Cinq Mains, Lyon.

April 2018.

In Burgundy to taste and buy wine, we ventured south to visit a Cote Roti producer I knew and in the process couldn’t pass up having lunch in the reputed culinary capital of France: Lyon. Our choice certainly wasn’t traditional nor was it anywhere near the top third of possible cathedrals in this food-obsessed city, but it was reasonably-priced and not half-bad overall.

It’s a little corner location by the Saone at the base of the old city’s steep hill. We arrived at noon as the place opened and were shown upstairs to a spare but pleasing L-shaped room with wide visibility to the street below. Server was a tall brisk young guy fluent in English but happy to fall back into French when I could manage. His knowledge of the wines was professional-level, with lots of production nuance and conversation about taste elements. He talked us out of a more-expensive older wine and that always impresses me. Although he was chatty enough, he moved at warp speed which seems to be what servers do this year in France.

We both had a cold leek salad which was unfortunately squeakingly tiny, three slices of cooked leek with a few greens and radish slices but adorned with the glorious balanced vinaigrette that French chefs seem to concoct in their sleep. Delicious, but didn’t even whet my appetite. Next came a few slices of perfectly-nicely-done lamb leg alongside vegetables I can’t exactly remember, but the overall impression was way above-average and the lamb was beautifully prepared.

The Saint-Joseph that server recommended was an interesting variation on syrah, part of the movement away from the big traditional producers and vineyards in various prestigious regions as sinister forces the world over drive famous-name prices up into several hundreds of dollars. It was non-traditional also in being light, not having seen much of oak barrels and so lacking the dark empyreumatic gravitas of wine from more famous northern Rhône territory.

Nice meal, typical of a trend away from what younger people apparently consider heavy and stodgy (and, you can bet your sweet cul) life-shorteningly unhealthy food. No problem. As long as there still exist atmospheric dark places with white tablecloths set with the heavy flatware necessary to manipulate big helpings of sweetbread, rognons, andouillette, boudin noir, etc. that were the glory of Bocuse and 20th-century Lyon I’ll keep coming back.

Food 9.0, service 8.7, ambience 8.6, value 9.1, peace and quiet 8.0. I’ll be going elsewhere next time I’m in town, but only because I want the traditional goodies and the selection here is so oceanic.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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