Initially, Le Canon, a bistro that opened in Nice early this year, comes off as the sort of hipster restaurant that might easily be spotted in Brooklyn or Shoreditch in London: Edison bulbs overhead; ’50s-era cafe chairs and Formica-topped tables; a soundtrack heavy on funk. But when Sébastien Perinetti, the friendly owner and a Nice native, props the daily chalkboard menu up on a chair, it’s a great read that could be found only on the French Riviera.
At a recent lunch, almost everything on offer had a local pedigree. The zucchini flowers used in crispy beignets that are a Niçoise comfort-food favorite were grown in Bellet, a surprisingly rural corner of Nice. The cucumbers in a smooth, cooling, mint-flecked, pale green “gazpacho” came from St.-Pancrace, another rural Nice neighborhood; it was garnished with slices of tangy goat cheese from nearby Bouyon. The juicy roast lamb that followed was raised in the mountainous Mercantour region and served with baked eggplant garnished with sautéed peppers.
“I cook a modern Niçoise cuisine du marché,” said Elmahdi Mobarik, the Moroccan-born, Nice-raised chef. Mr. Mobarik’s last job was at the Réserve de Beaulieu, a luxury hotel down the coast, which might explain the refined but unfussy fare at Le Canon. (It takes its name from the cannon that was once fired at noon in Nice to signal it was time to go home for lunch.) He has the precise technical skills of a seasoned haute cuisine chef but the primal instincts of a man who knows and loves the Riviera’s best produce.