Friday, January 25, 2013

Fine Dining - Guatemala City Style

There's something special about being the only people in a restaurant. Saturday night in Guatemala City isn't a big dining out night - Friday is and then Saturday everyone heads out to a late, long lunch and spends the evening moaning and groaning at home on the couch! We went out last Saturday night in Guatemala City and I have to say that I loved the privacy and the experience of being exclusively catered to in one of the City's top French restaurants - La Maison de France (known by many as La Lancha). Eric Malbrun (the designer and builder of Peten's famous La Lancha Resort, yes the one that Coppola ended up buying), owns and operates La Maison de France in Zone 10 in Guatemala City.

Housed in an unassuming little space on a side street in Zone 10, La Maison has just 10 or so tables, indoor and patio dining and simple, hand-hewn tables and chairs. A small wooden boat hangs from the ceiling, along with origami birds and creeping vines; candles flicker on the tables. The wine list is exclusively French and extremely refined after the hearty Argentinean Malbecs and cab sav's that grace the menus elsewhere in the City. The menu changes daily and is handwritten on a large chalkboard: house made quiche, escargot, fresh fish, steak, perfectly spiced and cooked chicken, soup and a delicate green salad. The best creme caramel that I've had in ages.

We settled in to a table on the patio sheltered from the breeze of the cool January night, surrounded by candles and soft light. Eduardo, our waiter from Puerto Barrios, was attentive in keeping our wine glasses full, carefully explaining the preparation of menu items and thoughtfully engaging us when he came past and there was a lull in conversation. We were the only ones in the restaurant and I think he was enjoying the atmosphere as much as we were.

The French bread was exactly what it should have been, the wine paired perfectly with each course, the escargot was soul-warming. Four hours into dinner and many, many petite glasses of wine, I realized there are few places in the US where I could sit and linger with friends over a carefully prepared meal for hours on end. It was very Latin and very French all at the same time.  La Maison was a highlight of my trip, and the experience of a quiet dinner out on a Saturday night in the City truly fit the bill of fine dining.

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