February 21, 2004
I was one of the first customers at Le Mérou Bleu after they opened for the evening meal. Located in a small pedestrian district just south of the Vieux Port, "The Blue Grouper" specializes in the typical seafood dishes of the south. The tourist menu posted outside looked promising – a number of appealing complete meals for €15-20. I went in and was seated in the narrow outside area of the restaurant where I could watch the passersby.
This was the only restaurant I ate in during my entire trip in southern France where the service was snooty and unpleasant. I'm fairly certain this was mostly due to the fact that I was dining "low" on the menu and didn't order wine, as the waiter didn't initially seem unhappy that I was American or dining alone. The menu that first arrived at my table did not include the tourist menu I had seen outside. The waiter came over and recommended a bouillabaisse. Bouillabaisse (pronounced "boo-ya-base"), the signature dish of Marseille, is a spicy seafood stew built on a tomato base, but I was not feeling up to a spicy meal and it was €28 a la carte, more than I wanted to spend. I asked for the tourist menu, and with a sneer, he finally retrieved it. I don’t drink wine, and when I asked for water instead, I got an exasperated exhalation in response, although he did bring it promptly.
I chose shrimp salad appetizer, aioli entree, and crème caramel for dessert, on the prix-fixe tourist menu for €18. The salad was essentially shrimp with lettuce and a lemon wedge, and the shrimp was unpeeled, making for rather messy and uninteresting eating. The aioli was excellent, however. Aioli ("eye-oh-lee") is a traditional Provençal dish consisting of poached fish (cod in this instance) and poached vegetables – potatoes, carrots, green beans – served with a garlic mayonnaise on the side. It isn't a terribly exciting meal on the plate, since there is rather a lot of white, especially when served, as in this case, on a white plate. Nonetheless, it was delicious and filling. The crème caramel, a very common French dessert, was well executed. All in all, it was a good meal at a very good price.
Because the aioli was so good, I might have eaten here again during this trip but for my bad experience with the service.
From journal Sunny, Spicy Marseille