Archive for janvier 2010

Le Cinq, Paris

janvier 27, 2010

La Maison

Le Cinq, nestled in the legendary hotel Georges V on the avenue that goes by exactly that same name is a very attractive address. First of all, upon entering the hotel, one can hardly miss the beautiful floral decoration created by the brilliant Jeff Leatham, secondly, the room itself is beautifully restored since a few years, thirdly, one has a stunning wine list, and finally one has great service. To add to that, it seems one has a new chef, Eric Briffard, who is chef here since a few months now. A CV like his reads beautifully, and when one gets the chance to eat here, one does their best to try it.

La Salle

The only thing that can work against this plan are the prices. With most starters at around 100euro, and some going to a whopping 175, mains at no less than 100-170euro and desserts at 32, one is in or a ride. However, for the poor students, there is a 78euro lunch deal, which reads very well, and tastes so too, in most parts. Other menus are priced at 168 and 230euro. Wines are pretty pricey, although a glass of Comtes de Champagne 1999 was only 31 euro.

La Table

Service was very good, faultless, although nothing can challenge the service at ADPA for me. The slight difference are the little things, which you can’t really express. However, for a first meal, I was very well looked after. Funny thing was that most of the waiters were much older than in the other 3* I’ve been to.

The meal started with a green tea, and no Champagne (I had eaten a very big meal the previous evening with lots of liquid). With it came a few deep-fried squid, small calamari and shrimp, which were very well deep-fried, although nearly tepid, by the time they reached my table. Very good.

Accras

Next up was an amuse bouche, consisting of a spoon filled with marinated mushrooms and figs which was pretty poor. Next to it sat a piece of eel on a blini and a pumpkin soup with a foam made out of sorrel. The mushrooms were just forgettable, but the eel’s texture was intriguing, very firm, nearly too firm (even for me), but good in a way too, because of the blini’s soft, contrasting texture. The accompanying soup was nice, but not much better than an average pumpkin soup. These were not really memorable, unfortunately, and pretty mediocre.

Amuses

With the next course I had a 2007, J.M. Boillot Chassagne Montrachet, which was a little closed still, but which had a very enjoyable mineral note. It was all I drank, as I had a long dinner to look forward too.

The Tartine de pieds et oreilles de cochon Basque was a divine dish. On a crispy toast came a mix made out of pig’s feet, ears, truffles and foie gras, on which was placed a healthy slice of pan-fried foie. This little marvel was surrounded by a ring of vegetables and winter fruit, which gave the rather heavy dish a slightly sweet and sour note, that lifted things up a little and made the whole dish shine. A truly outstanding dish, that directly put a little smile on my face…DIVINE, OUTSTANDING, anything that might qualify stratospheric pleasure.

Tartine

Unfortunately the rest wasn’t that great. The wait between this starter and the main was a very long one, and somewhere in between it, I was approached with a bouillon de poule, herbes fines et coques. What sounded pretty good was a very thin (both in terms of consistence and taste) chicken broth with a few cockles. It was a very nice gesture, but unfortunately, it needed too much salt or something else to make it tasty. Mediocre.

Bouillon

The main was a Vol au Vent, ris de veau, homard, et volaille. A vey, very classical vol au vent, very far from Piege’s visually attractive renditions of this bourgeois classic, this dish was another one, not getting me that excited. The sweetbread was neither crunchy, nor creamy, and not seasoned enough, and the vegetables were a little overcooked and bizarre (there were a lot of green asparagus on the menu, which Briffard seems to use very early in the season, also last year it seems). The lobster was very well cooked, and seasoned perfectly, but the crete et rognons de coq were much less impressive than those, Moret serves over at the Plaza, or even some I’ve had at Thierry Breton’s bistro in the 10ieme. It still was the finest vol au vent I’ve eaten so far, as the sauce and puff pastry were very good, although less of a revelation than I’d have hoped for. Very good.

Vol au vent

Since I had a dinner to look forward to a few hours later, I skipped cheese, which seemed like a sensible thing at the time, although I regret that now, as I’ve heard more than one good thing about the cheese here. However, I got a pre-dessert consisting of a chocolate fondant, some cassis sauce, and vanilla ice cream. This was fine, but not overly exciting.

Pre-Dessert

The real dessert was perfect for the occasion, as it was a simple Galette des rois with Vanilla ice cream. Being the 6th of January, I jumped on the occasion to try a galette in a place like this. It certainly was a pretty good galette, although I must confess, that Christophe Michalak’s and Pierre Herme’s versions of exactly the same classic are much more convincing. It was a little bizarre to find it not even coated with egg-wash, normally the standard for even the most basic galettes. Apart from that, it was a very good one.

Dessert

The best part about dessert was the cart with the mignardises. This featured very very fine éclairs, canneles, marons glaces, macarons,… All of the sweets I had were excellent, and by far better than the pretty underwhelming dessert. Coffee was good, and 2euro less expensive than in the Hotel’s bar, which was quite funny I thought.

Chariot

All in all, this meal was a rollercoaster ride. There were incredible highs (the pig’s dish, the bread, mignardises) and some pretty mediocre moments too, as the main and dessert can testify. Despite its flaws, I enjoyed this meal, be it only for the great pork dish, which will most likely remain one of the best, or most delicious starters of 2010. I won’t be able to say the same about the rest, but that dish was well worth thse 78euro of the lunch menu. I felt that Briffard might have to cook a little less robust, « big » food, if he wants to be part of the very top in Paris. The main course I had today looked a little like some pictures I saw from other dishes: Vegetables cooked in a very classical way, maybe a little too much, cut in very big pieces, and served in quite large quantities. Not that vegetables aren’t good, but when they don’t add that much to the dish, it’s a little bizarre to have that much of them. The usage of green asparagus in very early January was also a little frightening in a place of that calibre. But well, along with little sloppy execution errors, this should not really pose a problem for a man of his stature.

Vendome II, Bergisch Gladbach

janvier 19, 2010

Joachim Wissler is without doubt one of the finest chefs in Germany. Alongside Christian Bau, he serves arguably some of the most interesting and innovative food this country has to offer, as far as I can tell. Both serve decidedly different food, which really shows how diverse German cooking is these days. Whilst a number of Flamish and Dutch restaurants all cook in one more or less similar style, in Germany one finds a variety of different cuisines: From classical French (say at Thieltges, Wohlfahrt), to more contemporary renditions of the French classical cooking at Erfort, over to Spanish contemporary cooking at Amador, over German haute cuisine at Elverfeld and Wissler to the Asian influenced cooking of Bau.

Vendome still is in this very grand setting of Schloss Bensberg a few minutes away from Cologne and the room is very beautiful, with huge gaps between the tables. Service was great throughout the entire meal, despite its length.

The menu here, in the 24 course edition costs 245euro, which is the highest price in any German restaurant. However, it is not that much, if one considers what one gets for that money. Shorter and cheaper versions do exist, but if you come all the way from Luxembourg for a meal like this, you go for the full thing. I started off with a glass of Bollinger Special Cuvee, which is probably my favourite brut non-millesime of the big Champagne houses. The wines for today were very fines ones indeed, and represented rather good value for the otherwise pretty pricey wine list. We started off with a bottle of 1998 Puligny Montrachet from Louis Carillon, after which we had some 2007 Sancerre Les Monts Damnes from Pascal Cotat and finally had a bottle of 2001 Chateauneuf Du Pape Les Cailloux from Brunel. All of them were fantastic, but the most amazing was easily the Carillon. A truly outstanding wine, which isn’t even that expensive for what one gets.

Carillon

The meal started with a croquette of pork snout, a ball of mussels and two crackers. One was topped with mackerel and the other’s topping I have forgotten to write down. Those were a very fine start, and the pork snout a truly outstanding piece of cooking. Excellent.

Canapes I

Canapes II

The meal itself started with Brachfeld [Steinpilze: Haselnussmilch : Esspapier]. This was a resolutely modern dish. From the look, to the conception up to the execution, it really was a most intriguing plate of food. The different cepe textures and preparations gave a very contrasting image of this fine mushroom. In combination with the very concentrated hazelnut cream, the length in the mouth was phenomenal. After having eaten one bite of this course, one had the flavours in the mouth for a very, very long time. From looking at it, it didn’t seem like anything I would love, but the taste delivered, it really was an exceptional, unique dish. Outstanding.

Pilze

Second part of the meal: Zarenfrühstück [Tatar: Wodka: Kaviar]. This was another picture on a plate, and a very delicious one it was. Two thin crisps of country bread sandwiched a very thin layer of beef/vodka jelly, beef tartare and caviar. On the other side of the plate, one had a quail’s egg yolk with a little dollop of caviar and a herb oil. This was an incredibly light, refreshing course, which presented the most delicious association of beef tartare and caviar in a slightly different way than Bau does it. Of course, quality of products and execution were faultless, and one of my friends just said, that he wanted to be a Tsar, if they had breakfast like that everyday. That’s a compliment in the best possible way. Excellent.

Petit Dejeuner

Rollmops [Sardine: Ochsenmark: Feldsalat] was one of the very few courses I found a little less unique. It was still a very very good plate of food, but less intriguing, compelling than the others. Not that that was a problem, as the plate was absolutely delicious as such. The idea of the German Rollmops was taken up, and turned into something much more refined and delicious. This adaptation of German dishes is one of Wissler’s greatest strengths, and something that makes his cooking so unique (although there are many other things too). In short, this was a delicious dish, although less special than the others. Very good.

Rollmops

Kalbskopf [ Königsberger Art: Bachkrebse a la Nage]. Another traditional German dish, the Königsberger Klopse was dressed in the finest of dresses, as this was a stunning dish. A Klops made out of veal head was served with crayfish, a creamy crayfish sauce, and a few capers, to have all of the traditional elements on the plate. The veal head was simply delicious and with the incredibly tasty sauce and perfectly cooked crayfish, it was a stunning dish. One can hardly think of a better way to present such a classic. Stunning.

Kopf

Kraut und Rüben [ geräucherter Hüttenkäse] was an interesting course, but not really that great after all. However, at the table, 2 out of three loved it, just to let you know how subjective things related to food are. Different preparations of beetroot were served with a slightly acid sauce, a smoked cheese and a little balsamic vinegar. Everything was, as always here, perfectly executed, although the whole thing used this nowadays pretty common idea of marrying beetroot, balsamic and some kind of fresh cheese… Very good.

Kraut und Rueben

Shrimps [Seeigelcreme: Chicoree: Madras Curry] was a stunning dish. Small shrimps deep-fried in their integrality sat atop a sea urchin cream, a few raw sea urchins and some shrimps. Tableside, a curry oil was added. The slight spiciness from the curry went beautifully with the strong sea urchin and the slightly less powerful shrimps, but the real star were, besides those urchins, the deep-fried shrimp carcasses. Their texture is just a pure crunchy pleasure. The idea of using the carcass as well, instead of only using a little part of the shrimps, is great, and so rarely seen in high-end restaurants. This dish was stunning.

Shrimps

Gänseleber [ Popcornschaum: gestockter Poulardensaft]. Not that pairing corn and foie gras is very new as an idea (after all the beasts get fed corn only), but the dish here, really was bizarre. A popcorn foam of a surreal texture came with a little praline of popcorn, a piece of pan-fried foie gras and a chicken stock. On top of the foie sat a few marinated pieces of some kind of root vegetable. The foam on its own wasn’t that stunning at first, however, if eaten with the liver, it was brilliant. The liver itself being of a most perfect texture. This was even better than the hot foie gras at the Greenhouse, as it had a very homogenous, supple but firm texture, which is what a perfect pan-fried foie gras should have. I suppose a method, similar to that Heston Blumenthal describes in his book is used here to cook it, as this produces some stunning results (it’s relatively complicated, but the most effective way of cooking this very fragile product). Outstanding.

Leber

If 24 courses are not enough, you need a little more. As one of us had eaten one of Wissler’s signature creations before already, we asked if we could have a little extra. Here finally came the mottled mascarpone raviolo with black truffles, old balsamic and white tomato foam (white due to clarification of the tomato juice, not the fruit’s colour) . A true masterpiece of comfortable flavours, which were outright perfectly balanced and beautifully brought together. Unreal, although a slightly older balsamico would even have been better for this, as this relatively young one, was a little too acidic. Outstanding.

Raviolo

At this point of the meal the Carillon was desperately empty, so I had a glass of Sancerre to go with the few fishy dishes.

Sancerre

Süsswasser [Donaulachs: Rote Beete: Maronen Cous Cous]. A piece of Waller, or a kind of salmon from the Danube was served with chestnut cous cous, salmon caviar, Chioggia beetroot and a broth. This was perfectly fine in every sense of the word, but it didn’t really amaze me. The interesting thing about this was the pretty well cooked salmon (nearly well-done), which was unusual for such a “modern” restaurant. It did not disturb much, but the flavour was a little muted due to this degree of cooking. Very good.

Waller

Salzwasser [ Schwertmuschel: Meerrettich-Apfeljus] was much more successful again. A few razor clams, scallops and oysters came raw, sandwiched between some leaves, topped with an oyster air and sprinkled with apple/horseradish jus. A very light, very direct, and very clean dish, which I absolutely loved. The others however found it a little less exciting. Apart from the slightly iodine flavours, the perfectly balanced acidity was remarkable in this dish. This was great, natural/modern cooking. Fantastic.

Austern und Muscheln

Aal [Himbeerstreusel: Rosenkohlpüree] was one of those combinations, which just make you feel a little dubious. Wissler is a master of bringing together things, which you wouldn’t imagine to work at all. The lackered eel was given a little peps from the raspberries, and the Brussels sprouts puree gave it a little earthy character. Excellent.

Aal

Kalbsbries [Misocreme: Schwarzwurzeln]. A piece of roasted sweetbreads, with a Miso espuma, beef broth jelly and salsify made for a stunning little course. A glorious piece of sweetbread, paired beautifully with the foamy Miso mousse, and the fork with the jelly and salsify opened up the palate for the slightly more intensive, richer plates to come. Excellent.

Bries

Landei [Jabugo Bellota Schinkensaft: Nussbutter: Albatrüffel]. Another classic of Wissler, and yet one more truly memorable dish, was served at this moment. A poached egg yolk was layered between some parsley or spinach puree, Iberico ham jelly, brown butter foam and white truffles. The whole thing just was like diving into pleasure. When one took a bit of everything, one had an absolutely stunning taste explosion in the mouth. I don’t know how I can qualify this some other way, but this really was amazing. The combination of such delicious elements alone is enough to make one salivate in advance, and when it is done in such a convincing way, one can’t help saying: DIVINE. One of the best dishes of 2009.

Trueffel

For the meat, we drank a very enjoyable bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape (details above).

Chateauneuf

Ente [ Sesamcreme: Spitzkohl]. This dish came on two plates. On a first one, a piece of crispy duck skin, in the classical Chinese way was powdered with a leek powder instead of the traditional granulated sugar, and next to it came the dish itself, with various pieces of the duck, a sesame cream, some pointed cabbage and a strong duck jus. The skin was mesmerising: Incredibly crunchy and soft at the same time, the leek was noticeable, and gave it an interesting touch. It was so good I had  to have a second helping. The main plate, with the duck was no less good. I particularly enjoyed another piece of crispy skin, served with a little cabbage. This was another great combination, as were the pan-fried cepes and duck leg. The breast meat was of course perfectly cooked, and as tender as duck gets. The only slight problem was the rather heavy sesame cream, which had a consistency resembling that of a mayonnaise. Otherwise, it was excellent.

Ente

Hase im Pfeffer [geschmorter Sellerie: Datteln]. A piece of hare loin came with date puree, braised celery, a little braised shoulder, and a biscuit, soaked in the hare’s cooking juices. This was an incredibly light way of serving a hare, both in terms of calories and taste, as the dish was much less powerful than, say a lievre a la royale. Here, one had incredibly tender hare loin, which was less strong than the braised shoulder, and to balance these, there was the sweet date puree. I love hare, and this was easily the best of the meat courses we had. Excellent.

Hase

Vacherin Mont D’Or [Kartoffelschaum: Pumpernickel]. Atop black bread jelly sat some potato foam, with Vacherin at its centre. This was then topped with crunchy black bread, to give some texture to the otherwise rather creamy dish. I enjoyed this cheese course, and found it very interesting, as it made use of the traditional potatoes, which are often used with this cheese, and incorporated regional brown, or black bread, in a very successful, light way. Or at least, as light as possible way. Very good.

Vacherin

Butterkeks [Tamarillo: Kaffee: Kekseis]. Every German child has eaten these rectangular biscuits in their youth, so to use them inevitably brings back memories. This dessert, served in a Martini glass brought this biscuit into the dish in a most interesting way, and the ice cream had an incredibly buttery feeling, just like the biscuits themselves (which is what it was supposed to taste like anyway). The dessert remained light, and fresh enough to be served after such a long meal. Very good.

Dessert I

Next to it, we were served Dörrobst [Renettenlimonade: Muskatnusseis], which was an ice cream made with nutmeg, a foamed apple lemonade, and a little bit of dried fruits. Another very fresh little dessert, using the sour apples (this variety of apples is pretty sour, compared to a number of other apples) to give the dish a very light feeling. Otherwise, it certainly was very good, but not the best of the desserts served. Very good. (see pic above)

Hokkaidokürbis [Joghurt: Kreuzkümmel]. I think that this was my favourite of all the desserts served, and easily one of the best, I’ve eaten last year. Not only was this a stunningly beautiful plate, the way that the elements were brought together was equally stunning. This was hardly sweet, just enough to satisfy the taste-buds, and the cumin spiced things up a little. The incredibly fresh feeling of Wissler’s desserts was very present here again, which makes these little plates so easy to eat after a menu such as this. Outstanding.

Kuerbis

Meteorid [Grapefruit: gestockte Hefecreme: Sake]. Another highly interesting dessert. Again, a picture on a plate, here, the main theme was the bitterness in the levure, and that of the grapefruit. When eating all of the elements together, one had a completely new taste in one’s mouth, something that grew on me, whilst I ate the dessert. Excellent.

Meteorid

Schaumkuss [Mandarine: Pistazie]. A beautiful dessert this certainly was, but a pretty forgettable one too. The idea was good, using the different parts of the mandarins to create something that resembles it visually and in terms of flavour. However, the flavour in the mousse, which was all that filled this fake mandarin, was a little muted. Somehow, there was too little acidity and sweetness to make this a very successful affair. Good.

Kuss

Trüffel [ aus dem Perigord: Manjari]. To combine chocolate truffles with “real” black truffles is a highly interesting idea. As both can be brilliant together, this can really work, but as the truffle season was just about to start, Wissler must have used some cooked truffles, which didn’t have the punch of a fresh truffle during the season. Otherwise it was a perfectly executed, rather classical chocolate mousse, with not much more. Very good.

Trueffel

To finish things, we had a Pina Colada, served in a fun, and interesting way, and the inevitable Magnum [Vendome am Stiel]. Both were good fun, and very good.

Pina Colada

Magnum

Mignardises are on the same level as the rest here, and one can only say that this really remains one of the best restaurants in Germany and the world.

Pralinen

The food here was even better than what we had in April. Just like Bau, Wissler seems to get more and more focused on concentrating the flavours, and making the dishes lighter. In this 25 course menu, I had only a couple of courses, that I did not like that much. The rest was so good, that it would not even have been an option to leave them out. The most stunning dishes were easily among the best I’ve eaten last year, and the overall quality of the meal was stunning for such a long menu. With the remarkable wines, that we drank, and the great service, I spent a very enjoyable few hours. Wissler should belong on the wish-list of everyone who has a serious interest in the very best food served on this planet, as this restaurant is easily among the world’s elite of avant-garde restaurants, which serve incredible food, in a most relaxed, but sophisticated way.

Schloss Berg, Nennig

janvier 14, 2010

La Salle

Returning to Schloss Berg just feels good. It is as simple as that, and one needs no further complications to express that feeling. There is the castle, the warm welcome, the great service, Britta Jäger the fantastic sommelier, Yildiz Bau, who leads the service perfectly, and of course the food. The food, the glorious, often unreal food of Christian Bau, who is easily one of the best cooks in the world.

La Table

A few words on the pricing. The menus go from ca 130 to 190euro  (although the prices vary a little. The wine list must be one of the most friendly-priced in Europe, which is always great to see. However, Britta Jäger always prepares some very interesting wines by the glass, which will not disappoint, and complement the courses perfectly.

After a very cold December day, I rolled up the hill and was directly greeted by everyone. After being seated I had a glass of Duval Leroy Premier Cru, which was very pleasant. With it came the first selection of nibbles.

On the first slate from left to right was a hamachi sashimi with tapenade, a tomato tartlett and the classic swordfish/oyster kroepok with wasabi foam. Behind it was a glass filled with melon soup and buttermilk foam, and a few chorizo cream filled brik-tubes. These all show what great effort goes into this food. From the first bite to the last, everything is of the highest quality, without any errors, not even slips. After all, the 8 chefs work 16-18hrs every day, just to prepare dinner for at most 32 people. Compared to the divisions of cooks toiling away in French kitchens, this is high-energy cooking. Back to the food, the hamachi was of great quality, slightly cured in salt and herbs, it was very tasty, even if the olive tapenade was a tad too powerful. However, that was really looking for some kind of problem with a microscope. The tartlett and little cup are classics and were as good as always. The soup was a little less intensive than the beetroot gazpacho I had last time, but was a fresh drop for the palate. Last but not least were the very good chorizo rolls. All of these are already very, very good and make you want to find out what the rest will be like.

Canapes

This little cornet, filled with shallot cream, on which beef tartare and a generous dollop of ossietra caviar sit is one of the most obscene bites in the world. When I first ate it, back in April last year (although with eel cream, not shallots), I was completely blown away by the incredibly precise tastes and powerful combination. A DIVINE bite.

Caviar, boeuf, echalottes

Next up was a little variation of foie gras. One spoon contains the foie gras sorbet with mango ragout and a green tea chip, whilst the other had a gateau of foie gras with green tea jelly. Bau knows his foie gras, and serves some of the finest in the industry. His sorbet is absolutely devilish, and has the perfect texture, temperature and seasoning to boost the foie’s flavour in a most pleasant way. The other, more classical preparation shows how good a craftsman he, or the garde-manger cooks here are. A perfect cube, of perfect foie gras. One need not say more. Excellent.

Foie gras

The first course was one from the Gourmet Vision, a project of Jürgen Dollase (Germany’s most influential food critic, and one who actually knows something about what he does, even if his judgement sometimes remains disputable). In a series of articles in the FAZ, he describes a menu of a chef in great detail, which is unusual for a newspaper, and thus creates quite a bit of interest. I was served a glass of 2008 Puilly-Fume, Jonathan Pabiot, Loire with this course. It was 2x Sepia/Hamachi/ Seegurke/ Austern. A salad of sea herbs, and other herbs served as the fil conducteur for the seafood on the plate. In the middle there was a marinated oyster, some cucumber, raw squid and sea cucumber, whilst at the sides of the plate one had a brunoise of squid with marinated hamachi. Wow. When I saw the pictures of this dish in the FAZ, I could hardly have imagined how good this could be. Every element plays a role, be it to bring a new texture, taste or seasoning. The sea cucumber’s texture is still amazing for me, as was the squid, which was much more tender than I expected. The dish managed to create a very full, rich and complex mouthfeel, without using a lot of butter, or other heavy elements. Excellent.

Sea cucumber, hamachi, oyster

The second course was 2x Blue Fin Tuna/ Pickles/ Japanische Essenz/ Rettich. This was a picture on a plate, even though it looked more classical than the rest, one can’t help but admire the incredibly precise plating here. The whole course was a play on a variation of tuna, I had eaten on a previous visit, and showed how quickly this kitchen moves. The seared tuna was meltingly tender and tasty, and the tuna tartare in the cup and on both sides of the plate was equally enjoyable. The beautifully rolled up pickled vegetables gave the plate a very subtle sweet/sour note, which complemented the tuna marvelously. On the side, the cup was more or less the same as the one I’ve eaten during my last visits. Very good.

Thon

Taschenkrebs Warm & Kalt/ Dashi/ Kaffirlimone was a complete re-arrangement of the previous version, which had included watermelon in two preparations. Now, the dish was much more focused on the salty elements, rather than the sweetness of the melon. I much preferred this version, as it brought out the slightly iodine taste of the crab, whilst giving (a less sweet) refreshment through the curry ice cream. Again Bau managed to deliver a stunning dish. Excellent.

Tourteau

For the following course I had a glass of 2008. Grauer Burgunder **, Alexander Laible, Baden. Blauer Hummer/ Quinoa/ Curry/ Passe-Pierre & Apfel is a dish which appeared on Bau’s menu during the summer, and which is growing on me. This is a course, which I didn’t enjoy that much on the first try, but which I loved this time. That’s how one can change his mind. The perfectly cooked and seasoned lobster works beautifully with the spicy curry, salty passe-pierre and slightly sweet apple. The crispy chicken skin gives the whole thing a little crunch, and the lobster jus finishes it all off. With the wine, this was excellent.

Homard bleu

Coquille St. Jacques/ Entenleber/ Schwarzwurzel/ Trüffel. Here I was poured a 1998, Riesling Zellberg, Domaine Ostertag, Elsass. This dish was stunning. Perfectly cooked scallops, pungent fragrant truffles, a foie gras cream, salsify puree and foie gras foam made one delicious combination of flavours. The somewhat classical combination was absolutely perfectly executed, and presented in a most contemporary and interesting fashion. You can hardly say more than outstanding.

St Jacques

Kabeljau/ Brokoli/ Aubergine/ Muschelkompott. Served with this course was a 2007, Cedre Blanc, Chateau du Cedre, Pays du Lot.

Having the great honour to be the first to try a new course was one thing. If that first try is that good, it is even better. A very fine piece of cod, poached in grapeseed oil, if I remember correctly was topped with a miso cream and then slightly gratinated. This was served with a little Japanese aubergine cream, broccoli with yuzu zest, and a razor clam filled with different mussels and a slightly acidified yoghurt. This dish was incredibly fresh, and light in both taste and appearance. If the presentation will certainly change over time, the flavours were already spot on. Here, on saw again, how careful Bau constructs his dishes, and how sure he is in matching flavours and bringing them together. The most striking fact in this dish, apart from the combination, was the texture of the cod. Despite being poached very gently in oil, it retained a deliciously firm texture. This really was a fine piece of fish. Excellent.

Cabillaud

Seezunge/ Artischocke/ Parmesan/ Jabugo Bellota. This dish was served with 2008, G.P.S., Domaine Pignier, Jura. A slightly modified version of a sole dish, I had eaten last December, the very thick double-fillet of dover sole was coated in a crunchy coating of dried Jabugo Bellota ham, sauced with a Parmesan foam, a Jabugo Bellota jus and served with an artichoke cream and pan-fried artichokes, parmesan ravioli and some spinach. A fairly classical dish, that was magnified by a most perfect quality of the products and the incredibly precise execution. The sole had the fantastic firm flesh that makes this fish one of the finest things swimming in the ocean, and the ham components gave it a richness, which complemented it beautifully. The new parmesan ravioli with a liquid farce were also very enjoyable, and great fun to eat. An outstanding dish.

Sole

Kalbsherzbries/ Yamwurzel/ Schwarzer Knoblauch/ Miso. Served with a great wine: 2007, Fossiles Pinot Blanc, Chateau Pauque, Luxembourg. A few words on Aby Duhr, who makes these stunning wines in Luxembourg. Of all the fairly good, and sometimes very good Luxembourgish wines, he makes the best. These wines can match some very fine German and French white wines in both intensity and complexity. For anyone who ever sees this stuff on a wine list, go for it. They’re a hell of a lot more expensive than the usual Luxembourgish wines, but really worth it.

Ris de Veau

The dish here was one more from the Vision, and really was an exemplar rendition of Bau’s theme: Japanese influenced French haute cuisine. The Coeur de ris de veau, the finest part of the sweetbreads, which sits at their centre was pan-fried and served with a few preparations of yam, black garlic crumble, a miso sabayon and veal jus. The pairing here was fantastic. The food too. Perfectly cooked, creamy, tasty sweetbreads worked beautifully with the rest. A truly outstanding dish.

Mieral-Ente/ 2x Sellerie/ Café/ Tamarinde. Served with a 2004, Morey-Saint-Denis, Domaine Charlopin Parizot, Burgund. This was a terrific dish. In essence it was the duck I had eaten in April, with the addition of a pastilla of the duck leg. The perfectly cooked duck breast, from arguably the Bresse’s finest producer, was served with a simple duck jus flavoured with tamarind and coffee. With it came a celery cream and a bit of pan-fried celeri branche. The pastilla was stunning. Crispy on the outside, perfectly seasoned, creamy leg meat and simply delicious. The duck too, had great flavour and represented another faultless dish, which was absolutely great. Excellent.

Canard

I had a selection of Bernard Antony’s fabulous cheeses, with which I was served a glass of 2007, Albersweiler Latt Gewürtztraminer Auslese, Weingut Rebholz, Pfalz. A great wine, with great cheese. That’s all one has to say.

Fromages

Joghurt & Olive/ Passionsfrucht/ Knusper/ Bonbon. Served with both desserts was a very, very nice 2006, Riesling Beerenauslese, Dr Loosen, Mosel. This first dessert was probably the best I have eaten here. The combination of the three elements worked marvelously. There was a tamed contrast, which led to an enhanced overall flavour. A great sweet, which was both incredibly fresh and pleasant to eat. Excellent.

Dessert I

Schokolade/ Bschibirne/ Pan-Dan/ Ingwer. A last course from the Vision was a “Japanised” version of Bau’s classic chocolate tartlett. Here, the Nashi pear, pan-dan ice cream and ginger spiced things up, and made the chocolate feel incredibly fresh again. Excellent again.

Choco/Poire

The last part here is always the very well made, and very large selection of petit-fours, which is always very very good. As is the coffee.

Petit Fours

This was yet again a world-class meal. No dish had the slightest technical mistake, let alone slip. Every single of these highly complex dishes worked brilliantly, and made it feel incredibly simple, which really is what makes Bau stand out. I still believe that Bau features amongst the very best chefs in the world and this meal solidified my belief once more. This restaurant really lives up to the Michelin’s description of 3*, both in the green and red guides, as the food here is always exceptional and well worth a trip.

GO, THERE!

.

The Ledbury, II, London

janvier 5, 2010

La salle

Some places just make you feel at ease, happy, or whatever other positive adjective you might find to describe a sense of general, unspoiled well-being. The Ledbury definitely counts as one of them. Brett Graham is a genuinely passionate cook, who seeks the best, and tries to present it in highly engaging fashion. On the other side of the house, you have the service brigade, led by John Davey, and a most charismatic sommelier, who goes by the name of Manuel (although he is off now).

encore la salle

As my sister had her birthday to celebrate, we made the pilgrimage to Notting Hill one day in December, and sat down for another fantastic meal. To accompany the Billecart Salmon brut rose, the classic red beet macaron with foie gras cream and pain d’epices crumble was served. These are a delight: Tasty, fun, well made, and most intensive reproductions of the two main ingredients. Very good, and all one needs to start a meal like this.

Bread today was very good too, with two instead of three types (which I suppose is a reduction one has to take into account when coming for lunch). Butter is also hard to criticise, and the service is generous with both.

To kick things off, we had a deep-fried quail’s egg, with Jerusalem artichoke puree and shaved autoumn truffles. This was a most enjoyable amuse bouche, which incorporated a few contrasting textures, and tastes, to create some most comforting winter dish. Very good.

Caille

I had requested to have the Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Seaweed and Herb Oil, Kohlrabi amd Frozen Horseradish again, after having hugely enjoyed it a few weeks earlier. It was served again with the Originel from Julien Courtois, which makes for a great match. I won’t say anything, as I’ve described the dish in the previous post, only that it was just as outstanding as the first time. A fantastic dish.

St Jacques

Next up was a Chestnut and Truffle Soup with Warm Pheasant Canapes and Quince. Served with a Medium Dry Amontillado, Fernando de Castilla, this was a fantastic autoumn dish. The soup had the comforting, earthy fragrance of truffles, and tasted like a pure distillation of the chestnuts flavour. It was a perfect chestnut soup, to which the addition of truffles (and possibly some truffle oil) gave an even more terrestrian, autoumnal character. The little selection of pheasant preparations was a real highlight I must say. Here one had a pheasant sausage roll, a deep-fried pheasant leg, and a little toast, on which some liver was spread (if I’m not mistaken). All of them were delicious, and easy enjoy. Top-notch comfort food, which hardly gets any better. Very good.

Soupe de chataigne

Moving on, we had a Roast Turbot with Seared Scallop, Pumpkin Gnocchi and Clementine. Here, Manuel poured a glass of 2007 Pouilly-Fuisse, Clos Varambon, Chateau des Rontets, which drank fantastically well and took up on to citrus-fruit notes and slight sweetness of the sauce. This was another outstanding fish dish. Last time’s turbot had the most impressive texture I have encountered with this fish in London, and this time it was just as good as that. The fish was perfectly cooked, a little crispy on the edges, juicy, slightly translucent inside, and most firm in terms of texture. THis really was a glorious piece of fish! The accompanying scallop was also cooked very well, although a little more rare than a classical French restaurant would have done it. This was another fine piece of seafood here, in a town, which can’t pride itself on its glorious quality of fish. I’ll have to ask Brett to cook more seafood next time around, as it doesn’t get better in London ( the Square can equal them, and ADAD). The accompanying gnocchi played the side role very well, as they were tasty, fluffy and slightly crunchy on the outside. A sauce based on clementines was a fine partner for all of these glorious treats, as it had a slight sweetness, a little acidity, and elevated the flavours to something out of this world. A truly memorable dish. Excellent.

Turbot

This main course, we were about to see was a truly great affair. Poached Breast and Confit Legs of Pigeon with Root Vegetables, Chocolate Malt and Grapes. To go with it, we had the very enjoyable 2005 Vin de Pays du Gard, Roc d’Anglade, Remy Pedreno, Longuedoc. When this dish arrives, you are first of all overwhelmed by all, that suddenly arrives on the table. However, once you dig in, it is terrific. The perfectly poached breast of pigeon is obviously the main element here, served with chocolate and whisky mashed potatoes, grapes, the roasted heart, confit legs, roasted foie gras, a pigeon sausage, a  selection of root vegetables and a hearty jus, this dish is indeed a complex affair. However, after having lifted the lid of the smoke dome, the confit legs (crispy on the skin side, with creamy meat), are great. The grilled sausage, which takes on a nice smoky aroma from the burning wood is again a highly refined version of comfort food, and the roasted foie gras lifts up the pigeon, as it gives it a smokey rich note. On the main plate, one has the selection of root vegetables, which on their own and a little jus roti would more than suffice, but accompany the meat fantastically. Apart from all of the highly intricate, complex combinations and elements on this plate, it has an incredible coherence, which is quite incredible. There does seem to be something like a controlled chaos here, which results in a hugely interesting and beautiful dish. Outstanding.

Pigeon I

Pigeon II

Moving on we had a bit of cheese with a very nice 2004 Chateau la Conseillante, Pomerol, served from a magnum, which was incredibly earthy, and already ready at such a young age. A glorious wine. The cheese itself was also very good, although it does not quite reach the incredible selection of the Greenhouse yet.

A pre-dessert was a buttermilk sorbet, with hibiscus broth, rhubarb and doughnuts. Now, these doughnuts were quite delectable, and made for a good, rich counterpoint to the slightly acidic, very refreshing sorbet (which in itself was very good). This was a much more successful pre-dessert than the one I had eaten at my first meal. Very good.

Pre-dessert

The first dessert served was a passion-fruit soufflé with vanilla ice cream. This was a very fine soufflé, which was better than the one at the Gavroche for instance, as the egg whites here were not as hardly beaten as in the latter’s. This results in a more creamy texture, which doesn’t seem quite as “stiff”, or rigid. Flavour-wise, there was also a little more intensity in this one, although in the end, both restaurants produce a fine soufflé (which isn’t that hard after all). Excellent.

Souffle

The second dessert was a Chocolate Cremeux with Walnut Ice Cream and Warm Chocolate Madeleines. Here, we had Le Truffier, La Salamandre, Perigord, which is truffle infused wine. This was rather interesting, as the truffle flavour and nose went rather well with the chocolate. In the truffle season, this dish could be highly interesting, when truffles are incorporated into the chocolate, and/or shaved over the whole thing. This dessert was the best of the bunch we tried today. You can hardly debate this dessert. It was excellent.

Chocolate

Not wanting this meal to end already, I asked for a third dessert, and got an apple and pain d’epice based creation. This featured a piece of poached apple, roasted apple ice cream and a cannellono of pain d’epice. The incredible thing here was the ice cream, and the poached apple. The cannellono was good, but the textures of the wrap (pain d’epice), and the mousse inside it, made out of the former, were too similar, to create any effect. This was the least interesting of the desserts, save for that fantastic ice cream. Very good.

Pomme

Petit-fours were very good, as was coffee.

Petit-Fours

I am rather impressed with what I get here. For the second time, the food was very, very good, the execution was faultless, and I spent a great few hours here. Brett’s cooking seems incredibly individualistic. There is a feeling that things are moving, it feels almost like the sometimes unusual combinations Wissler of Gagnaire use mixed with the rigour and perfect execution of, say Ducasse’s chefs. This is exciting food, that delivers also on the technical side, something often a little forgotten by some of the “creative” chefs. At the moment, I can’t think of anyone, who cooks more exciting food than the guys here (in London that is), so I would be more than surprised if the Michelin would not give it those 2* in January, as the service, decor and wines don’t stay behind the kitchen’s level.

Judging from two meals in a very short period of time, there seems to be potential for the 2*, as the stability is there, a factor a place like the Greenhouse will have to work on, in order to go there.