendly. It was typical French service, but not too slow (many Americans find the service at French restaurants to be lax or slow. This does not bother me as I have grown accustomed to it, but either way I did not find it to be an issue at this restaurant). Other parties took longer than us for sure, but the staff was attentive to when we had finished our plates, or needed refills. They checked on us without being overbearing (something that does tend to annoy me in American restaurants).
I spoke mostly French with the staff, but they did speak in English a couple times and the menu had English translations, so I don’t believe it would be a problem for non-French speakers. The atmosphere was exactly what we had wanted : not over the top, but still nice while also being relaxed. My mother and I sat outside, we had been worried at first that it might be too cold as the temperature had dropped by then, but the restaurant had put their tent and heaters back up so it wasn’t a problem in the end. It is in a smaller restaurant square, which was nice as it was quieter than some other popular eating places in the city, such as Place des Cardeurs but there was still plenty to see and watch during our meal (my mom and I love to people watch which is why we always sit outside weather permitting).
The food was perfect. The restaurant had two different formules. Each included two or three appetizers and main course options, as well as any dessert from the à la carte menu. We ordered one formule and an à la carte main dish (the entrée in French). This was the perfect amount of food for two people as we shared the appetizer and dessert from the prix fixe formule (there was also a small plate of toasted bread and tapenade offered by the restaurant before our actual ordered appetizer).
The wine selection was very nice (or at least so it seemed to my still relatively untrained eye). We ordered a small bottle of a local red wine which we enjoyed very much. For our starter, we shared a small salad with duck, walnuts, and a light vinaigrette. With it came a cheese dumpling of sorts in a lightly fried shell. It was Saint-Marcelin cheese and absolutely delicious. My mother ordered the seabass which came with a light cream sauce, risotto, and a small green salad. I – taking a taste – found the fish to be quite nice, although my mom said she thought my own dish was far better. Ordering à la carte for myself I had asked the waitress her opinion between a shrimp risotto and a seared tuna dish. She was quick to recommend the tuna, and boy am I glad I followed her advice. The tuna – which is easy to mess up I find – was perfection. This dish came with a risotto (which was nice as it wasn’t too rich or overly creamy as they are sometimes I find) and another small salad as well.
We ended our meal with a pear crumble which came with (what I am pretty sure) was a house-made ice cream. Delicious. My mom especially loves French pastries and desserts because they are not as overly sweet as she finds American desserts to be. We considered getting coffee at the restaurant – as most French end their meals in my experience – but decided to instead go for a walk as is our habit after dinner and grab a small hot drink on Cours Mirabeau which was still relatively calm by then.
It was overall a great meal, and a wonderful way to celebrate the end of another birthday. Another year older. It may be an unimportant number, but it was far from an inconsequential year. And I think that is the more important way to count and keep track. Not in numbers and age, but in experiences and growth during the year. And I think this one has definitely been worth it. Until the next!
And in the meantime, what are some of your favorite birthday traditions? Do you have any special way you enjoy celebrating your special day or that of your close friends and family?