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Everything posted by vmilor

  1. There is an optimum point ending discussions and I think we are there. I have no qualms about it as I said and wrote all I can about L'Atelier. It is not a place I will return again unless they change and a palate I trust reports otherwise. Three things: 1. I disagree about "apples and oranges" can not be compared type reasoning in our context. All restaurant can be ranked. Interested readers can look at our criteria in gastroville. We are not claiming that they are the best criteria one can come up with but until somebody can actually come up with more comprehensive and rigoruous criteria, these will be my(and degusto's)governing criteria. 2. lxt has a very interesting, intelligently written and insightful post. I am hoping to offer my tuppence worth of comments(perhaps starting on another topic)when I have time. 3. I am reading John Talbott signed posts with great interest and admiration(for the objective facts they offer)and will try Pinxo. I used to like Dutournier when he was at Trou Gascon. I would like to know about special recommendations at Pinxo.
  2. if you add labor and staff time then L'Atelier is not exculpated but on the contrary. As I tried to explain in my gastroville review, l'Atelier is basically an assembly line operation with minimum staff and pre-prepared run of the mill ingredients. Your arguments cut against l'Atelier and not in favor of it. Also please take it into account that prices has risen considerably since you have eaten there. But I understand your emotional loyalty and this I see it as a positive thing. I also believe you that it might be better than Pinxo as Dutournier has not been interested in cooking for a long time so he is not likely to supervise this place.
  3. I also recommend Elkano in Getaria. Very very good. But the top list is a bit meaningless given the amazing quality of seafood in Spain. It is plentiful and the quality difference between, say Combarro or O'Pazo and a fine marisco in Madrid, such as say El Barril, is not as pronounced as one would expect. This is very different than, say in Paris(or New York) where the best are head and shoulders above the others.
  4. Thanks for the excellent report mdibiaso. Reading such well written reports are second best to having the meals yourself with good friends. You should go more often to Paris!
  5. seanw, I am sorry I had not realized there were questions directed at me. Cleary you are very knowledgeable about cooking techniques and perhaps a professional--I am just an enthusiastic gourmet. You are absolutely correct about the way seabass was cooked. I scribbled to my notes in Turkish that it was basicallya "bugulama". But then "a la vapeur" is not the right translation for it and when I read your description I intuitively concluded that this is it--a more accurate version of "bugulama"which is very traditional in Turkey esp. for rock fish and deep sea fish. So my best guess at this point butressed in a personal conversation with degusto who is a serious cook is that the problem was due to freshness but not to cooking technique. The sauce had a good amount of olive oil which did not bother me as I love good olive oil but it is possible that they wanted to add moisture to the dry fish. Obviously I am not naive enough to believe that you will accept my word for freshness or the absence thereof as the final word on the topic esp. if you had a different experience. In my defence I can only say that I eat fish quite often and esp. sea bass(bar) is a favorite of mine and I grew up eating lots of sea bass just caught--of course you can not eat them during rigor mortis but I had them within 24 hours to 72 hours of their catch too many times(and will continue to have this summer when I go to Turkey). Of course one can still err, yet the problem with both turbot and seabass gave me pause. I did ask lots of questions about the lamb and probably I should have ordered the Aubrac lamb but I was very disappointed that they did not have Pre-sale because it is right there. I was burning at the time (and still I am burning)with the desire to have pre-sale as degusto kept sending me the pictures of what he was cooking at home(buying them from Prince Rainier's butcher)and I was both envious and curious. When I also saw 90 Jayer Cros Parentoux on the list, another object of desire that I don't possess and can kill to get one, my heart literally started pounding as two of the three carnal things I wanted most in life at the time(the third being spending a night with Emanuelle Beart which is clearly less probable than the first two)and upon learning that the lamb was not pre-sale I literally felt like crying. I then asked too many questions and probably intimidated the professional server but I consoled myself that they had given us the best table, the one in the middle of the room directly looking at the pond, and decided not to pursue the issue of fish mislabeling(turbot was turbotin)and quality. This is really unlike me to tell the truth and I assure you that I go to great lengths when I am unpleased with a dish or a recommended bottle of wine in expensive restaurants.
  6. Let me add one thing I did not include in the gastroville post. I agree with Bux that there is no model in Paris which offers something different than both the customary comforts of fine dining and the efficiency of the fast food. I, for one, always yearn for casual dining where you can either sit on the counter or stand up and eat as much or as little as you want. Of course, if the food is very high quality to boot, I am one very happy camper. So somehow I was expecting this type of atmosphere and delivery from Atelier on the basis of many reports I had read, in egullet and elsewhere. I was wrong. The expectation at L'Atelier is that you have to order everything(except desserts)at the outset of your meal. And you should order in line with their ideas of what constitutes a proper meal. I wanted to order a couple of small portions and then gradually ask for more depending on how much I liked the food and getting ideas from other diners(which I always do in Spain) if I want. The server was very hostile to this strategy which is my strategy in the great tapas bars of Spain. He wanted to take all our orders and he pushed very hard for that. He also played hardball with me when I ordered only 3 items, saying that "it is not enough, people here order more". I then literally dismissed him by saying that I have eaten more time in Robuchon (about 30) than his age (looked early 20s) and I decide on what and how much I will eat and not he. Clearly this attitude is part and parcel of their overall business strategy which must have changed for the worse after they settled. I also thought that their pretension to serve an accessible form of "haute cuisine" basically consists of adding some tasteless slices of truffles to the dishes to justify price tag. But in terms of the quality of raw materials I will argue that there will be not a handful but as much as 100 bars in Spain which will offer higher quality shellfish and more variety to their customers. Including truffles and mushrooms(Ganbara in Donostia serves wild mushrooms of various sorts which are picked at the dawn and they will not serve them the next day). Not to mention jamon iberico which l'Atelier serves but I will be surprised to find there the same quality that I can find, say at one of the Cinco Jotas locations in Madrid.
  7. I suggest you guys start again something like Symposium where we used to discuss interesting side topics which engendered many interesting discussions and good insights.
  8. I find your argument overly deferential to the degree of coming across as subservient. Does one have to be equally "expert" to criticize an "expert"? If you take your argument to its logical conclusion then only the 3 star chefs can pass judgments about each other.
  9. I hope that even though I am one of these dastardly management consultants my views won't be written off. In my experience it is very difficult to create a restaurant, or any business, that communicates the kind of attention to the quality of product or service that one experiences at a place like L'Ambroisie. Sadly, it is very easy to go the other way. You can get things wrong either, as Vedat suggests, by focusing on the bottom line rather than the product itself, or (and this is more common) simply by getting things wrong, in other words by not paying attention to detail, getting sloppy about standards and quality, etc. In most cases, the businesses that do this tend to be unprofitable as well. There may be exceptions for restaurants and hotels aimed at single-visit tourists, where mediocre delivery doesn't cramp demand even though customers rarely return. Paradoxically, it's often a good recipe for a business to ignore the bottom line, for the most part, and to focus almost exclusively on delivery and the customer. Of course someone needs to look at the financial output of the business: if the balance sheet doesn't balance or the P&L is persistently in the red, the company will close. But most employees' attention should be focused elsewhere. That's the advice I tend to give my clients -- but then, I'm neither the holder of an MBA nor 20-something any longer. ← I think I should separate mentality from profession. Given certain incentives at place, management consultancy profession, esp. its high end which I will call "strategic consultancy"(Jonathan correct me if I am wrong) does attract some of the best and brightest in the US and I expect the 3 or so top firms to be especially careful in their recruitement policy and not to promote the type of mentality that I think encapsulates the type of business practice I attributed to l'Atelier. On a personal level I will actually make the more dashing comment(nobody should take personally) that those in management consultancy, esp. it they made it to the partnership status in the 3 or so firm I mentioned, are more rounded, intellectual, artistically sensitive and interesting(a subjective opinion)people than the academic professors with whom I interact. So it will be an "ecological fallacy" to deduce personal characteristics from a structural feature I attributed to the management consultant practice. On the other hand, management consultants mostly hire MBAs and "cost cutting" seems to be the first thing in mind that these 20 somethings focus when they get their hand dirty in the field. I have a strong hunch that L'Atelier restaurants are more preoccupied with the rationalization and standardization of their supply chain today than other aspects of business. Given the paucity of gourmets who can judge ingredients among their international clientele, and given the fact that they delivered at a higher level when they began and built some goodwill, their business model may work just fine. But their will always be some minority voices like mine, or Whiting's, or Marc's, or Mikael's, or Robert,s etc. who will cry "foul" from the sidelines.
  10. The lowest form of wit I admit, but my comments were a reaction to what is a rather hubristic review. No offence was intended and I'd be happy to engage in as an intelligent an arguement as I can manage with Mikael or yourself. ← Nobody is perfect(except my daughter ) and you are more than welcome to write your comments in gastroville and please do so . Personally, I have not dined at the Fat Duck so I can not comment. Our only policy is to make sure that nobody attacks anybody's integrity and dignity.
  11. Yes, very interesting. Wasn't very happy about the dried morels was he! I'm sure Blumenthal will be very grateful for the tips on his menu and how to be a better chef. Perhaps Mikael could spend some time at the Fat Duck and show Heston a few things. ← Only somebody who runs out of intelligent argument to make can write such a sarcastic post.
  12. I came to that conclusion two years ago. ← Not surprising and I am glad to follow your foodsteps. I will be puzzled if we disagree John. By the way I may be in Paris for a few days in May. Do you have some new discoveries and recommendations?
  13. Joe, I just read your superb l'Atelier review. I have just finished mine which will be on the blog(after I edit it) so I was trying not to get influenced. But clearly the prices are up(now a single langoustine at 25 Euro)and the quality is down. When I visited, Robuchon was not there. I always stay in Verona(when we visit Calandre) and once we stayed at one of the villa Pisanis near Padua for an extremely reasonable price. We tried La Peca, originally recommended by Craig and it is really very good. I also had a very good meal at Perbellini--who may one day get a third star. Have you tried Trattoria Pompiere in Verona. They have the best salumi/prosciutto/lardo selection in the world. Personally I don't understand how email works in egullet anymore. When something gets too complicated technically I give up as I hate to lose time with computers and essentially I don't even like email as a tool of correspondance(I always call my friends)but one has to put up! Thanks for the very nice word on our blog. Hopefully it will get richer and better and all written comments there are welcome. Also check out recipes by Mikael or degusto. We have actually tried your sweet gorgonzola risotto recipe with pistachios (I used Turkish pistachios which are fantastic) with the rice they gave me at Dal Pescatore and it was fantastic.
  14. Which spices did he use? Saffron comes to mind immediately, maybe a hint of fennel? ← Touragsand, are you a chef? I actually found my notes. On lobster and other dishes. On the second reading it looks like turbot was even more problematic than my portrayal but the bar(seabass) had some redeeming qualites. For lobster, labelled as"Saveur des Iles" which discloses nothing--other than the image of a sunbathing beauty a la cheap TV commercial in a tropical island--my notes talks about a touch of ginger and saffron and licorice. I also noted some soft Burgundian spices and some aged balsamico. I have not asked our waiter about the composition of Burgundian spices as for the French this will be a question in bad taste. I also noted that they had a delicate licorice cake as a garnie. Most importantly, the spicing, despite the catchy name was deft and displayed perfect harmony. That is the natural flavor of the lobster was not masked when Asian spices are used(like Chinois in LA and Oasis after Outhier), but actually the match was perfect. I had this dish with a Coche 99 Meursault Rougeot but if I have the chance again I may go for a silky, complex, aromatic, decadent, sumptous red Bourgogne. They have good ones on the list. Turbot was overkill by the way. The grapefruit chutney was overwhelming but could not hide poor quality. My notes also indicate an outstanding quality cassis souffle. I can see why this restaurant is considered a 3 star candidate. The technique and vision is there. They have to improve the consistency. Please do report if you dine there this summer.
  15. Some people I trust reported that l'Atelier was much better right after its opening and has declined steadily. I guess they are trying to figure out the limits of the possible within some boundaries, i.e. how much they can compromise from quality without losing clients. It still works, thanks to a combination of factors: Robuchon's name, curiosity of people who never ate at Robuchon, possibility to dine solo without raising eyebrows, international athmosphere which welcomes foreigners, small size portions, gorgeous receptionist, stylish attire of the servers, good PR and relations with the media, possibility to get out quickly if you are in a hurry(they prefer it this way), fine wines by glasses, etc. My best guess is that they are run according to a corporate mentality with 20 someting MBAs who put pressure on their supply chains for ever cheaper prices and steady delivery of ingredients irrespective of seasons as they are only concerned about the corporate "bottom line". They want to generalize this model as a toned down version of 3 star cooking for contemporary diners. Their is a gap between portrayal and delivery. To me, to borrow from Marc diBiaso, this is a gourmet McDonald model. They have some fine ingredients but they preslice things(like truffles and parmesan) which should not be presliced to speed up the delivery time. L'Atelier, in the last analysis, is not a French restaurant. It is an American restaurant. With some "Japanese" makeup of course which is "de rigueur" nowdays but this will not impress somebody like "culinista" who knows one or two things about Japanese cuisine and culture. I found that the servers were under the instruction to either push the client to order more or get him/her out to maximize turnover. It works. I won't be surprised if some management consultant wise kids came up with the model and recommended the seating arrangements, including the outside sliding doors which opens only one way. Oh...so exclusive Joe, great to hear from you. I would love to come to DC if I can and visit friends/favorites and the one you mention. I am writing at the blog below with Degusto and there are some lenghty reviews. I will soon write a long review of Venice which may interest you. I(most everybody who cares about Italian cooking) would like to hear about your new discoveries too. Have you tried Da Vittorio in Bergamo?
  16. Oh, well. I wish I had not had this "luck"and were 10 years younger. So we can trade places and be both "happy". Of course. I was kind of making this comment "tongue in cheek" and as a reference to the modern times where opportunism is, in general, justified when it works(esp. in the Anglo-Saxon world I should add...but is now being exported to the rest of the world in the name of globalization). I am glad that 2 good friends, you and Robert, reacted in the way I was hoping to hear.
  17. I'm wondering the same thing. I have an idea why someone might say that. But I also know that on a Wednesday, Monday's catch can be served. Oooh even at the top tier places. ← Very fresh sea bass has a particular texture--almost like a coarse potato puree . Then when it is 2 to 3 days old, the flesh becomes firmer but still very moist and flavorful. Usually the farmed seabass is more soft but less flavorful. The version at Roellinger was beginning to lose its moistness and the flesh had become a tad dry. I don't think they overcooked it because it was "a la vapeur" The turbot was fresher but it was not turbot but turbotine. Small turbot. It is less good than turbot. It does not usually possess the same gelatinous fat. At best turbot is one of the most regal of fish, either from the Black Sea or Atlantic. But it is seasonal. Partially it is my fault to have ordered it on a sunday and in August. The lobster was very good but what differentiated the lobster from other very good Breton lobsters was a superb Bisque and very intelligent spicing which enhanced the overall taste profile without masking it. The intelligent sauces with turbot and seabass too proved that technically speaking this is a very accomplished place. Maybe one should not go there on a sunday. But since they are on their way to get the third star they should be more careful with ingredient quality. It is also a bad omen that they were not serving the Mont St. Michel pre sale lamb(see Mikael or degusto's write up in gastroville)but Aubrac lamb. Maybe they are cutting costs.
  18. Culinista: Were the kidneys a separate dish? In both Tinin and Mannix I devoured the kidneys which were part of the portion as the 2 of us ate half of the lamb. The strange thing in Tinin is that a dish of "head" of the cordero lechal was on the menu. I wanted to have it too as I find the lamb brain one of the truly special treats. Somehow the owner did not want to serve it and of course we could not understand each other. Does anybody know why they were so resistant in serving the head separately? Rogelio, I have so much more to learn about Spanish food and I am truly happy meeting you guys and following your advice not only for individual restaurants but also for dishes. I happen to think that making a tour of Michelin starred restaurants in Italy or Spain obfuscates more than reveals the country's rich culinary tradition. In addition it is not easy to pass judgments even on the multistars, such as,say Barasetegui, without having some understanding of the culinary traditions and references(in this case the Basque traditions) that the chef takes as its premise and starting point. The only thing I will get credit for is that I have an open mind (except trying chicken) and boundless curiosity and I take pride in being a good listener.
  19. Our recent trip to Madrid has coincided with the Semana Santa. At first, I was disappointed because quite a few places I had wanted to dine were closed including Casa d'a Troya, Combarro(which I have reported earlier and is a superb marisco), Viridiana and the new two stars Sant Celoni and also Horscher whose location and pedigree I find most interesting + Zalacain which is the bastion of classic excellence(I am not interested in trying La Broche again after a lackluster meal savoring half baked concepts of the conceited chef). But, retrospectively speaking I was wrong in despairing. We got to know some new places where locals eat and had some memorable dishes. Here is why. First, the fact that Madrid places were closed gave us a chance to spend 3 days in Segovia, a noteworthy place with tremendous character. The culinary highlights of the Segovia days, however, were the visits to 2 of the temples of Castilian lamb, Tinin at Sepulveda and Mannix at Campaspero. They both serve 3 weeks old suckling lamb from churra breed which resembles a breed I know well I like very much from Trakya (Euroean part in the Balkans) of Turkey. I do not know anybody other than the Spanish though who serves 20 days old lamb and the results are exquisite. Any serious lamb lover(esp.one lucky enough to savor French pre-sale on an everyday basis) owes himself/herself a visit to a true asador in Castilia to taste the cordero lechal. If somebody, esp. a Spanish from the area tells me that there are better places than Mannix or Tinin to have this very Spanish specialty I will give it a try but I would be quite skeptical as it is hard to conceive of more tasty lamb. Especially in Mannix we thought we reached nirvana as they have good wines to match the quality of the lamb--whereas Tinin only serves the house wine which is adequate. Some placed did not close till the thursday before the good friday so I visited an ex-favorite Coque at Humanes and Arce in Madrid. The former has changed from the last year after they have gotten a Michelin star in the sense that there are now fewer locals, they do not serve a charcuterie plate and now most people are ordering the menu degustation and there is now even a French assistant sommelier. Fortunately cochinillo lechon asado is still on the menu, still prepared by Jose Ramon(creative chef Mario Sandoval's brother)and it is still very good, as good or even better than the version I have had at Jose Maria[ in Segovia. We still found some inconsistency in the delivery(one dish was flawed) but, compared to last year, the desserts(also prepared by Jose Ramon)have improved. This place should be a candidate for a second Michelin star in near future. This said, I will recall longer one dish at had at Arce , the becada with Armagnac sauce, longer than any single dish at Coque. The idiosyncratic chef(who is of Basque origin)is a believer in long faisandage for the woodcock and the result is stunning if you like the extremely gamey and minerally taste. Thanks to Pedro, his lovely wife and Rogelio who hosted me and my wife to the restaurant and they all turned out to be ideal dining companions, we also learned to pair the oloroso sherry with the aged becada. I was skeptical first, but now I am truly convinced and can not see any other drink which will be a better match. By the way the whole sole fish was also exquisite at Arce and the smaller portions are quite good too but not on par with the last two dishes. Because Combarro was closed we tried 3 other mariscos: O'Pazo, La Trainera and El Barril. I will still give the edge to Combarro but the quality and availability of great seafood in Madrid may not be compared to other metropoles in Europe and the States that I am aware of. I also found Galician lobster(bogavante)and langouste(langosta) to be on par with the Brittany versions served in Meurice, Arpege, etc, for much higher prices. Thanks to the owner of O'Pazo, signor Evaristo who called Lucio for us, we got a reservation at Casa Lucio on the good friday and watched some processions on Cava Baja from our table next to the window on the first floor. This was about 2 AM in the morning of course. The food is very good too. If you have a chance make sure you try callos madrilenos (tripe with blood sausage), besugo a la plancha and a very good quality churrasco for two(Cote de boeuf). Their arroz con leche was the best I have had, on par with a top firin sutlac in Turkey. Besides, the best looking women of Madrid seemed to be having dinner with their much older companions that particular day at Casa Lucio, and I still wonder if this was just a coincidence or is there some logic and reason behind it? I had heard about the Andalusian restaurant Alboran, located in an attractive middle class residential district of Madrid, and thanks to Rogelio who especially recommended this place we had superb fried fish there, As good as what I had gotten at El Espigon in Sevilla. The chipirones a la planchawere also very good and the baked rodaballoquite good--but have this dish at O'Pazo. By the way prices for the quality are more than fair at Alboran and I was the only non Spanish. This was the day of Easter, sunday lunch. We are looking forward to our next trip to Madrid and 6 hours of walk everyday which is the only way to get to know this exquisite city and burn most of the calories.
  20. Robert, I have not been on the place at the 16th which is the old Seize sur Seize. Lizzie did and reported that the cooking as essentially the same as the L'Atelier. Except one sits at the table. Personally it did not bother me to sit at the counter as we wanted to see the "Pharoah"exhibit and I wanted to have a quick lunch. However, I could not as somebody recognized me and they brought several complementary desserts, basically everything the restaurant had. There was also one Turkish waiter so we chatted and chatted. My understanding is that Robuchon and his billionare Greek partner want to create a McRobuchon, in most metropololitan areas and in all these places the offering will essentially be the same. Obviously, if L'Atelier were in Atlanta, it would still shine but in Paris it has no raison d'etre. This may be why we have only heard English and Japanese spoken. French are not patronizing the restaurant.
  21. Two diners at l'Ambroisie on March 12 and March 19 respectively confirmed that this little gem continues to uphold the highest standards and it is the standard bearer of the nouvelle cuisine spirit today after the retirement of Joel Robuchon, the untimely death of Alain Chapel and the retirement of Pierre Troisgros whose kitchen is now managed by his son. At 56 years of age, Pacaud is not showing any sign of tiredness and has achieved a level of purity and seeming simplicity that, IMO has secured his place among the greatest chefs of the 20th century. I do not know any other restaurant, or I should call an institution, which is that consistent and this is a very exalted level consistency where the quality difference between the best dishes and others is so minimal. When having dinner at L'Ambroisie and savoring their truffe bel humeur one feels that everything is fine with the world and time is standing still. No need to show this off through decorative tricks a la Patrick Jouin(who decorated Plaza Athenee for Ducasse) by wrapping the chandeliers in hugh metallic organza to drive home a not too subtle message. Pacaud himself does not need such extra support as he let his cuisine speaks for itself for a fortunate group of diners most of whose become regulars. Talking about Ducasse and his temple at the Plaza Athenee, there are good news. The ballroom has now been redesigned and is no more hiding what it really is("a luxurious ballroom")and making the best use of it. Gone are the silly things like the wrapping of chandeliers and now we have a more relaxed and luxurious setting with interesting panels and noteworthy silver sculptures from Folon which decorates each table. The cooking too, which had gone down a notch after the move to Plaza Athenee from the Poincare location, is back to form. Of the six dishes we have had, four of them were very good to exquisite, with the exception of a bit chewy scallops and a lackluster Limousin lamb. Clearly the new chef Christian Moret is proving to be a worthy successor to the talented Piege(now at Les Ambassadeurs) and he seems to be tuning down half notch Ducasse's quite baroque style Parisian cuisine without altering its luscious-decadently rich essence. We will be back. But I don't think we(myself and my wife)will be back at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon My respect for the great chef whose cuisine I was priveleged to savor many times in the 80s notwithstanding, L'Atelier is a joke and a ludicrously expensive one at that. One mid sized and not so fresh scallop,clearly taken out of the shell long before it is served and then served in a shell (for more than 20 euros), a single langoustine in a ravioli which is a mushy mess (for more than 25 Euros), etc. The simple tartine de pied de porc with parmesan and truffle turned out to be the best dish, save for the fact that the two thin slices of truffles were inexcusably tasteless at a time (march 14)the truffles should have been at their peak. The spaghetti aux truffes featured the same precut and refrigerated poor quality truffles but fortunately the foie gras(not in the descriiption, a nice surprise)filling elevated this dish to a higher level. Overall L'Atelier comes across as an assembly line operation and clearly the management can plant as many Ateliers as they want in all corners of the world given that all their disrespect for prime ingredients. But I suppose Robuchon deserves to cash on his well deserved reputation but I can not justify the inclusion of two good chefs, Lecerf of ex-Astor and Braun of ex-Laurent in this operation. Both of these chefs were present during our lunch. A much better and cheaper(though not cheap)and light lunch alternative in Paris by the way is a Japanese sushi place called Isamiin Ile Saint Louis. Absolutely pristine quality sushi. There are not too many tables so reservations are recommended. They speak a little French.
  22. Well, it may not be in your itinerary but if you want to eat suckling churra breed lamb at its best I recommend highly the 2 places I have tried the week before last week: Tinin in Sepulveda Mannix in Compaspero, near Penafiel. They are slightly different in style. Mannix lets the juice drops and accumulate in the earthenware platter. The lamb in both places is about 20 days old and I can not easily think how one can improve on the preparation. The only problem with Tinin is that they do not have a wine list and the house wine is only adequate.
  23. lxt--I am very much in accord with your diagnosis of Piege. I have dined there with my "enigmatic international gourmet"(EIG)friend on March 16, 2004. He did not hit it off with the staff(except the sommelier)because he asked too many questions and because he did not believe that "agneau Sisteron de biberon" was really 40 days old and thought it tasted more like 8 not 6 weeks old lamb. We both very much enjoyed the Breton(of course blue, as opposed to the green Maine lobster which is not as delicate)lobster tail served on a skewer made of vermicelli noodles. Yes, there was some canned truffle taste in the paste he used to bind the otherwise refined carbonara(cream, egg, jamon and I detected an infusion of curry)sauce--the only drawback. We play a game of ranking on 20, and this dish was the highest ranked:18. Suckling lamb came with a coco-curry sauce and it paled(for too many reasons--alchemy, quality, clarity)esp. when compared to a stellar shoulder of Lozere lamb(6 weeks old)I had had at Les Elysees under Briffard 5 days before. The entree "endives, bacon and truffles" was actually very successful and the pigeon with olive, good, but had some minor problems. My notes actually corrected me: we were served Comte 2000 instead of the 99. I have jotted down after the meal that this was one of the best 2 hard crust cheeses I have tried: it was very concentrated and complex YET moist(the other is a 3 years old Reggiano at Parizzi in Parma). My EIG friend(now I will call him degusto as he posts under this name but prefers to remain "enigmatic" for the moment and does not want to reveal his name) claims that 99 is similar, except even more complex and concentrated and even more moist. What can I say as I have never tried it! Perhaps one can ask about it to our dear friend Robert Brown as the 2 know each other and degusto shared some of his allotment from Bernard Anthony with Robert. As you guessed degusto resides in the Riviera and he is a European. One reason he lives there is because he thinks world's best ingredients are all available there(gamberi of San Remo, mediterranean langouste, pre sale lamb, gaullois chicken, etc) and he scours local markets, both in Italy and France, for best products and he has developed relationships with a range of interesting people ranging from fish mongers to quasi Mafioso truffle dealers, both white and black truffles. To tell you the truth his fanaticism about ingredients borders on "craze" as nothing stops him say, from driving 5 hours to swamp land in the middle of nowhere to eat the world's best "tellines". He also makes constant experiments with cooking(such as purchasing 5 different breeds of suckling lamb shoulder to see subtle differences and cooking all of them)and I am sure if he were to become professional restaurateur he would go bust soon as he can not restrain himself or his curiosity. I don't want to comment on his special relationship with Gagnaire and whether or not he was served a different meal than the rest of us mortals as he can comment. On my part, as I have been following Gagnaire's Paris adventures starting 15 days after he set foot there, I can say that the ratio of delicious/exciting to muddled/massacred preparations has unfortunately decreased there over the years. Is this the result of family problems or a search for renewing himself as this very "Bohemian"artist is a restless creature? I don't know. I also know that, as economists predict, my own tolerance to risk taking is decreasing with the passage of time.
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