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  1. As a Frenchman coming back from a trip to NYC, I must say I was also very surprised that an order of medium rare (what I had read on this board was the best call in most burger places and steakhouses) systematically came back as what would be a bit more cooked that "à point" in France. At Island Burger and Shakes the waitress told me "You want rare? OK. But be aware that here we cook real rare, like red bloody rare!". Did I look like someone you cannot handle my rare? Anyway, I was happy and surprised about their policy, said fine and was served an all right "à point", clearly nowhere near what I expect to be a rare. After some time, I managed to switch and always ordered "very rare" or something like that, which more or less always got me what I wanted. As an interesting exception, I ordered rare at Peter Luger, without any other specification and was served a perfect French rare. Was it beacause we had talked with the waiter a bit beforehand so that he could guess we wanted it this way? I forgot to ask him. Your best bet in France to achieve the state of cooking you desire is to say bien cuit I think, especially if dealing with a rather thick cut of meat, otherwise go for à point.
  2. Just tried the Bulgarian yoghurt today at Dammann's (two Ms, two Ns), as well as their honey ice cream. Their taste was reminiscent of Lebanese pastries. Both were very tasty and a great improvement over the tea ice cream I had tasted there a few months ago. I've read in an article that if you order in advance, they can prepare salty ice creams (basil, tomato, etc.) as well as a special champagne ice cream in half litter containers... As far as I'm concerned, it's Berthillon for fruit based sorbets and Dammann's for ice creams. Only a short walk from one to the other any way!
  3. That sounds like a great meal. I'm a bit confused because the starters seem to be from the lunch menu, but the dish is part of one from the carte. Also, you did not have dessert, which is included at lunch. Did you have the luch menu or à la carte?
  4. Wow. Fascinating post, I'm really happy we could compare these two experiences. A couple of ideas that spring to mind: - the amuses were not at all bland or uninteresting, I actually believe they would be a rather nice pairing with champagne but clearly clashed with my salty sherry. Does any one know of restaurants other than Lucas Carton where the choice of aperitif determines the amuses, or at least is taken into account? It seems pretty important to me to do so, not to the point of always having a separate menu for aperitifs as at LC, but to some extent. - another interest of the menu, to those who care about pairing, is that it seems to make it possible to pair the food with wine, as all the fish dishes come first. It worked nicely for me. I believe the horizontal approach of à la carte makes this very difficult, as a given wine will clash with about half of any of the many preparations. But that is a very side-aspect of the matter (though important to me) and I do agree that for those who have seen they enjoy Gagnaire's cuisine a lot, then "à la carte" is the way to dig further into his cuisine. - notice that Gagnaire's website description of the menu is a bit different, especially as regards the wagyu dish which is described as being filet and as being served with a "jus Hervé This". I would have liked to try that.
  5. That is very true I believe. The tasting menu might not give 5 different ways of seeing an ingredient, but it gives one creative view of many different ingredients. It's as if you took one of the five small plates that are part of a "à la carte" dish and served it on its own. You do not get the full deconstruction-reconstruction of the ingredient but as the meal develops you do get a pretty fair idea of what his cusisine is about and of the way he can treat differents products. As such, I do not believe there is a big difference of nature between the menu and "à la carte" (and the vertical and horizontal ideas suggest this too). What I would suggest is that a tasting menu is a nice way to see whether one enjoys Gagnaire's cuisine in its principle, which you very well established above, whereas "à la carte" is a good way for a convinced "adept" to dig further into his style. I know I tend to like cuisine that is more focused around the idea of bringing out the best in a main ingredient, often by linking it harmonously with an other one acting as a supporting character (Briffard does that so well at Les Elysées). As such, Gagnaire may not be perfect for me, but I might go there again once in a while to enjoy the creativity and the occasional combination that matches my subjective preferences.
  6. After Lucas Carton a few months ago, here is the follow-up to my exploration of Parisian three-stars. These are my impressions on the different dishes served as part of the March menu in Pierre Gagnaire's restaurant. The meal started with a few amuses, half of them being of the sweet and salty biscuit type, one being small rolls of seaweed (I believe, nori perhaps) filled with salted fish and the last one a combination of mango ice cream and green pepper presented as a small cube to be picked up with a stick. Nothing spectacular here, the simpler biscuits were the best, some of the amuses were purely sweet, which I found not too fitting (especially with the rather salty sherry I had ordered as an aperitif). The first dish was one of my favourites in the whole meal. It consisted of a play on the texture, or rather the “mouthfeel” of three ingredients: raw langoustine (or perhaps grilled for a half second)chopped as for a tartare and displayed on rolls of veau de lait, the whole thing resting on sliced and puréed avocado. All these ingredients create a common sensation when in one’s mouth (a bit like raw cuttle fish). Assembling them emphasized this common point despite their very different natures and that was a nice touch. A few dashes of “pâte de piment nora” (red pepper paste) on the side contrasted nicely with the predominantly green aspect of the plate through their bright red glossy colour and with the smoothness of the ingredients with its sharp flavour. Some green apple juice in the avocado puree also helped balance the dish in acidity. There was also a sweetish “tuile” that added a nice element of crunchiness to the whole: a really well-balanced, elegant, thought-provoking, tasty dish. Second dish was very reminiscent of Japan’s ochazuke but in a much more sophisticated manner. A circle that was about 5 centimetres thick and consisted of a layer of crab flesh, a layer of some kind of flan and a layer of raw scallops, cut in length, was in the centre of a shallow plate. A small slice of ewe’s milk and honey ice-cream was taken from a covered silver dish and placed on top of the whole thing. A hot infusion of combawa and lemongrass was then poured around it until it became a very intriguing little island. The dish was overly complicated and did not render its ingredients more interesting or savoury. Actually, seeing the very uncompromising quality of the crab and scallops, I would have enjoyed the more on their own, without the infusion + ice cream+ flan combination getting in the way. The hot/cold contrast, though not uninteresting per se, did not bring much here, and the dish lacked something crunchy. I blame it all on the flan actually. A “tuile” would have been much better separation between the crab and the scallops. The third dish was the worst one of the meal. I call it a dish but it was really nothing else than nice ingredients juxtaposed on a plate. Here you had a beautiful slice of socca, a truly wonderful slice of merlu (a white fish) a couple of murex (these dreadful crustaceans that pierce holes into other crustacean’s shells and then do horrible things to them that include projecting their stomach into the other crustacean’s shell and eating out), a weird little deep purple jelly resting on thinly chopped cucumber, some pumpkin thick sauce in the middle. I often find that creative chefs have a tendency to fall into juxtaposition. They cook nice ingredients in tiny little different preparations and then just put them side by side on a plate and call it a dish. That’s not a dish, that’s tapas. At this point I was getting a bit disappointed and wondered how many misses were needed for the kitchen to serve one hit. Then came a more traditional dish, a soup of urchins and Cevennes onions, with turnips, fennel and grapefruit. It was a surprisingly calm and straightforward dish after the others and I found that very pleasant. The urchin’s taste came through clearly but did not obliterate all the other tastes as I had expected. The onions seemed to be taming it down a bit, and the other ingredients all had the same effect of soothing the fiery urchins, while preserving their essential taste. It was an interesting dish, a concerto with all ingredients against one working together to produce a very harmonious result. The next dish was my other favourite of the meal. A chesnut paste rested at the bottom of a wide shallow plate, covered with a very dark jelly of chicken broth and sake. On this were scattered a few tips of green asparagus (why don’t you go asparagi?) in sharp contrast of vivid green and deep black. A whole lacquered foie gras was then presented to me and a slice was cut and gently placed on the jelly alongside two stripes of duck meet apparently whipped with some Indian spice (but this was not very evident in taste as the lacquered foie gras was so strong). It was such a strange dish and I was instantly prejudiced against it when I saw it but it worked. The lacquered foie gras in itself is a fascinating idea and one that is interesting inasmuch as it treats a finished product as a raw one, and makes it undergo another transformation. In this case, the second step is also a pun because the foie alone is treated as the whole duck usually is. The deep red lacquer on top of the slice matched beautifully the glistening black jelly, the slightly bitter edge of the sake balanced the sweetness of the foie, the smooth chestnut paste brought the whole thing on the very edge, just before the fresh and crisp asparagi brought the palate back to sanity. Quite an experience. Next dish was a thin, round, crispy, sweet and sour biscuit resting on soy beans and endive and covered with broken black olives and cuttlefish’ flesh. On top of this rested a delicious filet of red snapper. A dash of green pepper’s juice I could not see the point of this dish, yet another superposition. The waiter who talked to me about the meal at the end seemed to want my opinion on this one and quite frankly I had none. Last dish was wagyu beef in thin stripes so tender they were eaten with a spoon, lying on a bed of winter vegetables. Diced pear in a heavy, bright purple, wine-based sauce were added on top and a little bowl of clear juice with herbs and Sarawak pepper was on the side, to be drunk while eating the dish. I was quite excited about tasting wagyu beef and this was a big disappointment. The dish had nothing special to it other than the meat, and it did not taste anything special. I enquired to know if it were not overcooked since I know in Japan wagyu can be served in thin stripes like these but is only swiftly dipped in the shabu shabu broth. The waiter was very nice and explained that it was the whole point, that they cook this meat for 72 hours before serving it, which accounts for its tenderness. This does not seem too convincing to me: if you have exceptional beef, why cook it for so long? After 72 hours in a hotpot, wouldn’t every beef be on the verge of disintegration? All these questions would have vanished instantly had it tasted great but it just did not. Three prepared wheezes came next. They were mostly good but the point of this was lost one me. Good cheese is great on its own, no need to put little almond paste drops around it or to serve it on a glass of watercress and beer foam. The “grand dessert” is a selection of five desserts, served in five different plates. They ranged from good to very good and included an orange “feuilleté” with a little bowl of clementine juice, baked apple with pistachios, a chocolate cake, a bitter jelly with “agrumes confits” and some kind of tasty millefeuille of which I could not tell what ingredients were inside. Mme Gagnaire was there, very smiley, discrete and welcoming, and I had the chance to talk with the chef for a few minutes as he came to chat a bit while I was waiting for my coat. As often, the staff and the chef were pleasantly surprised to see a young Frenchman in their room and were eager to discuss my impressions. He was very nice, rather shy. I had a very well priced half bottle of Chablis 1er cru 1998 (30 euros) and an overpriced, underpoured glass of Fitou, domaine Maria Fita (12.50 euros). This is a fairly good reflection of my general impression of the place: ups and downs. I do not regret having gone there one second, but do not feel the need to go again for quite some time.
  7. From what I have heard, Michel Bruneau, former Michelin two stars in Caen with La Bourride, has been in charge of La Mère Poulard since November 2003, so the cuisine might be interesting to taste again.
  8. This Michelin inspector was interviewed at length in Le Figaro Magazine last week-end. What he had to say was not very different from what has been said here, but there was an interesting name and shame bit in which the magazine listed all two stars deserving three and vice versa (after asking their opinion to about ten other specialists working in French press). According to their survey: Two stars deserving three: - General agreement: on Roellinger, Fréchon, Dutournier, Anton - Were also quoted: Etchebest, Marcon, Llorca, Raimbault, Thorel, Chibois, Oustau de Baumanière, Lasserre, Duchesse Anne Three stars deserving two: - Wide agreement on Jardin des Sens - Agreement on Taillevent, Les Crayères, Ledoyen Haeberlin, Guy Martin, Lemeloise, Bocuse, Blanc, Lorain, Meneau, Loiseau, Trama - Quoted once or twice: Legendre, Veyrat, Troisgros, Pacaud, Guérard, Westermann Obviously, for those only quoted once, or even twice, the listing is not very telling, but for the others I find it interesting. Surprisingly enough, a few pages before one can read "One has never eaten better at Les Crayères" and about the same comment for Guy Martin. I was also suprised to find them on the list.
  9. A bit of a language issue here, my first mention of service in "Service was pleasant enough" referred to what is called service in French but what I should have referred to as porcelain ware. Bux, I agree with you to some extent, but the food there was far from "really good". I mention the lunch menu for being a very good deal mainly because it lets you see how nice the place looks without having to spend much for Café Marly-quality food. As for the rude comment, all I have to say is that a restaurant is a place where you have an experience, and in Lapérouse this experience is one of participating in French tradition of gastronomy. To me decor and service are less important than the food but are expected to be perfect so that you enjoy the food. If you have to think about the way the food is served, then you cannot properly focus on the food. It's "service" to you as much as it is to the food. There are plenty of places in Paris where one can have "nice enough" (and "nice enough" might be enough for some but is not satisfactory for me) food in gorgeous decor. I like places where people care about what they serve and whether it is enjoyed, not places where people feel good about themselves just for being there. But then again, some do like to be snobbed and consider it part of a fine dining experience.
  10. Lunch at Lapérouse a few days ago. Starter was a consommé of wild mushrooms with scallops, main was a hachis parmentier of boar in a foie gras based sauce and desert a soufflé with chocolate and raspberry sauce. The meal was nice enough. The place is gorgeous, overlooking the Seine and with an inside décor to match the location. Two-star material here. As for the food, the 30 euros lunch menu with no choice as to dishes is a very good deal. The amuses are ok and the service pleasant enough It is a great way to see Lapérouse and decide whether you want to go there again. For me the decision is clear: I would not go there again, not even for lunch. This has nothing to do with the food (not sensational but nothing to run away from: very fresh, plump scallops, nice bread, interesting signature soufflé). It has everything to do with service, which I found very unsatisfying: they did everything you would at least expect them to do but nothing nothing more. No extra smile, no asking whether you enjoyed the dish, whether you want to know the name of the wine they gave you by the glass (and did not even pour at the table). In a nutshell, everyone seemed to be so proud and satisfied with working there that the clients seemed a bit redundant. The only one who smiled was the chef, as I briefly saw him downstairs when leaving. I wish he were better supported.
  11. Would that be "Pain d'épis", avenue Bosquet? If not, do you know this place? It is closer than Poujauran for me and I find it very satisafying overall.
  12. Near the rue Montorgueil is a small passage called “Passage du Grand Cerf”. I would highly advise to anyone who is in that neighbourhood to check it out: it is very nice in itself but made all the more interesting by many young designers’ shops. Also, and until the 15th of January, there is, at the very end of the passage on the left if you are coming from the Montorgueil area, an exhibition by a place called Haute Definition (www.haute-definition.com). The exhibition is about plates, and to some extent porcelain ware in general. There are a few plates created by many designers, and for each designer there is a cardbooard on which the chef who uses these plates writes about his relationship to the plates, the importance of presentation in his cuisine, etc. Featured chefs are Gagnaire, Adria, Bras, Barbot and many more. You can see the exhibition from the passage, regardless of whether the hosting shop is actually open or not. It is in French, so I do not know how much interest it would bear for a some one who cannot speak French, but I found it fascinating.
  13. It's a complete typo, my mind is going all gagnairish on me and probably thought that "LANDES foie gras" was a bit too classical...
  14. In French, "rose rompadour" is the name of a colour. A colour between pink and purple that takes its name from Madame de Pompadour, as it seems she was the one who popularized it. It is also the name of a flower, a rose of that colour. I checked the French version of the menu however, and it seems that "Rose Pompadour" was a rather approximative translation of "rosace de pompadour". Therefore, it would mean flakes (or thin slices) of a breed of patatoes called "pompadour" and put on the plate in a manner reminding one of a flower's petals. An elaborate play on words in a way, since it brings you back to the idea of the flower. A take on the classic caviar/potatoe starter. Pictures of the said potatoe for the really keen ones amongst you!
  15. Of some interest in this topic might be the description of the Ritz Paris’ menu at the Espadon for next December 30th: - Beluga caviar served nestled in ice, Rose Pompadour and Granny smith Apples (Dom Pérignon 1995) - Blue lobster medallions in light ambered jelly and browned Romanesco sauce - Sea urchin soufflé with scallops presented in their shells and tender spinach leaves (Batard- Montrachet Blain-Gagnard 1999) - Sea bass supreme with shavings of Alba truffles - Fine Chanterelle ravioli with Parmesan Reggiano - Whole black truffle with Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac on pastry surprise (Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1985) - Lamb filet with disc of spiced lamb foie gras, traditional simmered root vegetables - Truffled Meaux brie and Fourme d’Ambert au Coteaux du Layon, lamb’s lettuce dressed with Argan oil (Château d’Yquem 1985) - Vanilla perfumed cristalline, Woodland strawberry rosé Champagne froth (Ritz Champagne vintage magnum) - Fine golden chesnuts, chocolate cream and crisp Piémont hazelnut praline (old port 1893 vintage) - Coffee and Mignardises (Ritz special 1830 fine champagne) All for 1950 euros (but did you really want to know?) There is aso a raffle giving you a chance to win a Cartier jewel which would probably pay for your dinner and next year's too. A bit of a long shot though...
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