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Alain Ducasse au Le Meurice

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Alain Ducasse, nearly 60 years old next year, is never satisfied with his already remarkable empire. Around late summer 2013, he accepted the challenge to take over the restaurants at hotel Le Meurice (the acclaimed chef Yannick Alleno left the hotel in early ‘13). Ducasse has plenty of capable and talented brigades at his disposal; with the closing of Plaza Athenee for renovation, he sent Christopher Saintagne, a former sous-chef for JF Piege at Crillon, to become Meurice’s Executive Chef and in particular to lead the hotel’s flagship restaurant bearing his name. This restaurant is essentially the “same” establishment as Alain Ducasse Plaza Athenee (ADPA) prior to the hotel’s renovation in the fall 2013. ADPA was my initial destination, but since it would serve different kind of style (almost no meat, cream and sugar) upon re-opening, then I decided to visit Ducasse Meurice. Perhaps, my wife would also be impressed with its beautiful dining room.

 

In essence the grand dining room was as pretty as before (I had a dinner here under Alleno in the past). The big windows, majestic chandeliers, painting in the ceiling, and other opulent stuffs were still part of this magnificent dining place, which was modeled after a state apartment in Versailles. About half of the tables were filled, so the seats nearer to the kitchen and entrance were not occupied. We were seated at the side table near the window and facing the central dining room. It was a sunny day with plenty of natural light. My wife didn’t feel like eating a lot, so she ordered the lunch menu whereas for me, I opted for the Collection menu. Alain Ducasse was on track to probably become the first chef with two 3-star michelin establishments in the same city if ADPA managed to get back its ‘full macarons’ this Feb.

 

My spouse and I began with the same snacks and amuse-bouche

-fresh and briny oyster from Normandy to whet our appetite

-followed by sharing roots vegetables cooked in sea salt and served with rather sharp sorrel sauce. There were several kinds of veggies: potato, leek, radish, carrot etc. In spite of getting used to the quality of Arpege’s vegetables, we could still say this ‘au naturel legumes’ was solid (tasty, light without any trace of butter/cream)

 

The collection menu,

-scallops with Alba truffles prepared 2 ways. Firstly, the delicious and perfectly seared scallop in tapioca ‘bread’ with parsley and creamy sauce. Secondly, I had the pristine & sweet semi-raw scallop pasta and olive oil. A satisfying dish

-the kitchen cooked half portion of poached blue lobster with delicate artichoke for the next course. The sauce (a mixture of lobster just, bonito and vinegar) was excellent. The lobster was prepared in right texture: buttery claw and slightly firm tail; both were flavorful.

-refined chicken breast with superb albufera sauce and shaved of white truffle was the dish I looked forward the most and it was up to my expectation. The breast was moist and flavorful, covered by scrumptious and perfectly prepared classic albufera sauce plus Alba truffle shaved on top – heavenly. I liked this poached poultry better than Frechon’s famous Bresse chicken cooked inside a pig’s bladder

-I tasted 4 French (artisanal) cheeses and they’re very good. I had Mothais ala feuille, comte, Camembert and abbaye de citeaux. They’re accompanied by dry fruit & black olive breads as well as salad

-pineapple dessert in several forms such as extract, dry chips, sorbet and they’re served with avocado, coconut, chili spices and so on. I think the pastry chef should include fresh & sweet pineapple itself. It was quite ordinary and I felt a bit underwhelmed

 

Lunch menu

-‘semi-raw’ and fresh sea bream with beetroots and a dollop of caviar. I thought the fish was a bit too salty for my taste, but the combination worked well. My spouse enjoyed it

-my wife liked her main course a lot; it was a tender & delectable Bresse chicken with earthy & meaty cep mushrooms. I tried a bit and it was quite good, but not at the level of my poultry with albufera

-chocolate with some varieties: texture, taste, temperature etc. There were ice cream, decadent choco ‘sauce’, cocoa mousse and foam. The combination did not go as good as we expected. It was not bad, but nothing memorable either

 

Some notes about the food. Desserts were (surprisingly) kinda disappointing by Alain Ducasse standard – well, we would not have been had one of us ordered the legendary Baba au rhum. I could not recall Chef Ducasse created desserts, let alone delicious ones, in which he would combine too many things in one plate like what we had here. He was usually a ‘minimalist’ type and we could clearly see and taste 2-3 main items. For the appetizers and main courses, comparing here and my 2 meals at ADPA ... I found the execution at Meurice not as rigorous and precise as the one at Plaza except for the case of my chicken dish. My two previous meals at Ducasse Plaza can be found here:

https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/AlainDucasseAuPlazaAtheneeParisFrance1stVisit

https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/AlainDucasseAuPlazaAtheneeParisFrance2ndVisit

 

In addition, the portion for each course was getting smaller. I also saw the pictures of others eating similar dish at Plaza Athenee about 2 years to confirm it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very good meal and slightly more superior than my tasting menu at Ducasse Dorchester. It’s just that I knew what Alain Ducasse was capable of and this certainly was not his finest. I would give 96/100 (2 ¾* by Michelin standard) for the food.

 

Lastly, a comment on the service - it was not up to my expectation. It was not a busy lunch, and they refilled the water (and bread) very slowly – we had to raise our hands a couple of times. On the contrary, the staffs seemed to be very rush as if they did not want to talk or entertain us when we asked for something. Waiters also spoke quite fast and lacked eye contacts. It was not a typical of Alain Ducasse’s hospitality. The most decent service delivered by senior sommelier who used to work under Roucayrol at Plaza. As a matter of fact, the service was also not on par with Meurice under Alleno. To be fair, they’re still professional (get most of the basic things right) and trying to be friendly but not really personable or looked too sincere even though their english was quite fluent. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable lunch experience. However, the next time I return to Paris, it will not be in my list. It will be the time to re-visit Barbot’s Astrance and/or Alleno + Le Squer in their new restaurants.            

 

You can follow this link for pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/AlainDucasseAuHotelLeMeuriceParisFrance

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