Where to find the best fried chicken in Burgundy? At La Lune restaurant in Beaune. I’m not sure how my friend found out about this treasure of a place, but we booked a few days in advance and arrived for a late-night snack, after drinks at Le Rouge à Lèvres bar, on a Tuesday night at 10:30. After a big lunch at Le Soufflot in Meursault earlier that day, we were’nt too hungry. We came for that chicken and a bottle of Burg’. We ended up staying for a proper dinner, some beers and hot goss’ about the Beaune food scene, until 3:30 in the morning. That’s just the kind of place La Lune is, with a vibe that draws you in and traps you there.
The vibe is quite intimate at this buzzing Japanese izakaya. A comptoir wrapped around a very modest open kitchen seats around 10 or 12, with only two four-tops squeezed in between the bar and the window. Behind the counter, the quite reserved Chef Seiichi Hirobi prepares the food, his concentration wholly fixed on his craft, while his binôme Julien Martin mans FOH, chatting with guests over the counter, taking orders, recommending wines and pouring them. Their wine list isn’t ginormous but well-curated and easy to navigate. We took a bottle of Hubert Lamy Saint Aubin 1er cru “Clos de la Chatenière” Vieilles Vignes 2018.
First of all, that karaage chicken for which we came. A generous little mound of two-bite pieces. Juicy and very flavorful dark meat left overnight in a soy-based marinade, coated in a layer of potato starch and deep-fried to blistering, deep tan perfection. The nooks and crannies of the fried coating were crunchy as all hell, batter and hot fat coming together to form a crumbly, crusty, almost sandy texture which complemented the very tender and juicy meat inside. Meanwhile, the nutty, caramelized flavor of the fried went nicely with the rich, fatty chicken, which had been injected with a fair dose of umami and acidity from the brine.
This chicken matched up beautifully with the layered aromas of yellowed apple, overripe pear, nutmeg and other autumn spices in our bottle of Saint-Aubin 1er Cru. The wine’s bright, mineral-laced acidity lifted the weight of the fatty fried batter, its saline finish leaving the palate clean and ready for the next bite. But moreso than just the on-paper excellence of this classic fried chicken and white Burgundy pairing, it was the ambiance, the breezy informality of it, that made this dinner truly memorable.
After gobbling up that chicken in 5 minutes flat, we couldn’t help ourselves from ordering more off La Lune’s fascinating menu. We tried their Saint Jacques (scallops), straight off the grill, super tender and boasting gorgeous caramelized lines left and right. These were served on fried rings of lotus root, with a branch of bright green broccolini, a paper-thin fried shiso leaf and some green peas sprinkled over the plate. There was also a wonderfully fragrant sauce made of shellfish broth and curry, which complemented the scallop meat nicely, imbuing the dish with tons of flavor.
We also tried the grilled pork loin, plump and succulent, doused with a bright and citrussy, then slightly spicy yuzu kosho sauce. This was served with a very light and crunchy tempura and a small glass of broad bean chawanmushi, which I’ve never had before. A savory egg custard served lukewarm with a thick and velvety texture, flavored lightly with dashi broth and mirin. Plump broad beans added a subtly sweet, green sprout flavor.
That night we shared La Lune’s comptoir with several colorful industry characters and wine-loving tourists to the Burgundy region. The bar-side banter kept us entertained for hours. We left at one point to get a nightcap across the street, only to return a few minutes later and stay drinking Japanese beers in good company until way past the official closing hour. A perfect night in Beaune, a perfect night in Burgundy.