Camion Bar Broderie (Palmiste Rouge, Réunion , France)

Sometimes, getting there is half the fun. Our next destination in Réunion, Cilaos, involved one of the most interesting and challenging drives I’ve ever done. On an island already infamous for it’s many steep and winding roads, the N5, leading from Ilet Palmistes to Cilaos in the Cirque de Cilaos, is the granddaddy of them all. The road is only approximately 20 km long, but that 20 km of driving involves over 2000 m of elevation gain and loss, over 600 turns (most of them in the 400+ switchbacks), two one-lane tunnels, several one-lane segments, dozens of blind corners, narrow shoulders, and other driving challenges. The road is so twisty that in a few places it even loops back over itself!

It truly is one of the most challenging, and most impressive, drives I’ve ever done (especially at night!). And after our first drive up the N5, we emerged from the Peter Both Tunnel to find a small parking area, and, a “Camion Bar”. In the pantheon on Réunionnaise restaurants, if there’s anything that comes in a close second in popularity to the ubiquitous “le Snack Bar”, it would be “Le Camion Bar”. Basically, a food truck. And seeing the “Camion Bar Broderie” was certainly a welcome sight, and a chance to put the twists, turns, and tunnels of the drive behind me as we stopped, enjoyed the view, and had some sandwiches.

Like a lot of the “Camion Bars” on Réunion, Camion Bar Broderie had a pretty simple menu overall: sandwiches, fries, beer (La Dodo le la!) and sodas. Looking over the meny, we both ended up opting for the same thing, the “L’Americaine” sandwich. I’m always interested when, as an American, I come across a foreign food item with “American” in the title, since it’s an interesting external view into what makes America unique in the eyes of foreigners. For example, in classic French cooking, a “Sauce Americaine” isn’t particularly American at all, being a variant of a velouté featuring what at the time was a fairly unique American ingredient: the lobster. But on Réunion, “L’Americaine” is a type of sandwich: it’s a French roll, loaded with meat, possibly achard (as I discussed in my review of Le Reflet des Iles, a dish of stir fried veggies in a light turmeric sauce), cheese, and, most importantly, fries, all toasted under a broiler. Yup, it’s the American fascination with “French fries” that oddly gets a sandwich named after us. In any case, Carol opted for a Poulet Achard Americaine (with Chicken and Achard), while I opted for the “Hot Dog Achard Americaine”, with, you got it, a hot dog.

Here’s Carol’s Americaine, with grilled chicken, and overall, this was a good sandwich overall. The chicken was pre-grilled and reheated, but otherwise, it worked well: a nice crusty French loaf, loaded up with chopped chicken, achard, cheese, and a few fries, and broiled just to the point of melting… a tasty little treat.

Here’s my Hot Dog Americaine, in which the “hot dog” was a smaller and firmer Vienna sausage-like item, but overall, the combination worked quite well, with the achard offering a pleasing crunch and tanginess, the hot dog adding some saltiness and protein, and the fries and cheese bulking it out. Not exactly fine dining, but a rather pleasant lunch enjoyed while drinking an Orangina and looking over the scenery we had just traversed.

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