In a world of empty-calorie commentary on haute cuisine, Claude Sutter, chef-proprietor of the one-star A la Barrière, eight miles north of Strasbourg, is refreshingly straightforward—and modest. "Precision with a pinch of originality" is how he describes his approach. He says he doesn't have a culinary philosophy, and that French cuisine takes itself too seriously, comparing it to a boat so laden with tradition that it becomes harder and harder to maneuver.
That didn't keep A la Barrière from being one of the best restaurants I tried during four days in Strasbourg—even better than the three-star Buerehiesel. What was most interesting was Sutter's predilection for Mediterranean tastes, even though his three-star culinary training has been landlocked—stints at Michel Guérard, Boyer Les Crayères, and Au Crocodile. The sole entière had a terrific sauce of star anise, and the rouget came on a bed of dill and a confiture d'épice, liberally spiced with vinegar. To the side was a bastide of perfectly done red peppers. I would also heartily recommend the Bresse chicken Miéral, which has an intensely flavored, slightly earthy ragout of celery, leeks, morels, and dry white wine.
The sommelier is superb. I suggest ordering and then letting him pick the Alsatian wines to go with the meal. Finally, despite the industrial landscape en route, La Wantzenau itself is a charming, tile-roofed, sleepy-Sunday hamlet. Plus A la Barriére is one of the few restaurants open for Sunday lunch in and around Strasbourg. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. $140. 33-3-88-96-20-23; fax 33-3-88-96-25-59.