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Ledoyen

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It has been 6 years since my parents visited Paris. Actually, it’s not to their liking initially since they prefer going to new places. However, all of the hesitation was gone as soon as they strolled around the city of lights. Selecting where to eat for during a short 2-night visit in Paris as part of the Europe trip to celebrate their marriage for 4 decades can be tricky. Thankfully, their guideline was simple enough for the gastronomy part: top quality of new places for them. They’ve been to Arpege, Ducasse Plaza and Le Bristol to name a few. They liked the experience and the food, but ‘suffered’ if the meal last 3 hours or more. One of the places we visited in March this year was Ledoyen. The building and its décor were beautiful and uniquely Parisian and after 8 years (I believe) I would have another chance to savor the cuisine of Yannick Alleno, also often known as the Prince of Palace.

 

We went there for lunch, just several hours after my parents landed in Paris. They’re still fresh until the jetlag effect that usually came in the early evening after a long flight. The architecture was as good as before when Christian Le Squer still ruled the kitchen. A few changes I noticed were that: there’s a bar in the first floor in which you could visit without any reservation (serving limited food) and the main dining room’s setting (in the upper level) looked more modern with lighter color but still elegant and felt opulent. The tradition of French fine dining with big table and white cloth was still there, accompanied by comfortable willow green chairs. My parents generally are not a fan of eating lots of small dishes, so whenever possible they opt for the ala carte. That’s what we did during our two fine dining meals in Paris.

 

As soon as we finished with our orders, we’re offered bread and given several amuse bouche. My dad skipped the appetizer and I ordered one entrée to be shared with my mother. This appetizer happened to be the best one I had during this trip.

-Langoustine tart with Oscietra caviar and gold leaves: the tart was crisp and light enclosing the “cream” of buttery and delicious langoustine. The sauce was clean and tasty, and the overall experience was enhanced by the luxurious and briny caviar served generously. It’s a balanced dish and simply perfect! I had to admit it’s slightly more superior to the langoustine caviar dishes I ate at Plaza Athenee

-My main course was not inferior to the opening dish. I ordered roasted milk-fed (Limousin) lamb. The lamb was perfectly cooked; it’s tender and juicy with some crispy skin. It’s served with al dente pasta, that nicely absorbed the sauce (lamb jus + nutmeg cream = savory), and some shaved of aromatic black truffle. There’s also a ‘salad’ with tangy apple on the side. Again, the main ingredient, the sauce as well as the side dishes worked together in harmony. A sublime dish

 

-My parents are not that adventurous when it comes to food. I sort of know what they like/dislike.

My mother had a blue lobster fricassee with coral sauce - a dish that’s inspired by the east & south region of France. The lobster was well executed and more on the tender side; I thought it was fine and my mom had no issue to finish the whole lobster. My father usually likes fish, but the poisson that day was not that ‘interesting’ hence he chose Japanese beef instead. The kitchen did a fantastic job in preparing the well-done wagyu beef – it’s fully cooked according to my dad’s preference yet still tender and flavorful. Gunma beef often was too oily/rich, but not this one (also a balanced of meat vs fat amount). It’s served with uni, smoked unagi and ‘mashed’ celery, a bit too strong for his taste. He was very pleased with his plat principal.

 

I found desserts were not the current’s Ledoyen main forte.  I tried 2 items: chocolate-based and fruit-based. The presentation was, as expected, pretty but the pastry chef did not produce something great like our appetizer and main courses. It’s not bad per se, but I expected more (cannot help but remembering the terrific desserts of Camille Lesecq at Le Meurice in the past).

-The crystallized chocolate leaf had ‘many things and flavors’: bitter, sweet, crunchy, soft, fruity etc. However, there’s no outstanding element

-Roasted mango meringue was sweet and sour; the latter part was ‘stronger’. Again, nothing was truly memorable.  

If there’s one thing that saved the sweets stuff here, it was the beer crème brulee. It’s arguably the finest mignardise I ate for this trip. The buttery crust was pleasant with delicious (& not cloying) caramelized cream. I had about half of the plate. I will let readers see the pictures at below’s link if any of my descriptions was not clear enough

 

At Ledoyen, Yannick Alleno can become his own boss. He has more time and freedom to create dishes according to his own passion; less restricted with administrative things. One of the things he has focused more recently was about sauce extraction. I noticed that the sauces on his dishes were lighter and more refined but still flavorful (when compared to the “old school procedure”). He believes sauce is the soul of French cuisine; hence he puts more effort to improve or redefine it in modern times. To achieve this, he’s depending more on his cooking technique and his kitchen team’s skills instead of only on the ingredients. On the bigger picture, Chef Alleno reinterpreted traditional French cooking through some innovation and surprise though often quite subtle. He wanted to ensure there’s still a clear connection between the classic and modern in his French cooking. And hope the world would still notice that French cooking still matters, it certainly does for me

     

Actually during our lunch, neither Yannick Alleno nor Frederic Pedrono, the restaurant director, was present. However, that did not stop the rest of the team to perform and give us an impressive dining experience. Thanks to the leadership of Ledoyen’s chef de cuisine – Nicolas Le Tirrand. The hospitality was friendly and attentive. Water was diligently refilled and napkin was replaced anytime you left the seat. I hope this has always been Alleno Ledoyen’s standard. I said this because the restaurant was relatively quiet (only half full) and we ordered dishes that’s generally pricier; not sure if the cheaper lunch menu would give the same remarkable meal. That being said, I’m very happy that Yannick Alleno has returned to Paris for good and runs a restaurant that’s at least as good as his old one at Le Meurice. I think Ledoyen will get better in the future …

 

More detailed reviews: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.co.id/2016/05/pavillon-ledoyen-yannick-alleno.html

Pictures of our meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/albums/72157667878934521/with/26787339812/

 

 

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Yannick Alleno returned to Paris with a mission – to make Alleno Ledoyen restaurant to be the “best” restaurant. Additionally, he has expanded his ‘empire’ all around the world.  His effort and hark work were paid off as Ledoyen received the 3-star and (if not mistaken) his sous chef at Alleno Paris was good enough to lead the 1947 Courchevel to be his 2nd restaurant with Michelin’s highest accolade. With “aggressive and smart” tactics, Alleno restaurant also returned to the top 50 best restaurant (which many people believe they’re mainly about marketing, lobbying and influence). That being said, I found the food at Ledoyen to be very good especially the dishes from the a la carte. Similar to his days at Le Meurice, the restaurant had a lot of resources and this would explain why Ledoyen’s menu was very extensive. It was the main reason why I made a return last Fall – to try a few more and some seasonal creations of Chef Alleno.

 

As I was seated in the opulent dining room with classic yet minimalist design, I was given a menu to go through while enjoying some nibbles like veal tartare, aloe, and smoked eel. The menu cover was still the same as even during the days of Christian Le Squer but I encountered that the inside to almost entirely different this time. I still found a few of supposedly Alleno’s specialties such as langoustine tart with caviar and Gunma beef (surprisingly no homard at all in the menu) – we ordered them in 2016. Then, my friendly and knowledgeable maître d’ named Michael came and explained that starting this week, Yannick Alleno decided to redo his menu and basically guests were left with and encouraged to order the new and only tasting menu available. It was divided into 3 sections: salty emotions (3 small appetizers), le principal (2 small dishes and 1 main, either a red meat or a fish) and sweet emotions (2 small desserts). Then, I had no choice but to try the new degustation menu. As far as I’m concerned, all of the diners that night (nearly 20 people) French and foreign alike ordered the tasting menu. Business-wise, it seemed to be a successful strategy

 

From the 8-course menu, I liked 2 of them very much:

- Steamed scallops served with Cime di rapa with corn extraction and caviar. The scallops (from Normandy) were small, sweet and well-absorbed the corn extraction flavors. To balance them, the kitchen provided briny caviar as well as bitter but pleasant turnip tops (green vegetables with mustard-like taste). The 'soup' might look very liquid but it had a strong and clean flavor.

- Milk-fed lamb (from Pyrenees). The piece was wood fired and served with truffled modern sauce and pickles. The meat was succulent indeed; the rack part was very flavorful while the saddle part had a lovely texture. The sauce was concentrated but not too overwhelming; the veggies neutralized any (too) intense aroma and flavor. There was a small portion of decent lamb liver.

 

The rest of the dishes: a few of them were unusual and a bit disappointing when compared to my previous experience eating Chef Alleno’s cooking. My first 2 appetizers were hare galantine with beet and cocoa sauce; foie gras confit with spaghetti butternut and smoked eel. There were other interesting dishes (quite good actually) like quince pie with lamb shoulder and fruit; barley curdled fresh milk with bacon. The desserts were alright but I was “mad” after knowing that the Guinness beer tart brulee was no longer offered as the mignardise. While I would rate the food from this meal to be at 2* or 2 ½* level only, I respected Yannick’s bold move to revamp his menu. Most 3-star restaurants would normally play safe, but Chef Alleno was not afraid of making changes although his foundation / basic philosophy about the importance of sauce (pure, extraction, fermentation etc.) did not change here.    

 

The bright sides: there were ‘surprisingly’ 2 things that I thought was better than the food. First, the service was pretty much immaculate – friendly, warm and staffs always tried to please the guests. For instance, initially I would like to have a dish with white truffle which was not part of the tasting menu but since it was still early in October, I was not sure about the truffle’s quality. 5 min later Michael returned to my table with white glove and a box of Alba truffle (asked me to smell it), then he sliced about 0.5 gram of the truffle and let me tried it. It was not as pungent and strong as I would like it hence I skipped it. The extra mile that he did was remarkable.

Secondly, the wine was satisfying. Before having decided for the pairing, I perused the wine list and apparently Ledoyen had plenty of “exceptional” wines by the glass. The tasting (5 cl each) of Chateau Troplong-Mondot of Saint-Emilion from 3 different vintages (‘99, ‘06 & ‘11) caught my eye. And after some discussion and learning that I had some interest for these red Bordeaux, the sommelier allowed me to replace the initial choice of Napa valley red wine for the wine pairing. The wine quality and selections were also good; I found that some of the ‘average’ dishes became better by drinking them with the right wine. I truly appreciated the hospitality of the restaurant – these were done neither by the restaurant manager nor the head sommelier, but they (Michael and the wine assistant) had some freedoms and knowledge about how far they can go to make the guest happy.     

 

For the pictures of the dishes, their descriptions and more details about the wine pairing – please check from the link below. I don’t think I would return here anytime soon. And from my last 2 meals here, Yannick Alleno happened to be not present in his restaurant.

 

Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157690797066085/with/25085509528/

 

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