Dinner with Beats at Café Mancuso

Music-lovers looking for a bite to eat with a glass of funky natural wine in Bordeaux ought to look no further than Café Mancuso, France’s very first “restaurant audiophile.” What does that mean? That the place is music-first in its offer. An expensive-looking hi-fi system and audio equipment specially chosen for the accoustics of the dining room attest to that. Owner and Co-Founder Gui first discovered this concept in London, although it originally comes from Tokyo, where it is named jazz kissa (jazz-café). Every week, the Cafe Mancuso invites DJs, rare vinyl collectors and professional music selectors from all over to man the hi-fi console and set the vibe through beats that range in genre from soul to jazz to funk to afro to disco to reggae to latin to folk, ambient, dub, synth-pop, hip-hop, psychedelic, prog-rock, experimental, accoustic, classical and new-age. For those interested in taking a little piece of the experience home with them, the restaurant also houses a small record store in the back, where both new releases and second-hand records are available for sale.

The food menu is a mishmash of contemporary influences from all over, made from carefully sourced local ingredients. In the case of larger reservations, the staff may even ask guests to choose their dishes early to make sure they have the right ingredients and cut waste. That kind of thing.

The wine list is as eclectic as the music menu, including biodynamic and natural treasures from Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Jura, Languedoc-Roussillon, the Loire, the Southwest and even some non-French regions. From their 6-reference-deep “whites of maceration” list I chose a glass of Laurent Lebled La Sauvignonne 2021, a cider-y, grassy Sauvignon with hints of orange peel and clove that went nicely with the slices of nutty Jambon du Cantal we ordered to start.

We continued with three #3 Bassin d’Arcachon oysters on the half-shell, seasoned with a touch of soy sauce, thinly sliced cucumbers and trout roe over the top. A refreshing splash of fresh sea water with the clean flavor and bite of the cucumber and a touch of umami from the soy and roe. A tad simpler than the dressed oyster dishes I’ve had of late, but a nice way to start anyway.

An armada of chilled smoked mackerel bites came next, served with thinly sliced shallots, paper-thin rounds of pickled radish and a little juice with verjus and fragrant sudachi. Some toasted grain like barley was added for a crunch. The nutty, oily, fishy flavors of the mackerel were offset nicely by the acidity of the citrus juice at the base of the plate. A nice little dish, continuing to pair nicely with my voluminous orange wine.

I stayed in the Loire but switched to a red for the next dish, choosing the Domaine Bobinry “Hanami,” a smooth and fruity carbonic maceration Cab Franc from Saumur. This had bright red forest fruit aromas along with floral fragrances, especially cherry blossoms, which went nicely with juicy slices of pork chop. The pork was served with two slices of chervil root, which were crumbly, dense, earthy and sweet like roasted chestnuts. Also on the plate were a delicate herb foam, a pearl onion doused in the pork’s savory pan-juices, a cozy cream sauce and a little button of tangy, sweet and slightly balsamic-y black garlic paste to spread over the meat. A busy dish that could have done with a sauce or two less, but which highlighted the delicious local pork nicely.

A restaurant with a vibe in a league of its own, Cafe Mancuso will definitely be a recommendation I save for later to share with music aficionado with a palate for good wines.

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