Posts Tagged ‘Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee’

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!

Publicités

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee – III, Paris

juillet 12, 2009

 

La salle I

La salle I

Those of you who read this blog regularly will have spotted that this restaurant is a favourite of mine. The reasons for this are numerous, and will hopefully be elucidated by this article.

 

La salle II

La salle II

The name bears that of Alain Ducasse, but those who are present, who put their everyday labour and soul into it are others.  Christophe Moret, the chef, is one of the technically most brilliant and impressive chefs of our day and does deserve to get more attention. When one talks to him, one clearly sees that there is real passion behind what he is doing. Denis Courtiade, who is as good a Maitre d’Hotel as I have known in this world, leads the service effectively and charmingly. He is present, attentive to the guests’ wishes and does all he can, in order to maximise the guests’ pleasure.

 To make sure that the latter will be assured, the restaurant employs more staff than it can seat customers, which (partially) explains the Parisian prices (Menu prices are at 260euro and 360euro, starters and mains are around 90, desserts 32euro). Also, the room is, as I have mentioned in the other reviews already, a most charming one. It strikes a perfect balance between the classical Parisian, grand opulent décor and the modern touches, which Patrick Jouin introduced here and there. In Paris, this is certainly my favourite dining room.

The table is well dressed, in the finest linen, cutlery, crockery and China. The effort they put into dressing the table is made clear by the absence of a pleat in the table cloth. Look at other restaurant’s tables and you’ll be surprised at how many do not care about such details. 

La table

La table

 Butter comes from Bordier and bread (4 types) is home made. The bread was better today than on previous occasions. This time it not only had perfect mie but also a fantastic crust, which I am a big fan of. 

 

Les beurres

Les beurres

After the bread’s appearance, I was offered spinach feuilletes. These accompanied my glass of Louis Roederer Brut Premier in a most delightful way.  The pastry was just better than any puff pastry I had encountered up to now. The spinach inside was creamy and well seasoned, giving it a lovely richness. Very good.

 

Les feuilletes

Les feuilletes

Also served were little toasts topped with shaved Lardo di Colonnata. This Italian lard is some of the finest one can find. It is rubbed with herbs, salt and pepper and then left to cure in caves for various lengths of time. The thin strips I was served here were of very fine quality (obviously!) and melted in your mouth, which is one of the great things about lardo. Very good.

 

Lardo

Lardo

The first real amuse bouche was (as I had already eaten the langoustine with caviar on a previous visit): Grenouille; cuisses en beignet, crème d’oseille. Boy, this was good. Delicious, tender, boned frog legs were housed in a perfectly crispy coating of the beignet. To go with it, a little bit of sorrel and nettle cream was served. I have never been a fan of frog’s legs, but these might have changed my mind. One could hardly start a meal in a better way. Truly fantastic.   

 

Les grenouilles

Les grenouilles

The meal itself started with a Ducasse classic: Pates mi-sechees crèmees,  cretes et rognons de coq. This description doesn’t list all of the present ingredients, as there was a bit of homard bleu, sweetbread and black truffle. The whole dish is based around the pasta, cooked al dente, and generously sauced with a rich cream. Around it are placed masterfully cooked pieces of lobster, crispy sweetbread cylinders and pieces of the coq, whose names I do not know in English. The whole is then sprinkled with a fantastic veal jus. When eating this, one can easily see, why this dish has stood the test of time: Every combination works, gives you different textures, tastes and sensations. The dish, although composed of a large number of elements is in perfect harmony. Not to forget the idea of marrying offal (cretes, rognons de coq, the sweetbread) with the most luxurious of ingredients (lobster and black truffle). This was truly stunning.

 

Coq

Coq

The next course was just as interesting: Bar de ligne, oronges, amandes fraiches. Now, this one didn’t feature on the normal carte and I guess the reason for that is the amanite des cesars (also known as oronge). This mushroom is extremely rare, has a short season and is not known to many. I was fortunate enough, to have been served this fantastic product here, in a dish, no less impressive than the previous ones. The sea bass was unlike any I have had before, cut from a very large fish, it was cooked to perfection, juicy and tasty. Easily the best I have ever encountered. The accompanying fresh almonds and vegetables were sauced with a vinaigrette, to which a rouille had been added. This was another example of how perfect, an apparently simple dish can be. Excellent.

 

Bar

Bar

The main course, a Tendron de veau glace a la Florentine, cepes de Correze was a substantial, but enormously gratifying course to eat in a 3*. Such pieces of meat are (unfortunately) rarely used in restaurants like this. This made it all the more interesting to see what they would do with it here. The result was perfect: Cooked sous-vide, the meat was meltingly tender, whilst (this is only possible by cooking at lower temperatures) it retained a bright pink colour. The glacage with the veal jus made the flavours explode and gave the crust a slightly crispy side. The creamed spinach (classical Florentine garnish) served as a very noble support for the magnificent cepes from the Correze. These mushrooms are amongst my favourite products, and to find them here in such perfect condition was a huge pleasure. The whole dish was just an utmost perfect show of how grand one can make such a simple cut of meat. Outstanding.

 

Veau

Veau

Cheese was next. They use four different affineurs here, among them of course the ever present Bernard Antony, who amongst other things supplies his 4 year old comte. All of the cheeses I had (8) were in outstanding condition. A nice touch was the (underseasoned) salad, that came with it and the very good types of bread. Amongst the three new types, they brought out, one in particular is noteworthy: An olive bread (in the far left on the picture) is about as good as one can make bread. This bread alone would justify ordering the cheese course.

 

Fromages

Fromages

Desserts at Ducasse restaurants are always better than most others one finds, pretty much anywhere in the world. This is even the case in the less grand restaurants like the trendy Spoon or the rustic Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle. Obviously, the desserts in his two flagships are even better, which I was about to experience yet again. Today I chose the Cerises Burlat en declinaison, crème glacee a la pistache. Deceptively simple by appearance, one had to taste it to believe how good it was. The tarte, with a crust as fragile, crunchy and buttery as it could possible be, hid a pistachio cream and the glazed cherries which crowned the whole thing. The accompanying ice cream re-defined what a pistachio ice cream should taste like and what texture it should have. Finally, the confit cherries were great, when combined with ice cream (as they were slightly warm). I just can’t think of a way to make a better dessert than this. It was utmost perfection.

 

Cerises

Cerises

In a place like, one doesn’t leave the diner with nothing to go with tea or coffee. Rather, one is treated with more delicacies. Today, a plate with a Tropezienne made its appearance. This tarte, created in St Tropez in 1955, by a Polish emigre is made of a brioche that is cut in half and then filled with a crème mousseline (half whipped cream, half crème patissiere). Here, they introduced a bitter lemon jam, which gave it a lovely acidity and a slightly bitter note. Otherwhise, it was as outstanding as the preceding elements.

 

Tropezienne

Tropezienne

Also served were a Lyonnais treat, called bugnes, some light fritters, which one dips in apricot marmalade. These are so well made, that no greasy taste, nor grease appears on their surface.

Bugnes

Bugnes

Finally, one gets a selection of some fantastic macarons. They are much simpler than Herme’s, but equally well made. The few, I got today were coffee and chocolate. Perfect.

macarons

macarons

Throughout the meal, a few things struck me. First, there was the service. It was attentive, friendly and charming. Not a single thing went wrong, rather all of them knew very well what they were talking about, were interested in cooking and seemed at ease with what they were doing. They managed to make one feel at ease too, and to make it as uncomplicated as possible. The contrast between the brigade here, and that of the next restaurant I was to visit a day later was frightening.

Also, the wines I was suggested by the sommelier went beautifully with the food. Often, I find, that the wines offered by the glass are less interesting than those one has on the rest of the list. Here that wasn’t the case at all. 

Finally, the clientele itself was interesting. Most of the diners were French, with only a German diner and me being the exception. I can’t remember any restaurant in Paris (2* or 3* that is), in which the quasi-totality of the guests was French. At dinner, I was told, the picture would look a little different though.

It is often said that Ducasse’s restaurants appear to be perfectionist factories, or soul-less. I for once, can’t see this for a few reasons. The chef, be it Moret here or Cerutti and Bardet at Monte Carlo, has a lot of freedom in the composition of the menu. There will always be a few signatures (turbot, spider crab, strawberries) on it, but in the end, a large proportion of the dishes I had this time were creations that aren’t on there constantly. Also, Moret has an interesting style, which certainly isn’t anywhere near the avant garde, but which I would describe as contemporary classical cooking. He uses classical or restrained Asian elements and perfects the respectives techniques by using what modern cooking allows (e.g. vacuum cooking for long braised meats). Second, even if they are pretty close to perfection, I can’t say that there seems to be cold, soul less atmosphere here. The service and kitchen staff work as hard, if not harder, as other 3* staff.  The service was much more personal, than one would imagine from such institutions. Finally, the most important element of any meal is the pleasure one takes out of it. Here, it is unequalled. I left the place as happy as I could ever be.

 

La salle III

La salle III