Friday, January 7, 2011

Casa Olympe

France, Part VI: Customers are tightly squeezed into this outlet, which is tiny even by Parisian standards, but that helps to stimulate conversations between neighbors.

The kitchen is run by Olympe Versini, who opened her first restaurant in 1973 at the age of 23. Her accomplishments are remarkable: one of France's first female chefs to helm a Michelin-starred venue, she has published cookbooks and made numerous radio & TV appearances _ all while cooking for celebrities like Francis Ford Coppola and Orson Welles over the decades.

Casa Olympe, her current place, has been around since 1993, focusing on food from the little-known French southeastern island of Corsica (where Napoleon was born).

The dried pork sausages, a specialty of the area of Ardeche, were a delight to sink our teeth into; firm but not chewy, with a complex, nutty taste that was utterly addictive.

The carpaccio of tuna & foie gras with tamari sauce proved irresistible as well; a luscious, melt-in-the-mouth combo, rich in flavor without being cloying.

Crusty blood sausage with wild lettuce. Perfectly battered; crisp on the outside, succulent inside. But don't be tricked by the leaves; this isn't a healthy order _ not with all the pig's blood hidden within the pastry.

Veal liver with Banyuls vinegar gravy. None of these dishes is well-presented enough to be photogenic, so the pleasure of eating here is not in taking snapshots (even though we did), but in tasting each mouthful of these earthy, rustic recipes.

Farm-stewed guinea fowl with artichoke. Almost indistinguishable from chicken, but that's not a complaint, since there's nothing wrong with nicely cooked chicken.

Grouse terrine. Seemed like the kind of homemade stew that generations of mothers might have prepared for their families. Nothing extraordinary, but it appears to be as honest and comforting as French food gets.

Farmer's cheese with herbs. Sinfully, sensationally soft and creamy.

Three pots of strawberries: fresh strawberries, strawberry cream & strawberry ice cream. We're not really fans of strawberries (they can be too tart), but these were as sweet as honey.

Unidentified complimentary dessert.

Unidentified non-complimentary wine.

Casa Olympe,


  1. I imagine I'd like Casa Olympe quite a lot - no fuss, nothing fancy but good ol' fashioned cooking with great ingredients. And if I understood French, lotsa gossip about strangers (what with the proximity of other patrons).

    Ah, you should write more frequently (i.e. continuously) about your trip to Europe - it'd be like bringing us along with you for the ride. :)

  2. Lfb: heheh, we were fortunate to end up sitting next to a friendly English-speaking couple. They seemed kinda uncertain about where Malaysia is, but they could definitely share our love for Casa Olympe's food (I think I even passed a spoonful of the strawberry cream for the wife to try) :D
    thanks for enjoying this Europe series so far. In my defense, I'd say that spacing out the entries helps to prolong the pleasure (or the pain!) =)

  3. Aww, you're the nicest neighbour a diner to any eating establishment could hope for! (Let's just hope they didn't think we were a town in Singapore. Groans.)

    Possibly the pain, but these days it's hard to differentiate the two. :P

  4. Lfb: I suspect they might have thought it was a middle eastern or African nation, if not for the fact that neither I nor my companion look remotely Arab or African :D and the true pain here was in trying to order and converse with the staff, since the menu was only in french, and the waiters couldn't really translate stuff well. And there was no wi-fi, so I couldn't log on to google translate! Luckily some French words for certain food were familiar :D

  5. Hey you were travelling! Where's your sense of adventure? Just randomly point to stuff on the menu and pray for the best! :D

  6. Lfb: must still ask lah. What if I had unwittingly pointed to something boring like "roast chicken breast" when something infinitely more interesting like "boiled goat testicles" had been just below it on the menu :p

  7. mamma mia.. nw u makin me considerin a tic to France!
    These looks absolutely delish; homely (in a way) and non-pretentious good food. And very authentic? since it is non-frills & it seems to be not very commercialized?

  8. i keep pestering my mom to bring me to france (thanks to your blog la) and you know what she said?

    "You can bring me and dad to france with your first paycheck"


  9. tng: ya, france is quite a food-lover's paradise! i think one could spend an entire lifetime exploring all the independent restaurants, cafes and bistros in this country (though we'd probably crave chinese food after a few months, heheh)
    michelle: yikes, that would have to be a mighty big paycheck, in order to fly three people to paris and to pay for accommodation and food! crossing fingers that you'll go before u turn 30, at least :D

  10. What's so boring about roast chicken breast? That's one of my favourite foods! (Not all of us can afford to "foie gras" our meals everyday you know... *sniggers*)

  11. lfb: chicken breasts are for people who are forced to diet! a more preferable and affordable meal would be maggi mee topped with three eggs. or bread with goober peanut butter and jelly. i recently looked around the aisles of a gas station mini-market, and was surprised to see a gardenia chocolate-&-raisin loaf. was very tempted, but managed to escape without buying it :D

  12. Maggi mee? What would you know this meal, my fine-dining friend. Surely you mean some linguine ala foie gras and truffle sauce, really?

    How lucky you were! Not that easy to escape the snatching claws of loaves of Gardenia chocolate-and-raisin bread. Ahem.

  13. Correction: "What would you know OF this meal..." And substitute the first full-stop for another question mark.

    Oh dear. My typos shall be the death of me. Either that, or them evil loaves of Gardenia chocolate-and-raisin bread. Ahem.

  14. lfb: i bet i've eaten at least 1,000 packets of instant noodles (maggi or otherwise) over my lifetime (maybe half of those during my impoverished life as a public university student). i'm not sure i've consumed any in the past five or six years though. wonder if instant noodles have changed much.
    and you're now making me wonder about those choc-and-raisin loaves too. but i have no stomach space this weekend! if all goes according to plan, it's chinese food tonite, french tomorrow for lunch and middle eastern for dinner ... all of them stomach-stuffing (and waistline-widening) cuisine! :P

  15. The past dun count last since you've digested those packets of instant noodles and they've been "processed" accordingly.

    Go on, I dare you, have a bowl of Maggi mee today. Have two bowls. Heck, go on a Maggi diet for a week. It's time to catch up on all those lost years.

    Just don't put foie gras on them instant noodles. Eat it as we simple folks do, with those wee packets of ultra-chemicals they come with. :D

  16. lfb: a week-long instant noodle diet? isn't that as bad a week-long mcd's or kfc diet? i'm not planning any documentary here about OD-ing on maggi mee. and hey, remember that old wives' tale about how eating too much of those MSG packets causes hair loss? i still have most of the hair on my scalp for now, so maybe i shouldn't tempt fate :P

  17. Oh no, not nearly as bad. For one thing, it's probably lots tastier... Cheaper also.

    I bet some hair loss could put a new spin on your look. You might be the Next Bald Eagle! Except, you know, not Indian. Or married to Lyrical Lemongrass. But one out of three ain't bad. :P

  18. you could have done this post earlier and I could squeeze sometime to visit this place and not eat some fast food foie gras burger! the pork sausage looks so delicious.. I'm jealous!

  19. lfb: tastier only if i heap three soft-boiled eggs on top of every bowl. and nah, eagles aren't my favorite birds of prey. call me the follicly challenged falcon instead! :D
    eiling: heheh, but your foie gras burger looked good too! i would definitely have tried to check it out if i had known about it too :D