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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.