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Ledoyen

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Louisa:

That was a great report! I felt almost like I was there, too. You're right: If I had gone there, it would have been a very different experience. I'm sure that the chefs at any fine restaurant that know Cordon Bleu students are coming would "get up" for that, like great athletes who love the playoffs and so forth.

I notice you say you used bread discreetly for the sauce. I do that all the time, and not apologetically. Is it considered really declasse' to do that in fancy places?


Edited by Pan (log)

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I had those strange knife-spoon implements on several courses at Gagnaire - I just presumed they were there for self-defense (someone from another table tried to attack my foie gras, but I repelled him with couple of quick thrusts of my spife... :cool:)

Thanks for the ravioli. My reasons were more to do with the nature of 'gourmandising' stuffed pastas. I know everyone does it. I'm not just not sure I get it. I had a capon one at the French Laundry which really didn't work. Then I had a ham-hock one at Thyme (a new London restaurant) with a truffle-broth sauce that really did. So - I'm just not sure where that line is. Any thoughts?

Louisa - Write more! Faster! More intricate adjectives! Quick! :smile:


Edited by MobyP (log)

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MobyP, it seems to me that there are two reasons for stuffed pasta: to economise on the stuffing ingredients, and to encapsulate flavours so that they either stand out (as a figure against a ground) or go into the mouth in as concentrated a way as possible.

The first clearly has no place in haute cuisine. I think there are cases to be made for pasta as a flavour "smoother", e.g. when you have an ingredient like anchovies or garlic that might be too strong on its own, but not, in a 3-star restaurant, as a way of saving money on lobster, pigeon, truffles, etc.

The second reason, encapsulation, makes a lot more sense to me. I have had many superb ravioli dishes where the pasta was in a consommé or a very light sauce, and having the main ingredient surrounded by the pasta made the contrast of tastes sharper and more distinctive. The essential requirements are: a very light, thin dough; a filling that is deeply flavoured, not at all neutral or bland; a sauce or consommé that doesn't overpower the filling.

The purest version I've had of this was a pea purée "ravioli" at El Bulli, where the skin (which I don't think was made of a flour paste) was so light that it vanished in the mouth. Superb.

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Jonathan Day - yes, I think that's exactly right. It's almost an axiom. The insides have to be louder, more colourful, than the outside. Thinking back, that's exactly why the FL one didn't work, and oppositely for Thyme.

Which is to say - the pasta and sauce are always the frame, no? The filling is the picture.

Since we now have almost an axiom, it's interesting that the Batali ravioli of braised beef cheeks with a chicken liver/black truffle sauce goes against this (well, no point having rules if you can't break 'em). In my memory, they are both as loud as each other.

Anyway - enough about chickens - Louisa - tell us more!


Edited by MobyP (log)

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Following on from the theme of encapsulation, the sensation of something "bursting" in the mouth. Think Meneau foie gras cromsequis (ok, not exactly pasta) or shanghai soup dumplings.

J

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Which is to say - the pasta and sauce are always the frame, no? The filling is the picture.

Or vice versa.
Since we now have almost an axiom, it's interesting that the Batali ravioli of braised beef cheeks with a chicken liver/black truffle sauce goes against this (well, no point having rules if you can't break 'em). In my memory, they are both as loud as each other.

But at least they are different: beef vs. chicken livers. What wouldn't work would be ravioli filled with dark chocolate served in a dark chocolate sauce. (Now, no doubt, someone will say that some famous chef has been wowing the critics for a decade with exactly this dish...).

Whereas (when you aren't going for encapsulation) it is perfectly fine to serve, say, roast lamb with a lamb jus, or beef with a sauce derived mostly from beef and veal flavour components.

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Which is to say - the pasta and sauce are always the frame, no? The filling is the picture.

Or vice versa.

Can you give a vice versa example? I'm not seeing it.

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There are a number of "reverse" examples in Alice Waters and Richard Olney -- Olney, for example, has an example of a herb pasta served either with a light cream sauce or as a kind of gratin, the pasta dough made with all sorts of young fresh herbs picked on the hillsides of your Provencal garden.

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I sign the menu for the chef and staff as well and have yearbook flashbacks. Chef Le Squer and his staff emerge victorious from the kitchen to our rowdy standing ovation. A Cordon Bleu stagiaire is pushed to the front, our applause swells and for a moment I wonder if the waitstaff is prepping a Champagne bong for his hazing.

i rather enjoyed the vision of the champagne bong.

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Moby! Ugh, you're putting me through my culinary paces! OK. The ravioli filling was diced morels with smooth foie gras. So I'm guessing that they pureed sauteed foie gras and then added sweated morels, binding the mixture with cream. So kind of a mousse of foie gras but not really a salpicon of morels - since a salpicon usually refers to a cooked dice bound with a cream or even sauce but not really with a mousse.

My untrained guess is that it wouldn't be sauteed foie gras, but a terrine or poached foie gras and that there's be no point using a prime slice of grade 'A' foie when it could well be a terrine made from bits and pieces.

Bux, as they say "C'est normal." But it's not, is it? And this is Paris - the big bad city - not some little French village!

"C'est normal." I'm hardly an expert on the French language or culture, but I always felt the French use that expression best when they use it to describe the unusual and unexpected. Americans get all excited when the unexpected happens. The French seem to have so much more "savior faire." They understand that the unexpected is always a possibility. When the preacher runs off with a hertofore seemingly faithful wife, devoted mother or four, president of the PTA and pillar of the community, the Frenchman says "C'est normal" to show he's too sophisticated to be surprised at anything.

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hollywood, went to the Saveurs Salon last night. Started with a free glass of Champagne and it got better from there. Stuffed myself like a foie gras duck on food and drink samples. The tastiest items were the cheeses and sausages - covered in molds I'd imagined only allowed in biowarfare labs.

Pan, sadly, yes about the bread. But the staff in fine restaurants should overlook any kind of indiscretions.

Moby, spife - that's it! And the ravioli we had - I asked Chef Boucheret - former chef at Ledoyen - and he said no puree - just small dice the foie gras then lightly saute it to render the fat, the rest the same.

Jonathan, more on the El Bulli pea puree ravioli please. Sauce?

And I think the Ledoyen ravioli disproves the axiom for precisely the opposite reason as yours at Batali. At Ledoyen the dish was pure, subtle, and harmonious. The filling, a taste and textural reduction of the sauce. When you first see the plate you see those small but whole, earthy but otherworldly, gnarled but beautiful morels - and small slabs of seared foie gras. You expect strong flavours with such a strong initial visual - and from the deep aroma of the morels. But the tastes are subtle - with more of an emphasis on aroma and texture. The pasta was another surprise. So fine and thin you could see the filling within. But perfectly al dente purposefully serving that sense of the phrase. Your teeth actually feel a resistance before breaking through to the filling. And the filling, again, a refinement. Much like dark chocolate ravioli in chocolate sauce.

Jon, cromesquis, soup dumplings, jalepeno poppers - yeah, pretty much all the same concept. :biggrin:

herbacidal, if only I'd asked for it - I'm sure those guys would have been happy to oblige.

Bux, oh my, what are you reading these days?! But seriously, we have found what we believed to be extraordinary generosity to be common courtesy here in Paris. And no, the French are normally not an excitable people. Except in the kitchen.

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hollywood, went to the Saveurs Salon last night. Started with a free glass of Champagne and it got better from there. Stuffed myself like a foie gras duck on food and drink samples. The tastiest items were the cheeses and sausages - covered in molds I'd imagined only allowed in biowarfare labs.

Foie gras duck. Sounds like you survived the WOMD nicely.

A friend who's currently in Paris is looking for a friture d'eperlans, and I don't even know what it is. Any thoughts? Thanks.

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Friture D'eperlans: These are very small river fish coated and fried and eaten intact. Served with sauce tartare. Had it last year at Garnier across from Gare St. Lazare. Incredibly good when done correctly and something I always order if available at a reputable restaurant.

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Friture D'eperlans: These are very small river fish coated and fried and eaten intact. Served with sauce tartare. Had it last year at Garnier across from Gare St. Lazare. Incredibly good when done correctly and something I always order if available at a reputable restaurant.

Thanks, Pirate.

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Jon, cromesquis, soup dumplings, jalepeno poppers - yeah, pretty much all the same concept.  :biggrin:

Jalepeno poppers? :unsure:

J


Edited by Jon Tseng (log)

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hollywood, WOMD?

And yes, pirate, thanks. How do they taste? Strong or mild?

Eperlans are like smelt - small and silvery - and apparently harder to come by but I've seen them in the markets. In Basic we did a recipe where we took sole and shaped strips to look like eperlans.

Jon, jalapeno poppers. :biggrin:

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hollywood, WOMD?

And yes, pirate, thanks. How do they taste? Strong or mild?

Eperlans are like smelt - small and silvery - and apparently harder to come by but I've seen them in the markets. In Basic we did a recipe where we took sole and shaped strips to look like eperlans.

Jon, jalapeno poppers:biggrin:

Weapons of Mass Destruction. Thanks for the word on the little fish.

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loufood and hollywood: Eperlans are not strongly flavored. The key is the freshness of the fish, the batter and the frying technique. The batter at Garnier was like an excellent tempura. The sauce tartare, classically made, completes the dish perfectly. It is one of those "simple" dishes where the quality of the ingredients and the execution (les trucs du chef) are paramount. Isn't that always the case?

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Dinner at Ledoyen 5/4/05

Chef Christian Le Squer

Arrive at 8:00pm and are escorted up a grand staircase to the main dining room on the second floor. The room is long and slightly narrow with tables lining either side of the long axis leaving an open central path along the length of the room. We are seated at a window table near one end of the room.

The room décor is very elegant but a bit darker and more restrained than the somewhat “exuberant” décor at Le Meurice.

Again, we both choose the tasting menu with wines to match (244Euros per person including wine).

For an aperitif, we each choose a glass of Puligny-Montrachet (unfortunately, I neglected to note the particulars but it certainly held its own). One nice touch which remained constant throughout the evening: If you finish your glass, it is repeatedly refilled for the duration of the course – and well after. Another interesting tidbit: If you choose champagne as your aperitif (which looks to be the typical choice), they have a champagne “cart” which consists of a large punchbowl filled with crushed ice containing 6 or 8 bottles of different champagnes from which to choose. This is wheeled table to table so you can review the selection.

For the first amuse, we are brought a little marble slab that has four different tidbits: A tiny smoked prawn on a cocktail skewer surrounded somehow by a creamy foam topped by a tiny truffle slice. It looks almost like a dressed-up foamy marshmallow. The smoky/creamy combination is quite nice. Next, a single-bite beet tartlet. Then a one-inch piece of fois gras cut into a perfect rectangle so as to look like a fine chocolate. It is covered on each side with a thin crunchy biscuit crust. It looks for all the world like a tiny piece of fois gras candy. Finally, a small tube-shaped “cigar” of soft mixed vegetable brunoise surrounded by a thin, crispy crust of some sort of fine hair-like pasta threads. All are quite good and a very interesting progression of bites from one through four.

This is leisurely followed by the second amuse: A martini glass containing a chilled tomato concasse en gelee. On top of this is a perfect quenelle of chilled tomato mousse which is then topped with parmigiano reggiano and basil. It’s very refreshing and I enjoyed the contrast of the intensely-tomato base with the milder smoother mousse on top.

At this point, we are offered a selection of amazingly unusual breads. I don’t know who is the current pastry chef at Ledoyen (wish I did), but I have to say that all the breads and pastry items were definite highlights. There are four or five breads to choose from including a miniature version of the standard baguette; a multigrain spiral-shaped roll that looks for all the world like a small pecan roll only it’s savory not sweet; and the most unusual, something that is only described as “shrimp bread”. I keep thinking I must have mis-translated so I try some. It is black in color, round, slightly flattened, somewhat spongy in texture like a good sourdough, and tastes intensely of shrimp (!) When it was first described, I kept thinking maybe it had bits of shrimp meat baked into the dough, but no. It’s completely smooth and uniform throughout. To look at it, you would have no idea that it’s anything other than a very dark bread. It’s only when you taste it that it fairly screams “shrimp”. We spend a good deal of the rest of the night trying to figure out how it’s made (our best guess, maybe squid ink to color the dough and intensely-flavored shrimp stock used instead of water). Definitely one of the memorable experiences of the evening.

Course 1: Grosse langoustines Bretonnes croustillantes, emulsion d’agrumes a l’huile d’olive. This was essentially two large langoustine tails done two ways: One tail is butterflied, roasted and served with a quenelle of lemon/olive oil mousse. The other tail is shelled, rolled in the same fine, hair-like pasta threads as the vegetable “cigar” amuse, and then either roasted or flash-fried to turn the threads into a crispy crust. Wine is a 2000 Chateau Hostens-Picant “Cuvee des Desmoiselles” Sainte-Foy Bordeaux. Very crisp, clean, refreshing, and a fine match with the langoustine. Both tails are excellent, but my favorite is the roasted tail with the lemon/olive oil mousse. As you work your way through the tail, the mousse slowly melts over it and turns into a sauce that is both rich and lemony.

Course 2: Blanc de turbot braise, pommes rattes ecrasees a la fourchette et montee au beurre de truffe. This is described as a speciality of the chef and it was my favorite dish of the night. It is a small block of line-caught turbot braised so that is just barely cooked through. It is served on a small bed of “rattes” potatoes in a truffle-butter sauce. The turbot is topped with a stenciled series of angled stripes (like the chevrons on a sergeant’s sleeve) made from powdered black truffle and black olive. As you eat the turbot, the black truffle and olive powder falls into and mixes with the truffle butter sauce intensifying the truffle flavor and looking just like vanilla seeds in ice cream. Both this dish and the previous one were all the more impressive to me because of the way they slowly seem to transform themselves as you work your way through them. Wine was a 2000 Henri Boillot Meursault. In a curious coincidence, the same wine we had for an aperitif the night before at Le Meurice. It worked very well with the truffle butter sauce, having the richness and backbone to stand up to the dish but still acidic enough to cut through all the butter and fish.

Course 3: Noix de ris de veau en brochette de bois de citronelle, jus d’herbes. Veal sweetbreads skewered by two sticks of lemongrass, on a bed of baby fava beans and petit pois. Sauced with a green herb jus. Wine was a 2000 Jean-Michel Gerin Condrieu “La Loye”. This was a very simple dish in contrast to the previous course, yet still perfectly done and very satisfying. It was amazing how much the simple lemongrass skewers flavored the sweetbreads. Delicious! Between the lemongrass, the fava beans and peas, and the fresh herb jus, it was like the sweetbreads became a vehicle for tasting a spring garden. The viognier was a nice partner to the dish – have to keep that pairing in mind if I ever try and serve sweetbreads.

Course 4: Cheese cart. This was more or less the standard cheese cart service except of course for the quality and rarity of the cheeses themselves. I choose an aged chevre and a cheese I believe was called “lange” (?) Had I known what was to follow, I would have picked more. :biggrin: As soon as we had made our cheese selections, they were forwarded to the sommelier who then selected individual wines to match each cheese. So just after my cheese plate was presented, the sommelier set down a glass of wine immediately behind each cheese. He then explained what each wine was, and was also very particular about the order in which we were to proceed. With the chevre, he matched a very nice Sancerre (although he was very detailed about each wine at the time, I’m afraid my notes once again failed me at this point). With the lange, a nice glass of blanc-de-blanc champagne. The chevre was my pick here – possibly the best chevre I’ve ever had. It was the perfect combination of sharpness and crème. Most chevres always seem to be more one or the other.

Course 5: First dessert course. A 3-inch circle of fraise des bois topped with a thin crunchy caramel disk, then topped with a lime sorbet and then a tiny dollop of raspberry mousse. Once again I was blown away by the intensity of the tiny fraise des bois. And of course everything combines perfectly once you take the first bite. Wine was a 2003 Domaine de Barroubio Muscat de Saint-Jean de Minervois. While this wine was pleasant enough, there wasn’t really anything that memorable.

Mignardise tray: Another small stone serving tray containing: 1) a bite-sized pear brioche, 2) a bite-sized “candy apple” consisting of apple puree inside a tube of bright red crunchy “candy apple” candy topped with a tiny green apple top and stem, 3) a bite-sized crispy pastry cup filled with a sort of orange/strawberry meringue, and 4) a bite-sized violet “marshmallow”.

Course 6: Second dessert course: A warm passionfruit sabayon served in a passionfruit shell and a small “swizzle stick” of sweetened meringue to garnish. I’m not a huge passionfruit fan, but I had no problem finishing this off. Once again, simple, clean, and perfectly done. Wine was still the Muscat.

Course 7: Third dessert course: A chocolate mille-feuille consisting of 3 crispy chocolate tuiles with a luscious soft chocolate mousse sandwiched between. It was served with a pistachio ice cream quenelle. Wine was something new to me – a Byrrh “Rare Assemblage” which the sommelier described as similar to Banyul and made from Grenache and Caraignan grapes. The sweetness of it helped match the sweetness of the dessert, but this seemed one of those times that a red wine/chocolate pairing was somewhat forced.

With coffee: A small glass of raspberry mousse and an assortment of nougats. For the coffee service, you choose from a selection of exotic coffees on the coffee menu (Jamaica Blue Mountain, etc).

About half the men in the room seemed to be smoking cigars after dinner. At Ledoyen, like the champagne and cheese carts, there is a cigar cart which consists of a large humidor with a glass top that is wheeled to your table so you can select your cigar of choice without ever leaving your seat. The cigar steward then perfectly trims your cigar and uses a small torch like a crème brulee torch to light it and it is then presented to you already perfectly lit.

We each finished off with a glass of 1949 Castarede Armagnac. After the generous pour into each glass, the waiter noticed there was only a little more than an inch left in the bottle and so drained the rest into both our glasses. We were thus obliged to finish every drop lest we appear ungrateful for this generosity.

Out the door at 12:15am

Total bill for 2: 713Euros.

Chef Le Squer came out to greet each table towards the end of the evening and we told him how much we enjoyed our meal and how “complete” the dining experience had been at Ledoyen. He seemed genuinely pleased. He also seems somewhat shy and nervous in front of the customers. Certainly very polite and pleasant but underlying that you get the impression that he’d much rather be in the kitchen. As a contrast, Chef Alleno at Le Meurice seemed much more at ease working the room and seemed to almost enjoy it. I certainly didn’t notice any discomfort.

Some other miscellaneous observations comparing Le Meurice and Ledoyen since we were able to dine at both on successive evenings: At this writing, Le Meurice as two stars (although based on the current guide, maybe it’s better to say two and a half?), whereas Ledoyen has three. After having what can only be described as a wonderful evening at Le Meurice, we each were curious if there would be any noticeable difference between a two-star and a three-star. After dining at Ledoyen, both of us agreed that there were indeed a few differences that we felt made the experience at Ledoyen superior (at least to us).

Start with the food. The meal at Le Meurice was great. But at the same time, as creative as some of the combinations were, there was occasionally a dish that had something a little out of balance or while a combination might have worked, it might have had a certain “pushing the envelope” quality that was fun, but sometimes was a little like being on a culinary rollercoaster. That no doubt sounds harsher than it should because again it was a great meal. But I say that in order to contrast with Ledoyen where every dish seemed a perfect balance of all its parts. Each dish was so “complete” for lack of a better term. And the progression was perfect as well. Each dish seemed to be a perfect setup for the next. Also, as mentioned there was an extra element of transformation in several of the dishes so that as you ate them the sauce was slowly changing the character of fish, and so on – thus the last bite was different from the first. At Le Meurice, as good as everything was, that didn’t happen.

Next, service. No complaints about the service at Le Meurice it was professional, personable, and thorough. Yet somehow, the service at Ledoyen was more. It was as if everything was anticipated and provided such that it magically arrived just at the moment you realized you wanted it. Certainly not the sort of hovering over you, constantly intrusive service that so often appears instead. Instead, people just magically appear and disappear as needed. I’m really struggling to describe what is almost an ethereal experience. It’s almost as if you’re being transported to another world for an evening.

Finally, wine service. Here I think both restaurants balance out. I can’t comment on the respective wine lists and prices since we had wines paired for the tasting menus both nights. But within that limited experience I thought Ledoyen’s service more generous (as they continually refilled whatever wine you were drinking at the moment), but Le Meurice offered the more interesting selections, even if you had to pace yourself to make sure you had wine left when the food arrived – at Le Meurice there were a couple of times that the wine arrived some time before the course it was to accompany. Normally a nit-pick, but when you know this is your only glass, you’re left to stare and take a tiny sip now and again while you wait for the food. But that said, there were several wines served at Le Meurice that were absolutely incredible! Whereas all the wines served at Ledoyen were good, but none was what I would consider a revelation.

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Great report.

As far as contrasting the experience at LeMeurice and at Ledoyen, the former is a hotel restaurant, that's the difference; like contrasting former girl friends, one kissed with slightly more attention. :wink:

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Loved this report. I wish I knew more about wine...some day I'll have the time to study it more. Thanks for sharing the experience with us. The shrimp bread sounds really interesting!

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“There was an extra element of transformation in several of the dishes so that as you ate them the sauce was slowly changing the character of fish, and so on – thus the last bite was different from the first…”

Thanks for your refreshing comment, RichieRich, particularly in these times when certain American restaurants are argued to be equal or better than French 3 stars. I’ve never thought so; I’ve been disappointed, and made to feel guilty or old-fashioned for preferring the fewer but more fulfilling and complex courses of the best tables in France.

That transformation you point to--the slow unveiling of new, more complex flavors as a diner works through a truly well-crafted dish--can’t be found in the strobe-like flashes of American two-bite dishes that have risen in popularity recently.

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I thoroughly enjoyed your reports. Thank you for taking the (very considerable) time to present them so well.

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The croustillant langoustine sounds like a variation on the old Alain Senderen classic of langoustine wrapped in vermicelli (which in turn I suspect suspect is a rip-off of a chinese dim sum classic - deep-fried prawns wrapped in rice noodles :biggrin: )

l8tr

J

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It has been few years now that I visited Le Doyen and your write up brought back nice memories.

What I always liked about this restaurant, beside the high quality of food and service, it is their welcome for cigar smokers which is the epitome of a meal for me.

So thank you.

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