Archive for février 2010

A few comments on dinners in London

février 26, 2010

Here are a few remarks on a couple of meals I’ve had in London over the past month or so. First off, a few places I haven’t talked about in this blog and then one restaurant I particularly enjoy coming back to.

Zuma

This is a bizarre place. Located just behind Harrods and a stone’s throw away from the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge, the crowd here is obviously quite fancy. The design is not bad, and the service is about alright. You won’t feel special here, nor will you find much to fault neither. It’s the kind of service that is smooth, professional, but that isn’t really noteworthy or worth remembering. What I absolutely hated about this was the speed with which one was discarded. A meal that costs a good £80 a head (it was a very light meal with one glass of Billecart for me, and 300ml of the cheapest Sake on the list split for two, no desserts, no real mains) shouldn’t be over in 45min. If I order 5 dishes in other restaurants, I can be sure to have a nice evening there, and enjoy my food as long as I want to. Not here: All dishes come more or less together, making it not easy to see where one should start. Some stuff will be cold when one reaches it, and sushi, following a number of masters’ arguments, shouldn’t be left standing around for too long neither.

The second point of critique I have to this place is the way in which they wanted to sell me a pretty normal piece of tuna for o-toro (£10 for two pieces!). When I told them that this wasn’t what they sold it to be, I got the answer: It is! The second time I complained, they remarked that it was not in season. I know that the best season to eat this kind of stuff (in Europe at least) is in summer, but a restaurant that puts it on its menu should better have good tuna, if it charges such prices. Taking aside the fact that the customer is always right, I was quite shocked at how much time it took them to realise that there might be some kind of problem. After asking three servers, I finally got an answer, and exchanged the pieces.

The third problem was that the rest (which means most of the food) was actually pretty good. We had some beautiful spinach with sesame sauce, which was a truly great piece of cooking. Also nice were some tempura-fried prawns, and a few scallops. All of this was perfectly pleasant food. Too expensive for what it is, but well-made and not bad at all.

I don’t know what to make of a place such as this. With such food, one could easily get a star in London, if one would care a little more about the customers at least. But well, for some it’s all about the ruble, so let it roll!

Hereford Road

Well, this is a bit of a contrast. Small, cosy and trendy enough, this place is one that makes you feel well. Even if the wine list is rubbish, as it is mostly overpriced and not very well chosen, the service is charming, and the food good. Plus, its one of the cheapest restaurants in London I like. A starter can be had for a fiver, a main for around £12, desserts are around the £5 mark too. We had some very enjoyable duck livers (not fattened) with green beans and chervil, a lemon sole with cauliflower and a pork belly with red cabbage and lentils. To finish things off, a little treacle tart was just fine. Everything was well cooked, served without any false pretensions and good. What more can you ask for that money, especially in Notting Hill? All I can critisise is that the cauliflower rosettes with the sole spent too much time in the pan, and were therefore a little dried out. The meal cost no more than £33 a head including a drinkable Riesling from some Alsatian maker, whose name I didn’t know and didn’t write down.

Terroirs

This one is a weird one too. The wine list is great, with really interesting wines: Valette, to Sebastien Riffaut, Vouette & Sorbee, Cedric Bouchard, and many are present on their list, and reasonably well priced. Most wines are about twice retail price. The problem here, as with many « casual » places in London is that the bill quickly adds up. The dishes (miniscule portions) are priced at around £10 each, and with four or five one is just about sated. The vibe in here is great though, and the wines not to be found many other places in London. Therefore, they can afford to price the food, which is decent, in such a way. The place is packed

Harwood Arms


This is a favourite of mine, and for good reason, as I was shown twice during the last month. A longer review will come soon, after my next visit, but a few notes can’t hurt. First of all, Stephen’s cooking is absolutely brilliant. For no more than £30, one can have 3 courses, which are much better than a number of set menus in London’s starred-restaurants (at twice the price). The classics (Scotch Egg, Doughnuts) are always brilliant, and hard to beat, and the rest is very good too. Amongst the absolutely best things I ate during this term was a slice of raw venison meat, on toast with a cream of some kind of liver. That was an outstanding bite, which I would love to see turned into a starter at some point. Who knows? Maybe for my next visit, they’ll agree to do that?

I’ve also been drinking a number of very quaffable wines here, including 1998 Grange des Peres, 2004 Jaboulet Hermitage Chevalier de Sterimbourg, which only add to the pleasure. In short if you are in London for a day: Lunch here, dinner at the Ledbury, and you’ll be a happy man, or woman for that matter!

(with a little more time, add a pizza at Franco Manca, a meal at the Square and Greenhouse and you’ll be good)

To wind things up, lets have a quick look at what happens at Hakkasan and Yauatcha. In both, I had some good meals, in terms of the food. Hakkasan was as good as ever, and Yauatcha was better than I had remembered it to be too. The service in Hakkasan was much better than in Yauatcha, where the only European (!?) lady was more than rude, which did spoil the pleasure of eating there a little. The latter represents better value for money, as it is slightly cheaper than Hakkasan. However, in central London, both must count among the cheapest places with a star to have a meal in. Only point of critique is that both of their wine lists are too expensive. At Hakkasan, one has a great mix of wines though, something of a mix of Terroirs’ best natural wines, and the great names one can find at the multi-starred houses.

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The Square, London

février 23, 2010

The Square is probably the best place in London for some highly consistent, British-influenced classical haute cuisine. However, it also has a remarkable wine list, the joys of which I start to explore. It also is priced in a way that makes you want to try bottles you normally wouldn’t even consider looking at.  I would say that alongside the Ledbury, this is the cheapest wine list in a London 2* restaurant.

It was my birthday and I wanted to celebrate. As my mother invited me a couple of days later to the Ledbury as a birthday present, I was about to have a very enjoyable week (there was some ballet in there too). There might have been a few minour issues (e.g. not filling up the bread when your bread plate is desperately empty) on the service side tonight, but apart from that everything was fine here. The kitchen ran more or less as smoothly as ever too, with only very small, hardly noticeable slips happening here too.

I started with a glass of 1999 Pol Roger, which drinks very well at this moment in time, and we then had a bottle of outrageously good wine: Anselme Selosse’s Contraste. I don’t have to tell much about it, other people know far more about the man and his story, but I can assure you that this is a monster. It was a pity to drink it pretty soon after opening the bottle, but throughout the evening this wine grew and grew. It was without doubt one of the most intense, complex Champagnes I have tasted, and made me fall under it’s charm right away. It does not get much better I suppose.

However, our great sommelier, who did a terrific job throughout the night, poured us also a glass of 2002, Puligny Montrachet 1er cru “Les Referts” from Louis Jadot, a 2007, Chateauneuf du Pape, Clos de la Roquete, a 2006, St. Joseph Les Vinsonnes from Alain Voge and to finish off the night a glass of 1998 Chateau d’Yquem and some Francois Hemart Rose. The wines were all very good, but the Yquem was a little underwhelming I must say. It was the first time I drank Yquem and it didn’t blow me away, as I had expected it would.  I must say, that I enjoyed Kracher’s Grande Cuvee no.12 much more for instance, but well, I was to see how good Yquem can be a few days later…

We started with some new amuses bouches: There was a black rice cracker with tarama, a squid ink puff, some prawn sticks and a cornet filled with foie gras. These were all very good. Especially the fantastic foie gras cornet, and the very enjoyable crackers with the tarama caught my attention. The only less good elelement was the slightly dry prawn stick, which lacked prawn meat or a more juicy farce. The squid ink puffs were very nice too, and accompanied the Champagne beautifully. Very good.

We then moved to the Salad of Thinly Sliced Baked Root Vegetables with Eiswein Vinegar and Goat’s Curd. I don’t know what happened to the kitchen here, but this was really not good. The beetroot slices were cooked, hence of a rather uninteresting texture, not seasoned, and the other elements couldn’t lift things up sufficiently. The overall taste was a little dull, nearly muffled. I can probably say that this was the poorest dish I’ve eaten in this restaurant. This was miles away from 2* food, and therefore quite unusual for such a consistently good kitchen. Not good.

The next course was great though: A Tasting of Rock and Native Oysters. On a plate was arranged a little variation of oysters, which included a bouillon, a deep-fried one, a smoked one in a creamy sabayon and a marinated oyster with Caviar.  This was perfect as a dish. Everything worked, and was very well made. We seemed to be back on track, which was good. Very good to excellent.

Saute of Scottish Langoustine Tails with Parmesan Gnocchi and an Emulsion of Potato and Truffle. This classic doesn’t need any description anymore, and it was just as good as always, although the gnoccho was maybe a tad firmer than usually. Excellent.

I had requested scallops with black truffles, and this was what I got: Roast Isle of Orkney Scallops with Crushed Cauliflower and Perigord Truffle. For the first time, I saw a scallop in piece in a British chef’s restaurant, and I can tell you that that alone made me happy. The dish was great, maybe one of the best of the night, as the classic combination of scallop/truffle and cauliflower was brilliantly executed here. The truffle cream came with plenty of punch, and the cruched cauliflower had more texture than a puree would have had. The only pity is that many restaurants don’t seem to shave their truffles tableside, which just adds so much to the magic of the black diamonds. This really was a great dish, and  was excellent.

The next dish was one of the best fish dishes I’ve eaten at the Square: Saute of John Dory with Hand Rolled Macaroni, Calves Tail, Leeks and Chanterelles. What reads like a dream in itself was a beautiful dish. The fish was of very very fine quality: Firm flesh, juicy and very tasty, it stood up well against the macaroni, and the otherwise rather robust filling of these. Here we had a great dish, which combined two fine ingredients in a most harmonious way. Excellent.

It was time for the main course: Roast Pigeon from Bresse with Caramelised Butternut and a Confit of Trompettes de la Mort, Chestnuts and Rhubarb. When the dish landed on the table I was quite surprised by the rather unusual looks of it. There was no saucing at the table, or anything like that, everything was right there, and it did look a bit bizarre (i.e. messy). But well, who really cares about what things look like? Taste-wise it was great. The pigeon was masterfully cooked, tender, and tasty and the confit gave it a very complex foundation. To finish things of, there was the beautiful jus and of course the deep-fried leg. The latter was great, meltingly tender, and wrapped in crunchy kataifi pastry it was delicious. I was very surprised how well the rhubarb worked in this. It didn’t stand out as a negative note at all, rather it brightened things up a little. A great winter dish! Excellent.

I tried the cheese board, which unfortunately didn’t feature any very old hard cheese, but had some very good other choices.

After this, we tried A Tasting of Stilton. This was basically a mousse made out of Stilton, with which was served a little fruity garnish made out of grapes and other fruit. It was nice, but I much preferred the normal cheese board. Good.

Desserts were to come, and I got a small portion of the Brillat-Savarin Cheesecake with Passionfruit and Lime. This is one more of those classics, which are always brilliant. Excellent.

The final course was a Rum and Raisin Souffle with Banana Ice Cream. This was a much better soufflé than the one I ate in April, as it was not overly sweet. Need I say that it was perfectly made and that banana, rum andd raisins work well together? I don’t think so. It was very good, but I still have trouble to get too excited about soufflés. Very good.

This was an interesting meal. I drank some incredible wines, of which the Selosse will be remembered as one of the greatest wines I’ve ever tried. The service was great too, as perfect as always here. I hugely enjoyed the evening, even if the kitchen was a tiny bit little less precise than usually, but those were really small slips, which nearly went unnoticed. There were some great new dishes, which showed how good Phil’s cooking is in winter, when such heart-warming dishes just work, and I can only say that I will be back sooner or later. Probably sooner, as I still believe to be among the very best in London.

Ristorante Mosconi, Luxembourg

février 17, 2010

La Casa

Luxembourg is small. Very small, by all standards. But, the country can pride itself with a healthy number of restaurants carrying Michelin stars. Whilst there is no 3*, there are a good dozen 1* and one 2*. The latter is an Italian restaurant called Mosconi. It sits in a beautiful house on the banks of the Alzette, and has a lovely terrace on which one can take a glass of Champagne before a meal and admire the view (as long as the weather permits it).

The restaurant is more or less as expensive as all of the 2* and 3* in the area, with a tasting menu at €120, a seven course pasta menu at €65 and a four course lunch at 20 less. The wine list is nearly exclusively Italian, with only about 8 or 9 French whites, but a more generous selection of red wines from France. Prices here are reasonable, but one can find much cheaper wine lists in Germany (in 3* restaurants!).

We started with an excellent 2004 Bellavista Gran Cuvee, Franciacorta, then had a bottle of 2007, Rossj Bass, from Angelo Gaja, a 2007, Löwengang from Alois Lageder and finally a 2004, Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru “Clos St. Jean” from Bachelet Ramonet. To finish the meal, I had a glass of 2004, Bellavista Gran Cuvee Rose, which was again nowhere behind a good Champagne.

To start us off we had a macaron filled with chicken liver and white truffle cream. This was a very good macaron, although the dough was rather sweet. The cream was very good, and is, in a somewhat different form, one of the house’s signature dishes.

Macaron

After this we had a courgette puree with salmon roe. This was very well done, but the rather substantial quantity of puree and the very few eggs didn’t really make sense. The proportions here were a little out of hand it seemed, and the plate a little dull. Hmmm…

Zucchini

Next up was a beetroot puree with goat’s cheese cream and a few pistachios. This was nice, but it somehow was pretty similar to the previous amuse in terms of texture and construction. Good.

The meal itself started a little more successful. A substantial piece of foie gras was placed on a crostino and surrounded by a pool of white bean cream. The whole thing was sprinkled with balsamico to give it a little acidity. The foie was perfectly cooked and of very good quality. Despite the rather simple appearance, the dish was pretty good, and I very much enjoyed it. Very good.

Fegato grasso

Bread was alright. The white and brown bread were nothing stunning, but the various crackers were pretty enjoyable.

pane

Next up, we had a potato salad with black truffles and parmesan. This was one of the best dishes of the night, if not the best. The potatoes were lukewarm and therefore made the truffle’s flavour explode. A really simple, great dish, that worked as the ingredients were of very good quality, and very well prepared. Very good.

Insalata di tartufo nero di Norcia

The next dish was an equally simple dish: A large langoustine was placed atop some tomato confit, and served with a little pesto. Such a simple dish really relies on outstanding products. This time, the langoustine wasn’t as fresh as it could have been, and therefore the texture was rather mushy. The tomato confit was great though, with a nice sweetness, which worked very well with the langoustine and the pesto. If one is picky, one would notice the burned end of the langoustine’s tail. In serious restaurants (or some), one would cut the little part at the end off, to prevent it from burning. That is a small thing, but tells quite something about the little errors happening here. Good.


scampo

The first pasta dish was a leek and truffle lasagna. A very nice dish in itself, the addition of the truffles was unfortunately hardly noticeable. In such homeopathic quantities, truffles don’t make sense, and one better leaves them away. The other problem was the slightly too sour balsamico. Here one would have needed something of maybe 50 or more years (they used 12 year old balsamico), in order to have a fuller, less acid taste. Ok.

Tortino

The second pasta course was a ragout of lamb with hand cut papardelle. This was pretty good, but lacked punch. If one makes a nice ragout out of any type of meat for some pasta, the reduced braising juices usually give one hell of a tasty sauce, but here, one had the impression that they simply used a tiny amount of jus, bound with some cooking water of the pasta. It was a pity, as the pasta was very very good. Good.

Papardelle

Having already had the dover sole with artichokes, it wasn’t a new course, but one that was well cooked. The raw artichokes are a little bizarre, as they leave a rather thin taste and texture (if used on their own, as in this dish), but otherwise it was a good piece of sole, cooked well and seasoned properly. Nothing wrong, but nothing really interesting, or perfect neither. Good.

Sogliola

I had pigeon ravioli with beans and balsamico. Now, if a restaurant serves some minor element twice in a long menu, I don’t mind, but if I get basically the same dish twice, I am not that happy. Especially, if I can’t change one dish for one which apparently « has an element in it, which features also in another dish of the menu. » This was the case here too: The white bean cream/ balsamico combination was exactly the same as in the starter of foie gras. The combination worked for the powerful foie gras, but the tiny ravioli were completely overpowered by the huge quantity of puree. Being this small and having only very little filling in them, they didn’t have enough punch to stand up against such a powerful, and rich puree. Alright.

Ravioli

Fortunately enough, there was the main. The pigeon today was very good. Perfectly cooked, it was served with pearl barley, pumpkin puree, lardo di Colonnata, and a hearty jus. This was a serious, rustic dish of the sort I had remembered from this restaurant. With the truffle salad, this was the best savoury course of the night. Very good.

Piccione

This restaurant used to have one of the most amazing cheese boards I know. Both quantity and quality on those two huge tables were enormous. However, as we were there on the first day of re-opening after their holidays, the cheese was not quite ready yet. They assembled a little selection, which showed the fine quality of the cheese on offer here. With the truffle salad, pigeon and dessert, these were the only things well worth 2*, during the night. Excellent.

A pre-dessert was cinnamon ice cream with old balsamico (25 years), and a parmesan cracker. It was a fine ice cream, and the balsamico gave it a little bit of punch. Harmless in every sense, and well made. Good.

pre-dessert

The dessert itself is called caramele alla Siciliana. It is Ilario’s signature dish, and has been on the menu for a good number of years (as most of the other dishes here too). I tasted it for the first time today and found it to be the best of the 10 desserts I’ve eaten here in the past year. The filling was made up of oranges and pistachios, and absolutely brilliant. This was excellent.

caramele

Petit-fours and pralines are very, and the espresso is excellent here, be it ludicrously expensive. At €9 a double espresso, I was quite shocked at the price (at the Cinq I payed the same, but there one is in a different place).

Overall I can’t say this was the best meal I’ve had here. There were very good moments, like the truffle salad, the pigeon, cheese and dessert, but the rest was pretty mediocre, at least for 2*. Whilst service was great (they know us pretty well, and are not always that easy with “new” guests as it appears), I felt that the overall quality of the food has dropped a little over the course of last year. The other problem is, that the menu hardly ever changes. Coming here in Summer or Winter won’t change much, as at least 4/5 of the dishes will be exactly the same, and have not changed since I first came here 2 years ago. If one is in Luxembourg, I would still recommend a meal here, as the pasta menu is very good. In it, one has top quality pasta, at a very reasonable price. With it will come the great décor, and good selection of Italian wines. However, don’t expect life-changing food from this kitchen, as it’s very unlikely to be served here.

Quelques Champagnes: Blanc de Noirs

février 13, 2010

During the last few months I drank a number of highly interesting Champagnes, thoughts on which I’d like to share here. First up are a few remarks, by no means professional, on blanc de noirs Champagnes, drunken over the last weeks.

Amongst the most impressive wines I’ve had in my short life was without doubt a bottle of Anselme Selosse’s Contraste. This blanc de noirs, from the finest grand cru sites of the Champagne, is a wine that is so powerful and intriguing that one can hardly forget it. From the moment the first drops land in your glass, you are surrounded by the smell of red fruits, and just want to dive in. When you taste the wine for the first time, it’s close to an earthquake. After having let it rest for a few minutes, it has lost the agressivity of the bubbles and one has the fine mousse, the incredibly powerful, vinous wine and the unbelievable finish. WOW! If the thing weren’t so bloody expensive, I’d drink it every single day. DIVINE.

Contraste- Jacques Selosse

Another very lovely wine was Bertrand Gautherot’s cuvee Fidele. Here, one had a wine that was a little less concentrated and powerful than the Contraste, but that also had a very singular, and by all means charming character. There was maybe a slightly more present acidity in this wine, which made it seem a little fresher or less mature. This is a bargain, as the wine costs around £35, and is definitely worth trying, if you have the opportunity. Excellent.

Fidele-Vouette & Sorbee

Another highly intriguing wine, one that kept me busy for a whole evening was Jerome Prevost’s La Closerie Les Beguines. This was a bizarre wine (100% Pinot Meunier). After about 15mins I smelled it for the first time, and thought I about to drink a cidre. The palate nearly confirmed that impression, although the bulles were much finer than those of (very good) cider. I had one glass and put it back in the cold for half an hour. After those 45mins, the wine changed it’s character completely: The sweet woody character of the oak (Prevost uses Coche-Dury’s barrels it seems) became apparent on the nose, and the wine suddenly began to taste a bit more like a wine, lost some of that cider-character. I can’t really describe the taste, but I started to like it more and more as the evening progressed. About 2 hours after I had opened the bottle, it seemed at it’s best, and at the end of it, I was able to safely say, that a wine had never ever puzzled me more than this. A unique wine, that won’t please everyone, but can be fantastic if you’re open-minded.

La Closerie, Les Beguines- Jerome Prevost

Another great wine was the R.H. Coutier 2002 Grand Cru Ambonnay. I drank this at the Sportsman, and fell in love with it straight away. With lots of depth, and highly concentrated, this wine was absolutely lovely. I don’t know much about the grower, and can’t find much about him, not even his address, but I certainly hope to find some more of his bottles. They’re very well made, easy-drinking powerful wines that are very reasonably priced (I paid £40 for the bottle). Excellent.

Coutier 2002

The last of the bunch will be Benoit Lahaye’s Brut Nature. Now this has 10% Chardonnay in it, but I can let it pass in this post. Without dosage, the wine remains very fresh, very vivid (the bottle was disgorged in June ’09) and had a quite youthful acidity. However, the 45% reserve wines give this wine a sufficiently complex and powerful backbone, which makes it another great easy-drinking Champagne. What is great here is the power of the Pinot gets a little freshened up with the addition of the Chardonnay. This gives it a unique, but great note. Very good.

Brut Nature- Benoit Lahaye

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee, Paris

février 9, 2010



I last ate at ADPA in July 2009. It was the third meal, of which I can say that it was absolutely spectacular. Every single time I eat here, I leave dazzled, unbelievably happy, like floating on a very quiet, relaxed, charming cloud… It’s a very amazing feeling, that makes forget everything else. But, don’t think of all that, I was back, and waited for a little food. The glorious food of Christophe Moret, who delivers the most consistently perfect meals I’ve come across. This is a guy, who knows what he is doing. Someone, who really knows it!

Denis Courtiade, one of the best Maitre d’hotel’s, greeted me and I was seated immediately. A glass of Roederer 2003 was very welcome as I perused the menu, although I did not have to make any choices. The chef is cooking, and one better lets him choose here. He really knows my taste by now, and I never interfere with his plans. The sommelier, Laurent Roucayrol, proposed to serve me a few glasses of wine, and I drank very well as usually today. I started off with a couple of glasses of 2007, Puligny Montrachet, Francois Carillon (the brother of the more famous other Carillon, who just started with his first vintage in 2007), which were followed by another very enjoyable wine: A 2004, Chateauneuf du Pape, Domaine de Marcoux. For the dessert, I was served the 2008, Dolc Mataro, Alta Alella-Catalunya. The latter wine is quite interesting as it works beautifully with cherries (both nose and taste are incredibly cherry-like), figs and chocolates (the three things I drank it with so far).  Whilst looking through the wine list, I was quite astonished at the incredibly reasonable prices, considering one is in a Parisian 3*.

With the Champagne came a few nibbles. There was a feuillete filled with spinach and truffles, a tomato/truffle sandwich and a little toast with some lardo di Colonnata. They were all delightful. The puff pastry was heavenly, crunchy, airy, light, a pure delight, and the spinach/truffle combination complemented it only too well. The tomato/truffle mix was incredibly good too. A combination I would not have served, this worked, and was a perfect partner for the very enjoyable Roederer. Finally, a crunchy piece of bread and some very, very good lardo aren’t something I will turn down neither. Excellent.

Amuse-I

Amuse-II

I was, more or less, on the menu collection, with a few changes from Christophe Moret, to which I will come shortly. Bread and butter were as good as always, which means excellent, and were refilled directly when needed.

The mise en bouche was a rather substantial adaptation of an Alain Chapel recipe: Langoustines de casier a la nage de Chardonnay. Three medium-sized langoustines came with a few vegetables and a Chardonnay nage. A deceptively simple dish, which looked very old fashioned, this was a truly stunning intro. Let’s start with the quality of the langoustines. These were amazing in every sense of the word. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, they had great flavour and a stunning texture. They matched those, one gets at the Square, which remain the best I’ve eaten so far. The nage was highly interesting, as it had a clear taste of Chardonnay, which was much more present than I would have imagined, but which which went very well with the other elements. An excellent start, I was looking forward to the rest…

Amuse-III

Two very big scallops came in their shells, atop a crème de laitue, and were topped with Beluga caviar. Can it get much more decadent? Certainly, but certainly not much better. The beasts were again of terrific quality (which will be the case during the whole meal), and cooked as well as I have not seen it anywhere else. The caviar here nearly played a supporting role only, as it gave the scallops a very particular, highly enjoyable seasoning. This was very fine caviar, which is always the case here, as far as I can remember. Summing up, this was a stunning, divine dish.

St Jacques

Next up was another decadent, and simple dish: Homard Breton, gnocchi Parmentier truffees. Simple then, a lobster, some gnocchi, and a bit of black truffle, for good measure… The lobster was as perfect as it gets, and worth a trip for only that, but what really struck me here was the incredible fluffiness of the gnocchi. These were so airy, and nearly creamy, that I couldn’t see how one could shape them so precisely. Wow. The truffles cut through the lobster’s very robust taste, where some of the best I’ve come across and simply brilliant too! I didn’t expect, anything of such stunning quality, but was stunned again! A DIVINE dish.

Homard

Volaille de Bresse, sauce Albufera, primeurs de Didier Pil, Tartufi di Alba. The name alone is a legend. A dish created by Alain Chapel, if I’m not mistaken, which Ducasse modernized a little, this must be one of the finest dishes in world. A Bresse chicken’s breast is poached (on the bateau) in a rich chicken stock, then glased in the sauce Albufera, and served with the garnish of a poule au pot and, of course, white truffles. I have already thad this once before, in the kitchen of this same restaurant, but this time, it was even better. The chicken was juicy, tender, incredibly tasty, and just unbelievable with that sauce. It hardly gets any better than this I can assure you, only if one takes a few slivers of truffle on the same fork. The vegetables with that sauce would make a dish on their own, as the sauce is divine. Made with chicken stock, Madeira, Porto, foie gras and cream, it’s rich, decadent, luscious and purely delicious. A legendary dish, that everyone who is seriously interested in food should have tried. At least once. DIVINE.

Poularde

Poularde

After this incredible meal, it was time for cheese. Today the cheese board was in incredible condition, and the comte was stunning, with this incredible texture it has, when it is more than 4 years old, and has been looked after very well. I haven’t had better comte at this restaurant before, and I can’t even say I’ ve had better comte at the Greenhouse before. Otherwise, I was served a little truffled salad, and the fantastic olive bread, which I adore. Excellent, with the Greenhouse the best cheeseboard I know.

salade avec le fromage

Fines feuilles de Chocolat et café crousti/fondants. A long rectangular bar of chocolate in various textures, and temperatures is served with a martini glass filled with coffee granitee, chocolate sorbet and a milk foam, to resemble a cappuccino. This dessert was the fifth I have eaten here, and showed once more, how good the patisserie here is. A dessert can not be better in terms of balance, as the coffee was just strong enough to give the chocolate a slightly stronger outline, but didn’t overdo it. Stunning.

Dessert-I

Dessert II

Petit-fours here always come in great variety and quantity, and are on the same incredibly high level as the desserts. Hence, they are among the finest in the world, and outright fantastic. Today, there were the classic chocolate and coffee macarons, the bugnes, and sugar tartlets. All of them were excellent, period.

La fin, ou presque

Wow. I have eaten here four times now, and every single one of them has been mind-blowing. Products always get completely re-defined here, as I have written in an earlier post, and I must stick to that. Moret sources the absolutely finest, France has to offer (or Iran in the case of the caviar), and serves it in a way, that lets the product shine. The four hours I spent here were brilliant, and the service was as relaxed as it could be in a Parisian 3*, with a friend joining me for dessert on very short notice. I have eaten very well these holidays, and this was the best meal of all of them, without doubt. A truly memorable experience, one that I hope to repeat sooner than later!

La Bigarrade, Paris

février 3, 2010

La Bigarrade is conceptually somewhere between L’Astrance, the “bistronomique” movement and Pierre Gagnaire. There is only one menu here every day, priced at a very friendly €65, hence the resemblance to Barbot’s concept. One doesn’t know what is served until one gets it, which is also similar to what happens at L’Astrance, but what really is different here, is the daily menu change. Whilst a Barbot menu will pretty much always include at least the foie gras/mushroom dish, and a shot as amuse, will follow a certain form, a meal here is never like another. The “bistronomiques” come to mind, as this is a very simple setting, in a not so posh area, with only 18 covers at most. Hence, one should book well in advance, as tables go as quickly as they are freed. Finally, Gagnaire’s influence is most prominent on the plate. Christophe Pele worked with the master, and likes to serve a number of little impressions, working with textures, contrasting flavours, temperatures and colours to make the dining experience a very entertaining and engaging one.

Wine-wise, we tried a very good white Loire wine as an apero, and then drank a fantastic 1997, Andre Beaufort Brut Polisy, which evolved and changed its character throughout the whole meal (for the better that is). Later on, we had a lovely St Joseph, whose producer and vintage I didn’t write down. To finish the evening, we were offered a few glasses of a stunning Greek ice wine. The wine list is not overpriced and features only natural wines, all very well selected as it seems.

Beaufort

To start the meal, and this seems to be the only common thing with all diners, one gets a focaccia with olive oil. This is pleasant, but not really that special. Good.

Amuse

Next up were deep-fried moscardini, or little poulpes, with some grilled lemon. This was already a very enjoyable start. The meat’s texture was firm, and juicy, whilst the coating was deliciously crunchy. Such food just is great to eat, and is very good.

Poulpe

Next up was a little glass filled with herring roe, a granite made out of roquet and a clam. This was very bizarre, as the roquet’s bitterness overpowered the rest by far. Not good.

granite

The following course was excellent though. An oyster was served with dashi jelly, black truffle and a little apple. A stunningly well-balanced, incredibly light dish, that simply worked. Apart from the great products, the interaction between the elements here was remarkable. The bonito’s nearly smoky flavour was given a slightly sweet/sour element by the crunchy apple, and the oyster provided a iodine kick, that made the whole thing come together. The truffle was beautiful, but didn’t cut through these delicate, yet powerful flavours. This was a beautiful marriage with the Champagne, which proved a very good partner throughout the whole meal. Excellent.

Huitre

The next course came, and was another very good one: raw scallops, apple and celery. A simple combination that nearly always works. It was another very light, fresh dish, that just was very enjoyable to eat, as the seasoning was spot on, and the products of very fine quality. Such food: natural, direct, clean, spontaneous is simply great.

St Jacques

The next dish saw the largest langoustine I’ve ever eaten. This monster was perfectly cooked and had a beautiful texture. Not quite as good as those at the Square, ADPA or Hof van Cleve, but certainly much better than one would hope for in a 1* place. The accompanying elements (shallot compote, a little crustacean oil, spinach) worked beautiful, even if they were used like little touches, to add colour here or there. Excellent.

LANGOUSTINE

Moving on, next up was a rouget barbet served wit a shallot condiment and daikon radish. What was intriguing in this, and the subsequent fish courses, was the cooking of the protein. The fish was just seared on both sides, leaving it bleu, something I would never have imagined in France. However, to my great astonishment, it worked. With such good quality, the incredibly short contact with high-heat, and a long resting time resulted in a very pleasing unusual texture of the fish’s meat. Together with the vegetables, this was another great dish.

Rouget

After this came a piece of lotte, which was cooked in a similar way. This type of fish would have been even less suited for such rare cooking I thought, but when I tried it, it worked again. Terrific, the first time I enjoyed a lotte, which tends to be very unpleasant in terms of texture. The burnt garlic condiment was a little reminiscent of Inaki Aizpitarte’s burnt aubergine cream, but went well with the fish and the radicchio, clam salad. Excellent.

Lotte

We now moved on to the St. Joseph and a piece of lamb rack from the Lozere region, served with bottarga, Brussels sprouts and a little jus. Boy, this was another great plate! The lamb worked fantastically with the dried fish roe, which gave the meat a much more complex, rich flavour. Whilst the sprout leaves were more for colour, the little lemon condiment on the side lived things up. A great dish!

Agneau

A little cheese is a must, and was of good quality.

Fromage

The desserts were a little more shaky than the excellent savoury courses. The first set was bizarre. On the far left, one had a sweet broth with flowers, which tasted nearly “empty”, or thin or of not much. There was no distinguishable flavour, nor enough sweetness. In the middle, the little glass was filled with a mango sorbet, truffle and beet puree. The truffle was a preserved one, and thus tasted of absolutely nothing, only adding texture (not a very nice one though) to the cup. Otherwise, this was the best of the bunch, as the passionf-ruit/yoghurt cup was inedible, too sour. Not good.

Legende

However, the next little thing was outright delicious. A dacquoise sandwich housed a little praline, and a vanilla cream. Eaten like a normal sandwich, this was fun, delicious, and comfortable. Very good.

Dacquoise

The next dessert, a Calvados sabayon, served with caramelised apple, was great. The sabayon was fantastic, and had just enough Calvados to be noticed, without becoming penetrant. The apple was just decadent in combination with the sabayon. Excellent.

Sabayon

The last bunch of desserts was a little bizarre again. The little chocolate cake in the front was pretty good, whilst the chocolate sauce with litchi was of a very unpleasant flavour. This was no better than the first dessert.

Choco

The food here tonight was fantastic. Apart from the little appetiser, and the 2 desserts, everything was excellent. Products were of great quality, cooking was highly interesting, unusual, clean, fresh, light, and a pure delight. This spontaneous, sketchy cooking is not only engaging, but also enjoyable for the diner, who gets confronted with combinations that might be questionable, but are at least interesting. I had a hugely enjoyable evening here, and will be very happy to return on a future trip, as this really is a gem in Paris, and Europe. A fantastic experience, which is unbelievably cheap too.