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Pierre Gagnaire: the good and the bad

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Do you know how rare photos of Gagnaires food is? Have no idea how you managed to take them but glad you did. :biggrin:

May I ask why is it so rare to see PG's food in photos :huh: ? They do not allow photo-taking in their restaurant , or what ?

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Do you know how rare photos of Gagnaires food is? Have no idea how you managed to take them but glad you did. :biggrin:

May I ask why is it so rare to see PG's food in photos :huh: ? They do not allow photo-taking in their restaurant , or what ?

Yes, They don't allow it and strictly enforce the policy if noticed.

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I worked in Pierre's kitchen for six months in 2003 (I was a "substitute" for a Sous who had an extended medical issue). They consider photos from patrons to be a bit self-important and "over-the-top", especially distracting when flash bulbs are involved. There are plenty of photos in Pierre's books...

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kkwchan: do you happen to have high-resolution versions of those photos that you'd be willing to share?  I collect glorious food photography!

Bueno: No problem, I have the original files, 5 mega pixels. But there are more than 20 pictures. How do I send them to you?

Oh really, I am not aware that I am not allow to take pictures in the restaurant. But I always wait until they walk away before I take pics. Also, I never use flash for these pictures. Well, I guess I am lucky that they didn't notice.

Btw, I also went to Alain Ducasse and Le Cinq in the same long weekend.... three 3 Michelin-star dinners in four nights. I don't have any problems in taking pictures in all these restaurants.

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I'll be paying 5 Euros today for a Gagnaire dish at the Fooding event....not a bad bargain..

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I went six years ago for a memorable lunch. I'm planning to return for lunch in in October. Does anyone have any tips for reservations: I note they only take reservations a month in advance, so do I ring up exactly a month to the day at 9am?

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Yes, they suppose not to take reservation more than one month ahead. But you should call one month and few days ahead to see if they are able to book you in. It works sometimes. Otherwise, do call at 9am their time.

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Yes, they suppose not to take reservation more than one month ahead.  But you should call one month and few days ahead to see if they are able to book you in.  It works sometimes.  Otherwise, do call at 9am their time.

Thanks for the advice. I ended up calling today, which isn't one month to the date, but five weeks and they were happy to take my booking, so you were completely right

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Thanks for the advice. I ended up calling today, which isn't one month to the date, but five weeks and they were happy to take my booking, so you were completely right

Did you go for your meal? How was it? I'm going tomorrow night - any tips?

VERY excited.

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Did you go for your meal? How was it? I'm going tomorrow night - any tips?

VERY excited.

Fenn, I'm sure I've told you this before.

DO NOT ORDER THE TASTING MENU AT PIERRE GAGNAIRE

Carte is an entirely different - and I am told superior - experience. Tasting often underwhelming and a false economy.

Have fun!

J


Edited by Jon Tseng (log)

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Thank you Jon. I think I may have heard that somewhere from you before!

As there are 5 of us, I think a couple of us will do the tasting. But do not fear - I will attempt to ensure I am one of the carters.

The tips I was after were in relation to actual dishes - which ones hit the highs? What were the lows?

By the way, will there be a game tasting menu at the moment? And white truffles? We could always mix up a couple of tasting menus as well. Gagnaire's is our oyster...

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By the way, will there be a game tasting menu at the moment? And white truffles? We could always mix up a couple of tasting menus as well. Gagnaire's is our oyster...

Dishes or game you'll have to ask someone else. The dishes change all the time anyhow. Yes you are definitely in white truffle season at the moment.

If anyone offers you black truffles say non. Its way to early.

J

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Thank you Jon. I think I may have heard that somewhere from you before!

As there are 5 of us, I think a couple of us will do the tasting. But do not fear - I will attempt to ensure I am one of the carters.

The tips I was after were in relation to actual dishes - which ones hit the highs? What were the lows?

By the way, will there be a game tasting menu at the moment? And white truffles? We could always mix up a couple of tasting menus as well. Gagnaire's is our oyster...

Jon,

The meals Chuck, Lizzie etc. have posted about Chez Plotz all look like tasting menus to me. And they are Gagnaire vets. Time to support your view :raz:


Edited by IanT (log)

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Jon,

The meals Chuck, Lizzie etc. have posted about Chez Plotz all look like tasting menus to me.  And they are Gagnaire vets.  Time to support your view  :raz:

Pierre Gagnaire tasting menus and cartes very different experiences. He admits the same himself - more controlled; set progression by chef etc.

In my experience (and I've done tasting at both PG and Sketch Lecture Room the tasting menu dishes more toned down, conventional, less fun.

Plus to be honest you probably get as much (if not more) variety of preparations on carte given carte style is to have 3-4 distinct preparations of an ingredient as part of each course - tasting menu dishes are just single dish in trad haute tasting style.

Yes I think this debate has been had elsewhere. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who holds this view.

ta

J

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Ladies and gentlemen, my son (commis in a 2 star Mich in UK) and I ate at PG last summer from the carte and suffice it to say that we were so seduced by the food, even after 2 weeks of (superb) Michelin trawling through Spain, that when chef appeared at our table in fresh whites, his head magically backlit by the dining room lighting, his hair gleaming like a halo, the vision was so surreal that we sat like morons with mouths slightly open at this angelic apparition, whereupon PG smiled and decamped to the kitchen where he probably had a good laugh at our expense. Tourists. But OMIGOD the food.

Not a very helpful post but that was the best meal we have ever eaten and we still laugh at our mutual reaction.

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Jon,

The meals Chuck, Lizzie etc. have posted about Chez Plotz all look like tasting menus to me.  And they are Gagnaire vets.  Time to support your view  :raz:

Pierre Gagnaire tasting menus and cartes very different experiences. He admits the same himself - more controlled; set progression by chef etc.

In my experience (and I've done tasting at both PG and Sketch Lecture Room the tasting menu dishes more toned down, conventional, less fun.

Plus to be honest you probably get as much (if not more) variety of preparations on carte given carte style is to have 3-4 distinct preparations of an ingredient as part of each course - tasting menu dishes are just single dish in trad haute tasting style.

Yes I think this debate has been had elsewhere. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who holds this view.

ta

J

Thanks John. I'll try and track down those earlier discussions.

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I ate at PG last week. We took photos unabashedly and without a protest from the staff (however I think they knew we were all industry people and not just doing it to be tacky). We all ordered the menu degustation, and I must disagree with what has been posted earlier. I thought it was very well worth the price and the food was very provocative and interesting. We paid about 450 eur/person including a generous gratuity on top of the auto-grat and each of us left feeling very pleased with our experience.

I found the restaurant to be very comfortable and the staff very attentive. I particularly found the cave staff to be exceptional. Their recommendations were spot-on from the aperitif to the digestif and they gave us plenty of room to select some of our own favorites as well.

Of particular interest on the menu was the cream of sea urchin with the squid and tete de veau in pate brise. We all woke up the next morning thinking about that!

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I look at the Gagnaire website, but despite clicking furiously around, I couldn't seem to find anything that seemed like the place to submit a reservation request. I finally found someplace called contact, and I will try submitting a request throught that, although I'm not sure if it's designed for more general contacts.

I also tried calling, but there was some sort of long message in French that I couldn't understand - my French is not very good. It may just have been that they couldn't pick up, but the message seemed long for that. I saw on one website that they do close for a week in spring, and I wonder if that is this week. Avril, which even I know means April, was spoken several times. Does anyone know if the restaurant is closed this week?

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Their English is very good, so try calling back another time. Make sure you're taking the time difference into account. Also, if you have an Amex card (I think platinum or higher) you can use that conceirge service. Although my experience with the service is mixed to say the least, it's good for major Paris restaurants.

Pierre Gagnaire is a totally sweet restaurant.

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For my reservation (made in March) they took a week to respond to the electronic request. I followed up with a FAX (also a good option if your French is not that good) and received the email response a few hours after the Fax.

But all responses were in French!

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Last christmas I ate at Gagnaire's HK left wondering when I would eat at the real one in Paris, who would have thought that now I could write the review here ... yes in France forum

If you want to read the comprehensive review, please click here Gagnaire Paris review

If you just care about the pictures, see the following link Gagnaire Paris pictures

Food/Wine (97/91)

As almost all foodie-goers know, Pierre is a very creative chef, often goes out of boundary to the point that many patrons, critics and even his fellow chefs are not very sure what he's trying to do. However, Gagnaire does not hold the 3-star michelin for more than a decade for nothing, this experience taught me that nowadays, more often than not, his experiments are successful ones - many of the (new) dishes are carefully prepared. So here are what I have,

- the first one was actually a disaster . The poached codfish was tasteless accompanied by 'bitter' olives oil, not a good sign ... but hey, don't judge a book by its cover

- mixed vegetables (asparagus, different kind of carrots etc.) served with crab's juice reminded me of Passard, the expert of veggie dishes. A harmonious dish yielding different flavors - very colorful, Pierre also knows how to prepare good vegetables

- then it comes, possibly the most complex dish for that day. The most dominant ingredients would be the eggplant and red mullet, the overall taste is sweet with slight bitterness. Like the previous dishes, those many elements are not there for nothing (in the long review above, one could see the complete dish descriptions), mix them up to give different taste

- then it comes the perfect dish, the roasted seabass. Now I understand why it matters to cook sea bass to the bone and served it with its skin and fat. The turnips and watercress generate freshness while the fennel with soft butter enrich the already very delicious fish. A masterpiece ... I've never eaten a better fish yet until about a week later ... (not even Le Squer's classic turbot with black truffle could beat this)

- to no surprised that this next dish also contains many ingredients, but this one I think Pierre tried to create a more discrete dish, meaning one could simply enjoy the squids (prepared in 3 ways), an excellent fatty tuna and intensely tasty foie gras. an wonderful dish, but not perfect

- after the big drops and a few loops of roller coaster, he gave us a break this time. Cold peas with peppermint, infusion of fresh herbs with coconut milk would serve as a palate cleanser

- the main course is milk-fed veal served with morels and 'biscuit' of langoustine (probably the weakest element, the texture and typical taste of great langoustine was simply not quite there), but the veal is juicy and tender, perfect texture along with fresh and tasty morels. overall, still very good

- there are 3 different cheeses served here, not sure about the details. There were goat (the best), cow (a bit sour) and sheep (smell and taste like mont d'or) cheeses

- lastly the 6 different kinds of desserts served at the end. Some of the memorable ones would be lemon mousse with cucumber, light and refreshing; cream of orange and carrot with white cheese below, mild fruit sweetness. Pistachio ice cream with summer raspberries - fresh with sweet and sour balanced; apple jelly and crispy apple "chips" - fragrant apple aroma, but the taste is more on the acidic side. The parade of "edible arts" finally ends here

All in all, I'm very satisfied and gave it 97/100 as a representative of 3-star meal strictly from food's only perspective

The wine list is about the same level as other 2-3 star restaurants (but please don't compare it to Taillevent, ADPA or Le Cinq - these places are in different league as far as the wine is concerned). The problem is that it may not be very easy to pair/match wines with Gagnaire's food. Some even suggest to match them with champagne from the beginning to the end. Anyway, here what I have - a half-bottle of 2004 Saint-Peray, Domaine Bernard Gripa (its freshness and acidity balanced out the strong taste from some of the dishes) and a glass of 2001 Jurançon Moëlleux domaine Cauhape. It is fresh and rich with a blend of exotic fruits and citrus, moreover it has an aromatic finish. I was a bit lucky here, somehow they did not charge me for drinking about 1.5 big bottle of stilled water.

Service/Ambiance (94/92)

The dining room is definitely more on the modern side in sycamore setting. The tables (it's quite big even for a single diner) are very well-spaced and comfortable. The rest room was not very convenient as there's a big renovation in progress for Hotel Balzac. The restaurant was very quiet, only about 10 people ate there (Is it normal for Monday lunch?) The service is refined and professional, yet relaxed. They try to make everybody felt special regardless one is a regular customer. The chef greeted the guests both at the beginning and the end of my meal.

My overall grade for this experience is 94.5/100 - very close to 2 3/4*. I find the degustation menu was great. While the a la carte menu looks wonderful as well on paper but it's very expensive - 2 of them without cheese and desserts would easily surpass the dinner tasting menu. If you like expecting the unexpected (like watching Jack Bauer in "24"), this would be a must-try place hands down. It adds many educational knowledge on what a chef could do with his/her dishes. Gagnaire, along with Adria and Bras, are perhaps the most innovative chefs at their generations

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While I'm not much of a poster, I am an avid reader. I'm in Paris for the week en famille, with my restaurant card all planned. Pulled in yesterday from LA, and had a perfect first night dinner at Chez Louise et Robert. I've been going there for about 25 years - well before its Bourdain fame - and it is unchanged. A great Cotes de Boeuf, bleu, roasted potatoes and a bottle of Cotes de Nuits Villages. Just the thing for dealing with jet-lag.

Tonight I'm just back from what was supposed to be one of the culinary highlights of the trip - dinner at Pierre Gagnaire. I ate there a little over a year ago - M. Gagnaire in residence - and had a meal that met my test for a great meal: as I walk out the door, I'm thinking about when and how I can go back. So it was with great expectations that we went there tonight. We ordered the spring tasting menu. (It can be downloaded here: http://www.pierre-gagnaire.com/francais/cd24-new.htm) M. Gagnaire was not in residence, and it was on the whole, disappointing. Not that there weren't some great dishes. The first four dishes were all very good to excellent, the standouts being the John Dory with a slightly piquant sauce of rhubarb and tomato which was a highlight, along with the excellent lobster dish. But after that disaster. The white asparagus ice cream topped with what seemed to be canned tuna with cucumber jus was awful. Now I'm a big fan of molecular, but this was probably the worst dish I've ever had at a 3-star restaurant. The rest of the meal that followed was mediocre. The red mullet and artichoke with an oyster I thought was a mess, the slice of veal with a curry aspic sauce was OK, the cheese course was not very good, but of course the desserts were fabulous, although not quite as memorable as last time I was there.

So, half the meal was very good to superior, half was bad to OK. Not good enough, especially for the tariff. Also, too much reliance on fish. My daughter is not much on fish, and they graciously designed a non-fish menu for her, and I think she did much better. She had a fabulous foie gras, an excellent chicken dish and an excellent duck dish. Since she scarfed these up, I only got to taste a morsel of eoach, but they seemed more what I would expect from Gagnaire.

Service was excellent in Gagnaire's somewhat diffident style, although for two courses not all of the dishes were brought at the same time. A small lapse, but not something done at this sort of restaurant.

I certainly didn't leave with any thoughts of returning. My only thought was that if I was going back to a top restaurant in Paris where I'd been before, I should have gone to Guy Savoy!

Still to come, of the biggies, L'Astrance and Senderens. Will I be disappointed? At least the cost at these shouldn't be in the same league. On a more modest scale, have Ze Kitchen Galerie, Le Chateaubriand and Lena et Mimile on the card before heading home.

So, anyone else been to Gagnaire of late? Had this menu? Is he slipping?


Edited by Frege (log)

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So, anyone else been to Gagnaire of late?  Had this menu?  Is he slipping?

I went a week and a half ago, and we supplemented the set lunch menu with a few extra dishes. We were very close to opting for the spring tasting you had, though a few a la carte items we calling us more loudly.

For me, restaurants like Gagnaire that take such chances with odd combinations can be frustrating. I'm not sure the hit/miss ratio was on the safe side of 50/50, to be honest. Certainly some of the high notes are beautiful (the duck dish from the a la carte menu may have been the single best dish I ate during two weeks in Paris that included Arpege, L'Astrance, and other great meals). But many things I tasted at PG made me think -- pardon my French -- "wtf??!!". The canapes, for example, ranged from refreshing to horrific. Ditto with the 10 desserts that flooded the table at the end. This was my first meal at Gagnaire, and I would definitely return, though probably not for a tasting. I think you could put together a wonderful meal a la carte (start with the langoustines, and have the aforementioned duck, for example), and maybe avoid some of the possible land mines on the menu that way.

Don't worry about L'Astrance. We went there last week, too. It's a fun meal. Definitely have the wine pairing. Enjoy the rest of your time in Paris!

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Sounds like two typical Gagnaire meals. He is a genius but it's a place for people who go to three stars every week.

If you have Lucas-Carton experience, you might be disappointed at Senderens, which is considerably less luxurious. That includes the food. Senderens is a genius (a reliable one) and the new restaurant definitely makes you taste what a genius he is, relying on high quality but non luxurious ingredients. Food is great, but it is casual compared to the usual top restaurants, somewhere between bistrot and gastro, more on the gastro side. Personally, I'd much rather have a meal at Senderens than Gagnaire or l'Astrance, that said.

Another thing about Senderens is that, as he decided to lower prices, he still has great, simpler food but the wine pairing he offers just is of insufficient quality. It is still great pairing but not exceptional wines. My advice is to buy good bottles from the wine list. There is a page of 79euros bottles that has only great wines (see here for pics from last week), especially that Riesling Kabinett which is a great match with the langoustines among other things.

I reviewed Senderens here.

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