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cabrales

Pierre Gagnaire: the good and the bad

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Next was a dish of warm oyster served with various ingredients that i cannot remember and can't seem to translate back from the french menu!  It was a good dish though and very interesting.

My French is terrible, but my attempt at the accompaniments is: white beetroot soup; ground meat and vegetables stuffed inside caul fat, maybe with truffles to make it à la périgourdine (you can read about caillette here); chanterelle mushrooms with raisin vinegar; clear chutney of potimarron squash (whose flesh is like potiron (pumpkin) and whose skin has a slight nuttiness like marrons (chestnuts)).

Afterwards the staff asked me what i thought and i commented that i was a little dissapointed and felt it did not live up to my expectations [...] I explained this to the staff, who pointed out that it was a seasonal menu and that it changes every month, and that i probably should have tried some of the dishes on the a la carte instead.

Although I usually dislike the "Have you dined with us before?" question (usually a prelude for the the waiter to launch into a long speech about "how we do things here"), it seems like them understanding from the outset that this was your first time there could have made a difference. I always like to look at the a la carte menu even if I've got a tasting menu in mind. There's usually a good degree of menu flexibility when you're paying that kind of money.

Also - after writing all this i've been reading through Tupac17616's Lunch and i can't help but think he seemed to get a much better deal than i did.  I got half as many aperetif's and i can only count 6 dishes for dessert??

The Autumn menu is certainly more extensive -- and expensive -- than the lunch we had. That said, since we had some substitutions (duck instead of lamb), and supplements (langoustines, the "grand dessert"), the write-up I did may read like a lot more food than it was for each of us. I do remember being nearly full (a very rare state for me) when we left. I feel like a full tasting menu by comparison would have killed me.

I did think our lunch was a particularly good value, a steal, almost. But without the remarkable duck dish, I'm not sure I would be singing that tune, frankly. I thought the 20E supplement for the "grand dessert" was incredibly reasonable, and I definitely plan to do that again if I go back to PG in the future.

Lastly, I saw some pictures of the Autumn menu here, which might jog your memory about the desserts you had. Another description of the same menu, with no pictures and no desserts, is here.

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So in summary, I don't think i'll be in a hurry to go back again.  Food was 8/10, service was 6/10 (nothing to write home about) and bread was 10/10 (forgot to mention that, but the selection of bread was fantastic!).  It is also very expensive (255 euro for the tasting menu and the a la carte would cost even more) but i'm assuming most Parisien 3*'s are.  Also - after writing all this i've been reading through Tupac17616's Lunch and i can't help but think he seemed to get a much better deal than i did.  I got half as many aperetif's and i can only count 6 dishes for dessert??

Shouldn't a 255 euro tab, be superlative in every way!?

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So in summary, I don't think i'll be in a hurry to go back again.  Food was 8/10, service was 6/10 (nothing to write home about) and bread was 10/10 (forgot to mention that, but the selection of bread was fantastic!).  It is also very expensive (255 euro for the tasting menu and the a la carte would cost even more) but i'm assuming most Parisien 3*'s are.  Also - after writing all this i've been reading through Tupac17616's Lunch and i can't help but think he seemed to get a much better deal than i did.  I got half as many aperetif's and i can only count 6 dishes for dessert??

Shouldn't a 255 euro tab, be superlative in every way!?

Exactly - which is exactly what i told them. For example - the tasting menu at Sat Bains in Nottingham can have some dishes which are hit and miss, but for the price it's not a problem.

Tupac - thanks for the links, the meals were pretty much identical, although i notice in the review with the photos they had an extra dessert.

One thing i forgot to mention was something at the end of the meal - I thought that I had come to the end of the meal but they brought out another plate. 20mins later, the plate was still empty. I asked for the bill and after 10mins i had to prompt them again - the waiter looked confused and apologised and along came the bill. It was all rather odd - almost like they had forgotten something?

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does pierre gagnaire still oversees his main kitchen?? or is he running a global biz like the other michelin chefs...

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I think whenever possible, Gagnaire will always be in his kitchen. After all, the restaurant in rue Balzac is the only fine dining place that Gagnaire himself owns whereas the rests of them (HK, Tokyo, Seoul etc.) he just acts as a consultant as far as I'm concerned

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does pierre gagnaire still oversees his main kitchen?? or is he running a global biz like the other michelin chefs...

Only thing I know: he was there when I went, so I'd say that yes, he still oversees his main kitchen, but probably not everyday.

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Not everyday indeed, but when he's here, he cooks for real, hands in the pots. He's no Ducasse -- though they probably share a same hatred of good old restaurants.

Funny you mention that. A few days ago I was thinking about what it would be like if I (well, someone) asked Gagnaire to set up a more "traditional" and simpler meal. This is purely hypothetical of course, because as you just said, he's probably not interested at all, but still, I can't help but think it would be absolutely awesome.

He looks like the kind of guy that could fix you some incredibly gargantuous and decadent dinner or something.

Mmh, OK, sorry for the rambling.

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Share the hatred of good old restaurants?! Could you further explain? As far as I know, they're both big fans of traditional French cuisine..It's where they got their start, the base upon which they constructed their careers, no?

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Going in Julot's direction, Gagnaire did confess bearing some responsibility in the disappearing, some years ago, of "good old restaurants" and sharing this responsibility with other contemporary chefs (those promoted by the GaultMillau guide of then). He said that at the latest Omnivore food festival in Deauville (Feb. 2008), regretting that he had partly caused some "excellent chefs who made terrines" to disappear. Rightly or wrongly, but he did express it. At least he was expressing some sincere sorrow on that topic, which is miles away from ducassian cynicism.

More about that here, scroll down, 11th paragraph, in French. Same text in English here.

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I agree -- Of course Gagnaire, and maybe even Ducasse, have the utmost respect for high quality traditional food. It's the least they can do. But I don't think one can understand Gagnaire if they don't understand that his whole art is determined by a hatred of the restaurant, which he developed when he was a young kid in his parents' restaurant. For him, "restaurant" means the kid's parents are not available and yell at him for asking for attention during the service. It is deeply ingrained. Beyond the cheap psychoanalysis, though, his art is an effort to destroy traditional culinary structures of all sorts, to recreate the restaurant indeed, but by destroying it. As he says himself "it's not always about respecting the ingredients, sometimes it's about abusing them".

As far as Ducasse goes, he decided long ago that business was more important than anything and made all he could to reduce fine dining to an industrial, perfectly mastered, process quality controlled, reproductible action. On the whole, I would say both do not care about restaurants as we knew them and that both hold a responsibility in their progressive disparition. Now instead of truly civilised and human places we have on the one hand luxury business "look how expensive!" and on the other hand creative fanzy "look how original!". I miss good.

This grumpy Julot session was brought to you by eGullet.


Edited by julot-les-pinceaux (log)

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He looks like the kind of guy that could fix you some incredibly gargantuous and decadent dinner or something.

I think he does, doesn't he? I mean it does his way but I can't say I ever felt that a meal at Gagnaire left me angry or wasn't a party.

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He looks like the kind of guy that could fix you some incredibly gargantuous and decadent dinner or something.

I think he does, doesn't he? I mean it does his way but I can't say I ever felt that a meal at Gagnaire left me angry or wasn't a party.

Indeed. I don't know why I said that exactly, as the quantity of stuff he serves (at least in the tasting menu) is already gigantic. Still, I'd like to see what he would be capable of if he had to restrain hisself in terms of innovation or experimentation and stick to more conventional stuff.

More precisely: would it be as good, worse, better? On hindight, the two dishes that really struck me as wonderful were also the simpler ones, so...

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Now instead of truly civilised and human places we have on the one hand luxury business "look how expensive!" and on the other hand creative fanzy "look how original!". I miss good.

I like to compare Gagnaire's cuisine to some of the rawest forms of free-jazz (I didn't go too far to find that one, I know): it may not qualify as "pleasurable" but it serves a purpose. Is it the deconstruction of the traditional restaurant? Probably. To be honest, I don't really care. Not that his motivations aren't interesting, but all I believe is that Gagnaire is good, really good at this!

So I'd say even his least enjoyable dishes are good, in that sense. I'm not sure I'm really interested in perfection if it's soulless (and from what I gather, that would perfectly describe a Ducasse experience).

So, is it worth spending EUR350+ / person? I think it does, big time, but then again I always preferred, say, Albert Ayler to Miles Davis, and I'm easily impressed.

I just realized I should just eat more at Gagnaire and speak less about it.

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That would be MUCH more expensive. :biggrin:

We have a saying in French: "Si vous n'aimez pas ça, n'en dégoutez pas les autres". You just summarized what makes Gagnaire great. Why I just don't want to go again, I respect his work and I'm happy that others truly enjoy it.


Edited by julot-les-pinceaux (log)

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I really like the guy, I don't like his food. I love his restaurant though, and the service. Actually if I could only sit in the restaurant only to enjoy a chat with the waiters, and not eat at all, I'd be very pleased.

To me, one of his main problems is the strong Hervé This influence on him. Can't do any good to any chef. Also I believe he has trouble, out of generosity I'm sure, portioning his tasting menus correctly.

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Thanks everyone, but there's a lot of generalizing and guessing going on, and I think it's a little easy to psycho analyse and profess know everything about these chefs...

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I really like the guy, I don't like his food. I love his restaurant though, and the service. Actually if I could only sit in the restaurant only to enjoy a chat with the waiters, and not eat at all, I'd be very pleased.

To me, one of his main problems is the strong Hervé This influence on him. Can't do any good to any chef. Also I believe he has trouble, out of generosity I'm sure, portioning his tasting menus correctly.

Strange - i can't say i had the best of time with service (although it doesn't help that my french is very poor!).

Agreed with the portions though - a little too generous. It's never good when you start to struggle with the deserts!

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All this activity in the PG thread has spurred me to (finally!) add captions to my lunch there in April. Here are the pictures:

Pictures

Unfortunately, I have little memory of the amuses at this point. Notes would have been a good idea.

I had a starter called “Le Printemps” which consisted of the following:

Rouelles de langouste royale à la citronelle, eau de fenouil au citron de Menton, artichaut poivrade

Morilles fraîches, culatello, choux couer de boeuf et foie gras rôti; velouté de salade nouvelle

Marinière de fèves, nèfles et petits navets au sirop de petals de coquelicot; bavaroise de chèvre frais

And the Poulard de Bresse as my main:

Blanc de poularde, poivre vert, pistache et mélisse, cuit au sautoir à la graisse d'oie

raviole de foie blond à l'amontillado. Crème de champignons sauvages au fenugrec.

Gras de cuisse, oignons nouveaux, truffes noires et céleris dorés liés d'une gelée naturelle.

Petit Jardin du cure

My dessert was Le Soufflé Gingembre aux Chocolats d’Origine

The starter was excellent, although somewhat surprisingly I remember the “Marinière” (pic) part of the dishes with the most fondness – it really was wonderfully evocative of spring in its freshness. But I enjoyed all the dishes and the way they went together as well.

The first two chicken dishes listed (pic and pic) were somewhat surprising to me (and pleasing) in their richness. It’s not a style I would tend to attribute to PG; not that I would necessarily say that his food is minimalist or austere or anything like that. . . but these dishes, particularly the raviole, were quite luscious. I wouldn’t say that the dishes were traditional exactly, but more so than other PG dishes I have had or read about. Although that does generally seem more true of his mains than his starters, I suppose. That being said, the third chicken dish (pic) was one of the only things I tasted on the whole trip that I actively disliked. Partly the aspic/gelatin consistency, because I’m never a huge fan of that- but there was something else that was just off about the flavor. I couldn’t even identify exactly what, and I was only willing to have two bites of the dish. I possibly thought it was something about the onions, but not sure.

I agree with the generosity of the portions, for sure; I was not, unfortunately, able to eat all (or even most) of the dessert (which was itself very generous).

I’m a fan of the service, which is obviously very good, but also friendly, at least in my limited experience. I especially liked that the captain either remembered, or pretended to remember, or had good records to simulate remembering, my only previous visit, about a year prior.

Also, PG was in the kitchen the day I was there, and came around to the tables at one point.

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All this activity in the PG thread has spurred me to (finally!) add captions to my lunch there in April.  Here are the pictures:

Pictures

Thanks for this, Holly. It's pretty clear you had one hell of an April this year. :smile:

If you're at all curious about the amuses or the pre-dessert, just scroll up... we had the same stuff!

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My life has been quite busy near the end of the year, and somewhat lazy to be honest. Anyway, I'm back with my review from my Eurotrip last fall. Many people are skeptic with the experiement style of Pierre Gagnaire, contrary to them ... I somewhat am fascinated with his cooking. I had the long tasting menu a year ago and this time, following may foodies review, a la carte is the way to go here. On top of that, I choose the unusual menu ... some more both Gagnaire and Nave (chef de cuisine) were not around. So, it's almost like a culinary gambling

Food (and wine) - 96/100

Instead of ordering the classic and safe dishes such as: langoustine, turbot or lambs, I had "flavor of the earth" for the entree and French beef for the main course. The appetizer consist of arugula ravioli "soup" which is very earthy and delicious - the star. The rests - I also like the small piece of sweet veal as well as the "clear Chinese herbs" soup that is suitable given the cold weather - hot and spicy. The mushroom cream is too one sided, I could hardly taste the vegetables underneath while the stem lettuce sorbet is so so. For the main course ... I had a fantastic roast beef - a perfect dish for me! It's prepared medium, with a few layers of fat. The meat is melt a bit, but at the same time I could still chew and feel its texture. With such good dish, I didn't mind not having the rest of the side dishes :-) The bone marrow is OK, but I've never been a fan of it, while the beef stew is tasty except the carrot sauce is too sweet. The beef "tartare" and thin potato chips are decent. I like the beef muzzle the least here

Also for the desserts ... instead of the famous parade of 9-10 desserts, I chose the ginger chocolate instead. The ginger is pretty much overtaken by the intense, strong and high quality of chocolate. The souffle was smooth, served differently on a plate and a bit crisp at the top. The chocolate cream and powder were yummy. Some more it's intensified with the Pedro Ximenez dessert wine. But at the same time, to bring down the cloying taste if any ... the dessert included kirsch at the side. For the wines, I had a glass of white - 2006 Chateau Revelette Le Grand Blanc and a glass of red - 2004 Domaine Gauby Cotes du Roussillon. Oh, I noticed that during my 2 visits, the restaurant never charged me for the mineral water. The food this time was almost as good as my 1st visit ... only 1 pts lower, but I'm still very satisfied and would be very happy to return here anytime I have a chance. I gave 96/100 (a solid 2 3/4*)

Service (and ambiance) - 94/100

The service is consistent here, equally good if not slightly better since I was no longer a 1st timer. Except the manager, many of them could comfortably communicate in English. They're professional, attentive and friendly without being obstrusive. The decor of the restaurant ... I noticed no changes, just the ambiance was a bit more formal in the evening as expected. The restaurant is 80% full and more than half of them are foreigners. Chef Gagnaire was in Korea if not mistaken opening his latest expansion. Overall, I would give this place 95.5/100 (2 3/4*, with a side note as probably the most interesting restaurant in the world). A more detailed review, is here Gagnaire review And if you only care about the picture, click this link Gagnaire pictures fall 08


Edited by Bu Pun Su (log)

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Some advice, please:

Going to Paris in May and really curious to experiment Gagnaire, but at this point I am not sure if I will be willing to spend over EUR 500 for two for dinner at his main restaurant. My doubt is what is a better way to experiment his food:

1- have the lunch fixed menu (90 Eur/person) at Rue de Balzac (how many courses would I get including amouses?)

2- Dinner at Gaya (meaning for the same price as #1 can I have a similar or better/wider selection and experience)

3- Lunch at Gaya (so I first see if I like his type of food, which I assume I will as I am very fond of this experimentation trend such as Can Roca's food and El Bulli)

I thank you for any clarification and correction in terms of cost.

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Some advice, please:

Going to Paris in May and really curious to experiment Gagnaire, but at this point I am not sure if I will be willing to spend over EUR 500 for two for dinner at his main restaurant. My doubt is what is a better way to experiment his food:

1- have the lunch fixed menu (90 Eur/person) at Rue de Balzac (how many courses would I get including amouses?)

2- Dinner at Gaya (meaning for the same price as #1 can I have a similar or better/wider selection and experience)

3- Lunch at Gaya (so I first see if I like his type of food, which I assume I will as I am very fond of this experimentation trend such as Can Roca's food and El Bulli)

I thank you for any clarification and correction in terms of cost.

If you are interested in Pierre Gagnaire and do not want to spend the 500E for two (probably more like 800E if you add the wine, etc), I would recommend the 90E prix-fixed lunch. The lunch usually consists of couple of small amuse, then a set about of 5 small tastings on individual plates/cups/bowls presented together; two main plate, usually first one is cold or room temperature, a second of fish of some sort; then a set of 5 or 6 tastings of his desserts. This comes to amuse, plus four courses. There will be plenty of food and different food to taste. I've eaten at PG numerous times: taking the prix-fixe lunch, the tasting menu as well a la carte. My experiences are that the two main plates at the lunch prix-fixed, though still very good, are not the best that he can do. Of course , one will not find luxury ingredients such as lobster, turbot, caviar, etc. but the ingredients will still be top notch. The other two set tastings are generally excellent. At at 90E(sometimes 95E), I think it represents great value and a chance to taste his food at Gaya's prices.

Pierre Gagnaire's cooking is unique and somewhat different from Can Roca or El Bulli. Can Roca Roca and El Bulli are more into de-construction and transformation of food where PG are more into playing with different taste combinations and textures.


Edited by Pork Belly (log)

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Some advice, please:

Going to Paris in May and really curious to experiment Gagnaire, but at this point I am not sure if I will be willing to spend over EUR 500 for two for dinner at his main restaurant. My doubt is what is a better way to experiment his food:

1- have the lunch fixed menu (90 Eur/person) at Rue de Balzac (how many courses would I get including amouses?)

2- Dinner at Gaya (meaning for the same price as #1 can I have a similar or better/wider selection and experience)

3- Lunch at Gaya (so I first see if I like his type of food, which I assume I will as I am very fond of this experimentation trend such as Can Roca's food and El Bulli)

I thank you for any clarification and correction in terms of cost.

Lunch menu seems like your best bet.

I know some like that restaurant but Gaya really hasn't much in common with the rue de Balzac Gagnaire experience and I felt it was too expensive for what it is when I went.

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Thanks so much, Pork Belly and Olivier for your answers and clarification on type of food. Exactly the advice I was looking for. I couldn't thank before as I had no internet for the last two days.

I'll then do lunch at Rue de Balzac. One last question: Is it totally necessary to make a reservation or lunch is more walk-in?


Edited by mbernstein (log)

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