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robert brown

Restaurant Troisgros, Roanne

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In search of three-star dining as we remembered it a dozen years ago, my wife and I have decided to make a return to visit to Hotel-Restaurant Les Freres Troisgros after a 20-year hiatus. ( A look at their menu from Cabrales’ souvenir menu collection indicated that Pierre Troisgros and his son could still be doing it the old-fashion way.) We are booked for dinner and a night’s stay this Thursday. Although we have a car in our garage in Nice, the thought of making two six to seven hour drives in two days was daunting. This is why we decided to take the train to the restaurant, whose slogan in the old days was “en face de la gare”. By going and returning on a workday, we were able to avail ourselves of a special fare called “Decouvertes a Deux”. It gave us a discount of about 30% from the full price ticket, making the cost of two first-class, round-trip Nice-Roanne tickets, including the TGV supplement on the Nice-Lyon portion, about $280. (The rails are high speed only between Marseilles and Lyon, however).

My questions are:

Does anyone who has dined at Troisgros recently have any words of wisdom about ordering or anything else?

Has anyone made some interesting gastronomic train rambles in France that they wish to recommend?

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Robert -- How exciting! Here are additional thoughts:

-- For aperatifs, consider taking them in the bar/lounge area. The decor here is quite beautiful. It's also a nice place to have a cigar or digestif after a meal.

-- Sometimes, Troisgros will have a black truffle based menu as part of two tasting menus, even though black truffles are not in season (as in now).

-- Michel Troisgros' cuisine is not necessarily like his father's (in the best possible way). MT utilizes certain Japanese ingredients (e.g., wakame -- a type of seaweed; Koshi Hikari rice).

-- A bass dish with Koshi Hikari rice is excellent. An old dish of beef with Fleurie sauce is nice, and the aubergine appetizer (when available) in a gelee is very good. The restaurant will allow diners to order 1/2 portions of a number (but not all) of the appetizers. Pay attention in particular to dishes with acidity, including through the use of fruit with that component.

-- On the salmon with sorrel, it is presumably worth a sample, although more for the historical value than for its deliciousness.

-- Even if you are not eating at Le Centrale, there are certain food items that can be purchased there. This is not identical to the food and souvenir shopping possible through reviewing the items offered in the entryway to the hotel or opposite the wine cellar entrance.

-- At least some rooms require guests to affirmatively lock them shut.

-- In the refridgerator unit of guest rooms, there are bottles of Troisgros brand fruit juice -- As you know, this restaurant has a strong cellar, with stellar Burgundies. A visit to the cellars is worthwhile. There is a bottle of very old DRC. In the cellar, there is on the wall an old article with J-B Troisgros that discusses, among other things, the ideal temperature at which wine should be served.

-- Before dinner and in the morning, walk to the back of the hotel where there is a huge expanse of glass, behind which is the large kitchen. :wink:

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Robert - Here are the notes from my meal in May 2001. That's as recent as I can get.

"Getting to Troisgros in Roanne is only a bit of a journey but it is more difficult on Sundays. The rest of the week one can take a mid-day TGV from Paris and change in Macon and go directly to Roanne. But on Sundays you either have to go at 7:00am (and what would one do in Roanne for an entire day?), or in the late afternoon, which gets you into Roanne too late for dinner. So we went to Lyon and picked up a car for the approximately hour drive to Roanne. It isn’t a very picturesque journey and someone among us questioned the wisdom of the journey just to eat and drink good food and wine. Well all I can say is that some times it’s worth it and some time it’s not. Telling the end of the story first, this was amongst the times when it was most worth it.

I had wanted to go to Troisgros for years. Just reading about their signature dish, Salmon in Sorrel always made my mouth water. They have even updated the dish a few times, modernizing it to reflect current tastes. But for one reason or another, every time I had made plans to go my trip was cancelled. The restaurant itself is just across from the train station in Roanne. In keeping with the Michelin 3 star/Relais Chateau tradition, they have a small inn with 13 rooms where one can sleep after gorging themselves on the food and wine. As they bring you to your rooms, the first landing has a library with a few hundred choice books on food, wine and travel in general. The rooms are extremely large and very modern, but welcome and comforting. They all have extremely modern, sumptuous bathrooms. Every little detail has been thought out. We were psyched. This was going to be the real deal.

Just to digress a little, it’s funny how one can tell if a place is good by the little things. Everything about this place was so perfect with every detail so well thought out, that it just gave off the vibe that the food would be as perfect as everything else. Not that it couldn’t have turned out to be a disaster but, it’s unusual when they are taking so much care about little things that they haven’t thought it all through.

Dinner was at 8:15 and antsy as I always am I went down into the lounge a few minutes early. I asked for a wine list and I sat there with my mouth open and tongue hanging out at the astonishing selection at reasonable prices. In honor of my looming birthday, I was being treated to the red wine of the night and I zeroed in the various choices. After a few minutes the others came down and we sipped glasses of Roederer Champagne while looking at the menus. After a few minutes, they appeared with a tray of Chinese soupspoons that had seviches of eel, scallops and crawfish all marinated differently.

We moved into the main dining room. It was smaller than I thought it would be. Maybe there were 15 tables. They took our wine and food order and delivered an Amuse Guele to our table of Clear Tomato Jelly with Basil, Mint and ripe cherry tomatoes. It had the most intense ripe tomato taste and the way the spiciness of the basil and the sweetness of mint played against each other was divine. My first course was a Flan Vapeur aux Truffes which was like a veloute filled with chopped truffles and mushrooms that was steamed so the bottom was set like a flan. Intensely good with an ethereal quality to it that was driven by the dish being only partially set so that each spoonful would have a soupy part and a custardy part of the same taste. Yumm. This was followed by a half portion of the famous Salmon with Sorrel, which was everything it was cracked up to be, and more. The sorrel sauce was so tangy, lemony and mixed with crème fraiche and herbs that it perfectly played off of the oiliness of the salmon. Sort of taking the edge off with an edge of it’s own. A testament to signature dishes.

1992 Coche-Dury Meursault Perrieres- Gee after those starters you didn’t think I’d let you down on the wines did you? The same people who make this wine must own Baccarat because that’s the only way I can describe the intense glow that emanates from the glass when you pour a Coche Perrieres. It was so good that even my wife who doesn’t care in the least about what’s behind the bottle other than if she likes it (she recently went to dinner with a friend and ordered a Chateauneuf-du-Pape for dinner, “I recognized the name” she told me afterwards) even asked “who makes that wine?” Do I need to say more. 96+ points and I hope I get to drink this when fully mature.

My main course was a Pork Chop that was served with some julliened vegetables, braised baby garlic and slices of confit of tomato. The pork itself had the most interesting texture to it. It was firm and sort of crunchy but soft at the same time. Later in the evening Michel Troigros came over to our table and told us that the pork comes from a specific farmer in the Limousin who raises the pigs especially for the restaurant.

1990 Henri Jayer Echezeaux-Ah the birthday wine. We recently ate at Alain Ducasse with the people we were traveling with and it someone else's birthday and I bought the ’90 Jayer Cros Parentoux as the birthday wine. So the ’90 Echezeaux for my birthday was the perfect bookend for our little experiment of how the ’90 Jayer’s are faring. This was so different than the Cros. This is elegant and subtle and the Cros big and spicy. But I love that sour cherry Echezeaux thing. This one will live for years and if you own any, don’t drink it until 2015-2020 when it will be pure magic in the glass 95+ points

All of this was followed by some perfect cheeses and a perfect Lime Souffle. Everything about Troisgros is perfect, but I knew that when I walked in didn’t I? The next morning as we were checking out, I ran into the sommelier in the lobby and he invited me into their Cave. All of a sudden I found myself standing amongst probably I would guess, 100,000 bottles of wine. An incredible experience, which is best summed up by what my friend Kim said in the car as we were driving away, “I can come back here every year.”

I should add that another dish which my table raved about was a duck marinated in Asian spices and then roasted. It was done so perfectly and the duck meat was among the more succulent I've seen. And the Asian spices were a subtle yet noticeable presence. Have a great meal.

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The library is indeed wonderful. There are large, comfy burgundy-colored sofas to lounge around in. Breakfast can readily be taken there, if one is having, say, coffee and pastries.:wink:

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The best way to see how a great restaurant has changed over the last 20 years is to wait 20 years before going back. As annual visitors, beginning in 1975, to the revered Restaurant Troisgros in Roanne (where we would often have dinner one night and lunch the next day) we stopped going in 1983, the year that Jean Troisgros, one of the two chef-brothers, died at age 51 while playing tennis during a vacation in Alsace-Lorrain.

For reasons that may have little or no substance in reality, Jean Troisgros was our primary reason for visiting what was then called Hotel-Restaurant Les Freres Troisgros. A distinguished-looking, handsome man with a salt and pepper beard that gave him the air of an artist or writer, Jean was soft-spoken and friendly in a quiet way. When he was not working in the kitchen, he often stood behind the reception desk alongside his sister-in-law, Olympe Troisgros, making himself available to the clientele. Compared to his brother Pierre, who is still with us and now serves as the restaurant’s figurehead and meeter-and-greeter, Jean looked like he was clearly the creative force in the kitchen. Pierre, on the other hand, was cherubic and rotund, having no apparent shared features with his brother. In fact even back then, Pierre worked the dining room and signed menus with amusing drawings and inscriptions. So whether or not Jean was the culinary brains of the operation (that the house classics served today were also those when Jean was alive lends credence to the probability that he was), to our mind he was; and his premature and sad death was sufficient to sap our desire to return.

Just as the restaurant used to be among our four or five most favorites in the world, recently it had become one of the four or five on our short list of restaurants in France to go out of our way for. Restaurant Troisgros, after all, holds the honor of being among present-day restaurants the longest consecutive holder of the Guide Michelin’s three-star rating (now in its 35th year) and there was nothing anyone had written or said to indicate that the restaurant had deteriorated in terms of its cuisine or service. In fact, I had looked at a recent menu from the restaurant that made me think that the glorious days of eating in France might still be found in the town of Roanne, 55 miles north-northwest of Lyon.

Biting the bullet train, in a manner of speaking, we took the TGV from Nice to Lyon and transferred to the “slow” intercity train to Nantes, which made its first stop in Roanne. My wife and I bounced along the rails talking about, and reflecting upon, our visits there when the restaurant was in its prime and was considered by many to be the finest in the world. We remembered the “bar-salle” with its large oak bar where the locals gathered for a drink, too poor, some of them, to dine on the foie gras, lobster, and Charolais beef being served in the dining room next door. (For a while there was just one dining room, with another for private parties added on around 1980. Now there are four). A few times we spent the night in one of the dozen or so adequate hotel rooms that were furnished in a modern style, but to which you walked down a corridor of dark wood panels and plaster walls typical of pre-war inexpensive provincial French hotels. We also recalled that when we drove to Roanne we would cross a bridge over the Loire and a minute or so later go down a sloping driveway into one of the car stalls beneath the newly-constructed immense glassed-in kitchen that allowed the clients to watch the thirty or so chefs diligently work away on the lunch or dinner they would soon be consuming.

Our arrival this time seemed little different than all of the ones before. The entrance to the establishment was where two streets came together and the reception area was nearly unchanged except for the repositioning of the front desk and the additional shelves displaying household wares and restaurant souvenirs for sale. Only when the receptionist took us up a flight of stairs did we begin to see the changes. We walked through a seating area that had bookshelves filled with magazines and coffee table books on food and travel. We then entered a small elevator that did not exist at our last visit and alighted at the top, second floor where there were four rooms--ours being at the end of the hallway. The receptionist told us that our room was the last to be renovated, done so two years ago. It was spacious, solidly constructed and luxurious The adjustable bed was very large and comfortable and the bathroom, which was divided into a room with toilet and bidet; a large walk-in shower; and a washing up section with two sinks and a bathtub built into a corner, was rock solid from its very generous use of brownish travertine used even for the floor) and large white tiles. When we looked at the décor of the bedroom—sycamore tables, chairs, and couches in a style best described as a little-Scandinavian, but more Japanese -- we had our first taste of the overriding theme of the new, “pass-the-baton-to-the-next-generation” Troisgros: East Meets West.

The more time we spent poking around and asking questions, the more we realized the most salient feature of what can now be called the “Hotel-Restaurant of Michel Troisgros”--Michel being Pierre’s son and the head chef-- which is the cashing in on the Japan Boom that has come and gone. It is apparent in the total renovation of the establishment that has slowly, surely, and now with finality, with last year’s building of the large glass-enclosed wine cellar, taken place over the past 15 years. The Japanese feeling is most notably in the garden that was built over the airspace of the driveway that leads to the parking stalls (The garden itself is not a Japanese one, but it does have a self-contained structure that resembles a meditation room); the light wood tones of the dining room and the public rooms; and, most notably, in some of the inventions that come out of the kitchen, even as the Japan boom has turned to bust.

If there is a second major theme of the present-day Troisgros, it is the glory of longevity. While some new luxury restaurants in France cut back in such matters as size of the kitchen brigade, choice of dishes and use of formally trained servers, it is as plain as can be that Pierre Troisgros has kept the immensely high level of service and a kind of magic touch that makes every client feel special the way it was 25 years ago. As soon as we were seated, we felt that old magic of the Troisgros treatment at work once more.

(Coming Soon: Dinner)

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Robert,

You have us collectively holding our breath.

I can't wait to hear about dinner - I do hope you write and type fast!

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I'm already convinced I need to return soon, but go on anyway. :biggrin:


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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The challenge of choosing the dishes to dine on at Restaurant Troisgros is nearly as daunting as deciphering the clever and artistic monochrome drawing on the cover of the menu. You could spend a couple of hours with the drawing; a puzzle of sorts in which the goal is to find the letters that spell the name of the tiny renderings above and below the word “TROISGROS”. (ROI corresponds to a crown; OS to a bone and so on. The task is made quite complicated with the addition of small supplemental letters as well.)

Rather than being an impediment, the reflection needed to order your meal is the product of Restaurant Troisgros’ inherent generosity. The eight-course 150-euro fixed menu (with the option of foregoing the langoustine and spending 120 euros) exists not as a tool to have as many diners as possible order it (unlike so many other restaurants throughout world), but as a means to make possible partaking in a cross-section of Michel Troisgros’ handiwork. If you want dishes in full portion (none of which are used in smaller portions in order to construct the tasting menu, which is also a widespread practice) there are nearly as many “ a la carte” dishes as there were 25 years ago. They also are not overpriced to encourage you to order the “menu”. Thus it is possible to order three or four full courses for little more, or somewhat less, than 150 euros. (For a very clear, up-to-date virtual “a la carte” menu with prices, look at the Restaurant Troisgros website—www.troisgros.fr/).

Given our unusual circumstance of possessing 27-year old memories of Troisgros, we had to make the decision of going “retro” for some of our meal or giving Michel Troisgros’ cooking a relative “look-see”. Do we order Jean and Pierre’s monumental classic “Saumon a l’Oseille” (salmon in sorrel sauce)? Perhaps we should relive the “Chateau au Vin de Fleurie et a la Moelle”, which is beef tenderloin and marrow cooked with the grand cru Beaujolais wine, Fleurie , or splurge on the Brittany blue lobster cooked with Calvados. Instead we decided to share one warm appetizer and then have two fish dishes, a main course of lamb for two, and two “a la carte” desserts.

The meal started with an “amuse-gueule” described as a flan of celery. The consistency of the flan was much more liquid than the one associated with the Spanish dessert. It contained both the stalk and the leaves of celery and included a slice of banana that seemed very incongruous, yet gave the dish a contrasting medium- soft texture and a bit of sweetness. The dish, served in a small, narrow ceramic cup was topped off with a warm, velvety liquid cream that seeped down into the flan while we were eating it. The textures and flavors danced in our mouth and did its job of jump-starting our meal.

For our appetizer, we borrowed a dish from the tasting menu of which the kitchen gave us two small portions. (The restaurant is very accommodating in its willingness to serve half portions of appetizers). Titled “Ravioli de Petits Pois, Amandes, a la Menthe”, it was an oversize ravioli with a filling of pureed peas, almond paste and mint. An unshelled pea of a sweetness the intensity of which we had never before tasted was placed on the dish. We both were convinced that there was sugar in the filling, but the sweetness apparently came from the almond paste The ravioli itself was so sheer and translucent that we could see the filling through it, and more silken and delicate than any that we have had in Italy. The mint was a counterpoint to the peas and almonds, while the almond enhanced the pea flavor. The dish was delicious and as light as a feather even given its richness.

Our two fish dishes were a crash course in the culinary differences between the old and the younger generations. Both would have been inconceivable in the era of Michel Troisgros’ father and uncle. “Fin Bouillon de Loup et Riz ‘Koshi-Hikari’, un Voile de Moutarde” had an aroma from its bouillon with mirin that so evoked Japan that I was able to smell Tokyo on the serving table a few feet away. For us, the mirin was so cloying that it quickly detracted from one of the most memorable pieces of fish (wild sea bass from the Mediterranean) we have ever tasted. It was perfectly cooked, impeccably fresh, and had a thickness and meatiness that can only come from a very large specimen. The Koshi-Hikari rice, short-grain rice used for sushi, reminded me of the rice gruel one has for breakfast in Japan. Served on the side were small, perfectly-cut rectangles of eggplant, red pepper, yellow pepper, and zucchini placed on a paper-thin, crispy crepe-like base that tasted as if they had been unnaturally sweetened. In our opinion, almost any other preparation from within the boundaries of France would have better suited the remarkable piece of sea bass. As for a “voile de moutarde”, we had no idea what that was, as any hint of mustard was drowned out by the taste of the rice vinegar.

“Saint Pierre Cuit sur L’Arete, des Prunes Bigarrees, Sauce Carotte” offered modern luxury cooking of a different stripe: the use of fruit to acidulate a sauce. The translated dish is John Dory cooked on the bone with “motley” plums and a sauce of carrots. The fish, roasted with its skin, is served as a fillet with cooked plums (I could not find any reference to “prunes bigarrees”, but these were tiny golden plums) and little tomatoes. The plums and tomatoes acidulated the carrot sauce. While Michel Troisgros often cooks with fruits in savory dishes, this one struck us as pleasant but shallow and unexciting. Unlike the wild sea bass dish that was served at the same time, we found it more sober and accessible, however.

“Extra” in French is short for “extraordinaire” and the word I used to ask the maitre d’hotel if indeed the lamb dish for two I was about to order was in that category. He gave a definitive, whole-hearted “oui”. In our opinion, and to our disappointment, it was not. The dish in question, “Selle Affine dans un Harissa, Croque-Jardiniere is saddle of lamb aged in the North African hot pepper sauce one adds most commonly to couscous. In a cardinal sin of world-class restaurants, it came with the same side dish of vegetables that we had with our wild sea bass. Also served on the side were rather thick round slices of potato that had been poorly sautéed as evidenced by being cold in the middle. The saddle of lamb itself was superb and provided two copious portions. Although we requested it be cooked “bien rose”, it came to the table almost medium—probably cooked three minutes too long. The taste of harissa was so subtle as to be missed; the sauce tasted overly salted instead. Excepting the high quality of the meat, the dish was more in keeping with what might be served in a good bistro or one-star restaurant.

The “plateau de fromage” had always been a highpoint for us in prior meals at Troisgros. The current one, assembled from two local cheese shops, has shrunk in size; yet it is still substantial and of the ultimate quality. While the number of varieties is around 35, several, such as some of the goat cheeses, are offered in varying states of ageing. The cow’s milk Saint-Marcellin came in about half a dozen degrees of texture

Between the “on the house” and two “a la carte desserts, our personal jury was still out in regard to the abilities of the pastry chefs. The complimentary dessert of a mousseline of blackberry wrapped in a circle of chocolate wafer and served with a scoop of goat’s milk ice cream and blueberry sauce dripped around the plate was light, well balanced and not at all cloying. The two desserts we ordered at the start of the meal followed. The “Nage de Cerises et Fraises des Bois”, not on the menu, but which the waiter suggested as a summertime dessert, was a lightly chilled soup of cherries, wild strawberries and small pieces of orange rind containing many pieces the two fruits and the little variety of cherries known as “griottes”. A scoop of intense and smooth vanilla ice cream came on the side. This was a marvelous suggestion, so refreshing and welcoming. It vied with the flan of celery and the ravioli dish as the highlight of the evening.

Noticing a familiar dessert, “Souffle au Fruit de la Passion”, on the “a la carte” menu, we ordered it. Our familiarity was not bred at Troisgros, but at Restaurant Girardet, whose owner-chef Freddy Girardet’s original version was arguably the most famous dessert on the “grande cuisine” circuit in the 1980s. Whereas Girardet’s soufflé was cloud-like in texture, almost vanishing in your mouth-- and the sauce poured into it pleasingly tart. Michel Troisgros’ was stiff and heavy with a sauce that was overly sweet.

As my wife and I sat in the large garden for both our after-dinner coffee with the whimsical caramelized sugar and butter creations that accompanied it, and breakfast the next morning, we viewed the one main feature of Restaurant Troisgros that had remained unchanged since our previous visit: the immense glassed-in kitchen and the cuisiniers within chopping, weighing, and scurrying back and forth. (So much change had occurred in the last 20 years that it became obvious to us that the Troisgros family has plowed back the large majority of its profits into improving their facility and keeping up the wine inventory which is one of the largest and deepest in France. I only had time to study the part of the wine list that I wanted to choose from—the red Burgundies. The available wines included many from Henri Jayer, Jean Meo and the Domain de la Romanee-Conti that most other great restaurants in France have long depleted). Of course we discussed and evaluated our visit. Although we had minor differences of opinion about certain dishes, we both felt that we were better cared for than fed. As with most people whose meals fall short in a great restaurant, we wondered if we ourselves failed to take a good measure of the cuisine. Did we order wrong by not choosing at least one of the Troisgros classic dishes? (We decided not to since we planned on coming back). Did we make a mistake coming for the first dinner after the restaurant’s semi-annual two-week vacation? (Certainly two weeks is not a long layoff; there was a lunch service under everyone’s belt; and the kitchen staff certainly made their preparations a day or two before). While one can in theory always order “better”, we suspect that there are two reasons for whatever failings our meal had. Michel Troisgros, while diligent and intelligent (he makes the rounds of the dining room better than any chef I ever encountered: so relaxed and a good storyteller is he) is not quite, or not yet, the great chef that his uncle and father were. Our meals in the 1970s and early 1980s were more focused and disciplined because they were all about France. Now the baton has been passed to a chef-restaurateur whose palate and tastes reflect the internationalization of food and what the “Coca Light” generation expects or is used to, most notably sweetness in almost every bite. The main ingredients are French, but the preparation, seasonings, and sauces are apt to be from anywhere, which to our minds makes the cuisine more appropriate to Paris than a small town on the Loire. Yet we have every intention of returning for the simple reason it felt good being there. The lack of pretense and the Troisgros touch that makes you feel special being there has not changed. On our next visit we will do what I think anyone who goes there once in a lifetime or very infrequently should do, which is for half the table to order the tasting menu and the other the glorious dishes that Jean and Pierre Troisgros created together.

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Robert - I'm sorry your meal was below expectations. When I was there in May of 2001, although the component of sweet was present in many dishes, the menu didn't seem to be so overtly influenced by Asian cuisine as the meal you ordered. And although I trust your plate to a very high degre, I wonder if your experience is a combination of not ordering well, and having expectations based on prior visits that are unrealistic given how cooking has changed over the last 25 years. Putting it a different way, you needed to hold Troisgros to a different standard both on menu construction and on follow through. But of course you could be right. That is why both you and I both have to go back to check it. As to that great wine list, what wine did you order?

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Steve, I could have played it safe by ordering the dishes that I had between 1975 and 1982. We decided to postpone the salmon and try an all- Michel Troisgros meal, having pretty much decided we would come back within a year. Maybe we ordered badly, but we didn't pick that up from the maitre d'hotel who also encouraged us in our selecting the saddle of lamb. Based on my meal, I would say that Michel Troisgros is not in the upper echelon of French chefs. I also have never picked up any sense that the culinary world feels that he is also. There were glaring errors that I point out in my original post-the lamb, potatoes, and souffle-that should not happen in a three-star kitchen. I expected better from one who spent the majority of his apprenticeship with two chefs who were the greatest of the day: Alain Chapel and Freddy Girardet.

The wine was 1993 Chambolle-Musigny "Les Sentiers" of J-F Mugnier.

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Robert,

First of all, an incredibly detailed, well written, intelligent, "You are there" review. Thank you, Robert.

We will be at Troisgros in September and I imagine, by that time, the menu will have changed. However, as we are having a lunch and dinner on the same day, I am trying to figure out the best way to order.

Below is Troisgros' menu from their web site. If you were going again tomorrow, for lunch and dinner, how and what would you order? Would you stay away from the Japanese influence? Would you order the menu or stick to a la carte? Do you think Michel Troisgros is capable of duplicating the famous dishes of his uncle and father? From your descriptions, it would seem that Michel Troisgros is not at his best when his dishes emphasize "the internationalization of food."

Starters

Fresh sea bass tartare with coriander

Warm oysters in a vinaigrette with rock samphire

Pelmenis (Russian ravioli) with a green pea and almond filling

Bain-marie of grey shrimp and celery

Seared foie gras slices, gooseberries

fishes

Salmon scallop with sorrel (a recipe from 1960)

Red mullet fillets with tomato candies

Pan-fried eel slices coated with “hazelnut and rosemary”,

gherkin butter

Steamed sea bass fillet in a delicate seaweed infusion

with “Koshi-Hikari” rice

John Dory roasted on the bone, many-coloured plums

with ginger, carrot sauce

seafood, shellfish

Crayfish tails with sweet-and-sour chicory

Langoustines with a horseradish and lime mousseline

Blue lobster grilled and flamed with Calvados,

Cancalaise butters

poultry

Spiced Challans duckling, pickled shallots, potato puffs

(for 2 people)

Crisp squab and foie gras «Pushkin café»

lamb "from Quercy"

Saddle marinated in chilli-and-coriander harissa,

toast with garden vegetables (for 2 people)

Chops studded with cloves, caramelised spring onions,

“Paolo” potatoes

veal "from the pays Roannais"

Milk-fed chop with croutons and sage, desert roses

(for 2 people)

Slice of liver cooked with butter and almonds,

garnished with griotte cherries and chopped mint

Kidney fricassée with romaine lettuce and olive oil,

anchovy-basil sauce

beef "Charolaise breed"

Two classics :

Fillet with Fleurie wine and marrow, Forézienne potatoes

Fillet with coarse-ground pepper and ginger,

lacquered with meat glaze

cheese

Fresh and ripe

Over the fourme and the pear

Warm goat’s cheese cannelloni with herbs

desserts

by Sébastien Degardin (to be chosen at

the beginning of the meal)

Cherry and wild strawberry nage with kirsch

White peach contrast with verbena

Brioche with poached apricots and citronella

Suave chocolate cake, mint ice cream

Passion fruit soufflé, pineapple brochette

Raspberry jalousie (latticed pastry), ginger sabayon

Iced vacherin with sweet-and-sour strawberries

Sweet temptations (a tasting plate)

MENU

L'amuse-bouche

Court-bouillon d'écrevisses glacé "Manoa"

Raviole de grenouilles, jeunes épinards à l'huile de noix

Rouget barbet à la chapelure de noisettes et romarin

Canette de Challans en aiguillettes "dolce-forte"

Les fromages frais et affinés

Instant de douceurs

Fines bouches

150 €uros par personne,

PARFUMS, SAVEURS et FASCINATION DE LA TRUFFE NOIRE

Aspic de cèpes citronné

De fines lames de Saint Jacques et de truffe,

du basilic sur pain "melba"

Une râpée de truffe sur un cannelloni aux chanterelles grises

Noix d'huîtres chaudes et de la truffe en julienne

La langoustine, la truffe, la poire, le poireau

Le lièvre de deux façons : en royale et en aiguillettes rosées

Brillat-Savarin, salade truffée

Instant de douceurs

Quarts sucrés

250,00 €uros par personne,

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Robert,

Another thought just occurred to me. The menu you had and as set forth on the web site seems to have changed considerably since 2001.

My review, already posted, for last year:

"After a number of amuse - don't have my notes on these, we had tete de veau - a pressed pork head with tomato in olive oil basil vinagrette. Next the frog legs beignet was perfect - almost like a tempura batter with a remoulade of celery- blanched shredded celery served with tangy mayonnaise and vegetables cut in 1/16" cubes in an olive oil mixture.Then a tomato fritter with snails.. Next their famous salmon in sorrel sauce - rare 1/2" thick salmon with enough sorrel in the sauce for sorrel with each bite. Then crunchy grilled sweetbreads, natural sauce, tomato petals and potatoes. After cheese we adjourned to the garden for desserts, pastries, coffee, Armagnac and for my husband a Montecristo #2. It was a perfect evening - great food, super service and perfect ambience."

Do you think Michel is over-reaching at this point?

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Liz, thanks so much for the kind words. It's late here. Therefore I will answer your question as best I can tomorrow. But I'm hardly an expert on the restaurant after six dishes, two extras, and cheese.

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"Based on my meal, I would say that Michel Troisgros is not in the upper echelon of French chefs. I also have never picked up any sense that the culinary world feels that he is also."

Well this is sort of the double whammy isn't it? What Troisgros is famous for (and this goes to Michel as well,) is keeping the family tradition alive. That means they are still cranking out excellent versions of what you ate in 1975-1982 and they also have been updated and modernized a few times to keep them current. What Michel Troisgros is not famous for is for creating an entire menu on his own that is at the level of what you call "the greatest of the day." In fact none of the younger chefs in France seem to be in that league if you ask me. So if that is the test you put him to, I'm not surprised that he came up short of the perfection of Giradet etc. In fact, his heavy reliance on eastern spices is sort of a giveaway.

But I think the main point here is who exactly is in the upper echelon of French cooking that can cook with Chapel, Giradet, Robuchon, and Senderens when he was still cooking? Do you see Gagnaire, Passard, Chibois etc. or any other chef at that level? The ones whose cooking approached that level like Boyer, Pacaud or the troika in Burgundy. they're all tired now. They don't cook with the enthusiasm and panache of the days of yore. So considering how far great cooking has fallen, Troisgros actually remains one of the few places that still aproximates those days.

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But the same side dishes with both meat and fish and poorly sauteed potatoes, oversalted sauce?

What excuse is there for that?


beachfan

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Lizziee, what a great idea to post a menu and ask what to order. This could make a series of threads all by itself. Here's my first cut at a menu:

Warm oysters in a vinaigrette with rock samphire

Seared foie gras slices, gooseberries

Salmon scallop with sorrel (a recipe from 1960)

Blue lobster grilled and flamed with Calvados,

Crisp squab and foie gras «Pushkin café»

Le lièvre de deux façons : en royale et en aiguillettes rosées

Kidney fricassée with romaine lettuce and olive oil,

anchovy-basil sauce

cheese

Fresh and ripe

Cherry and wild strawberry nage with kirsch

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Jaybee,

The one problem about asking e-gullet members for their opinion is that there will never be a consensus! However, that being said, this is the only group I would even begin to trust with recommendations.

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Consensus? Who said anything about consensus. I think it would be fascinating to put all these fressers around a virtual table with the same menu and see what they come up with. We could do ti for Troisgros, ADNY. Daniel, and a few other "temples of gastronomy" here and there.

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I thank you for that, although I have to add that it's changed my mind about needing to return. That you "both felt that we were better cared for than fed" is something that would depress me to have to say. Of course you may have ordered poorly or hit a bad day, but your observant comments indicate the unlikelihood of that. Of course I might still go to Troisgros. My tastes may be different enough and then there's the curiosity factor.

I'm disturbed by your comments on sweetness in savory dishes. I'm afraid it's annoyed me in many places where I otherwise have a high regard for the chef as well as some places where I have had less of a regard for the chef in the US and France. Perhaps I need to re-educate my palate for the 21st century. I hope not. I don't think it will happen and I don't enjoy being in the derriere-garde. There is, of course, a great tradition of sweetness in savory foods from the sweet and sour Alsatian Jewish dishes to Sicilian, middle eastern and north African dishes with fruit and raisins. So I find it possible to enjoy the sweet with the savory at times.

What comes through in your post is not just the recipes and the lack of a discernible French identity, but a carelessness in the preparation as well as concept. Of course I place some hope in Steve's theory that the personal history for you was too strong to allow an accessibility to the new Troisgros style. It is easier for me to accommodate strange things in England and Spain than in France, where I've been too happy dining in the past and where my tastes were formed. France is my retreat and it is far more threatening to lose what I have there, then to be confronted and confounded elsewhere.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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But the same side dishes with both meat and fish and poorly sauteed potatoes, oversalted sauce?

What excuse is there for that?

I had the same garnish with a main course that had been used by itself as an amuse in a one star restaurant and I was embarrassed for the chef. I wondered as well if Michelin had any standards for Provence. I've had successive and successful dishes accompanied by some of the same vegetables, but prepared in different ways or in different combinations so as to show the vegetable in such a new light. I find that quite acceptable and even enlightening, but if Robert is saying it was the same exact preparation repeated, I'd find that offensive. I've had waiters suggest I change my order because the sauces on the dishes I ordered were similar and it was with the mutual understanding that they were doing their job properly.

Is Troisgros famous for "keeping the family tradition alive?" Is that why it is awarded three stars? One can look at Bocuse's listing and say, "yes, Michelin does that," but look at the dishes listed for Bocuse and note the absence of salmon in sorrel sauce for Troisgros. Tour d'Argent in Paris has two stars and it's duck is still recommended. Then again restaurants are invited to submit their recommended dishes. My rather poor French interprets GaultMillau's comments about the food as saying it's new and bold, but that the flavors are measured. Indeed the strength of the GaultMillau listing should give hope that Robert's initial response might change on a second or third exposure.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Consensus?  Who said anything about consensus.  I think it would be fascinating to put all these fressers around a virtual table with the same menu and see what they come up with.

I didn't think you expected a consensus when you posed the question, although I wasn't sure if the question was somewhat rhetorical or intended to help Lizzie decide. While many of us are known characters whose tastes and preferences may have struck some chords and might be remembered by others and thus serve best as they can be filtered by regular participants, I wonder if it would be more interesting if we offered reasons for our choices. Parlor games for the internet, I suppose and I'm not ready to play as I have to temper this evening's dose of opiate online.

:biggrin:


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Steve and Bux: I hope I am open-minded when I dine in France these days in the face of certain vibes people send me that say, “Get over it”. (It’s tough when your reference is France between 1974 and 1990. Where are all the other Brits and Americans I used to see? It would be nice if they posted their experiences and opinions) Being open-minded and not enjoying what one hopes is a great meal these days is not necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, Steve, you make the point well that chefs are not cooking at the level that I consider the period of the apogee of dining in France. I am sorry I never got to write it up, but we had a lunch at Arpege in early July that was the first perfect meal we have had in France in a long time. Although the menu was small and focused and we had expert advice on selection (we ordered “a la carte”, thereby minimizing the risk of getting any dishes we would not find “perfect”), the lunch showed that it is still possible to have terrific meals in France. (I am sure, however, that the chances of having one have been greatly diminished in recent years.)

To a notable extent, the present-day Restaurant Troisgros keeps up family traditions, but as I indicated, to me it was more in non-culinary concerns. Only 20% or so of the “a la carte” dishes pre-date Michel’s taking over the kitchen. (Does any one know if there is any rotation of the Jean and Pierre dishes? That would be interesting to know). While it was our intention to relive old memories of what we had eaten, we were so taken with how we were received and the comforts of the hotel, we decided to stick to Michel’s dishes and come back another time for the salmon, lobster, or Charolais beef. Just to add a sub-topic to what Steve wrote, it is also interesting to note that so far there has yet to be a son of a great French chef today who people are sitting up and noticing.

I don’t want to dissuade you, Bux, for returning. I really do want to give it another go. Troisgros struck me as being unlike other restaurants that you can sense after one meal that they have nothing better to give. I also hope I go when Pierre is there as I hoped to have the chance to talk with him and ask him, among other topics, what the genesis of the salmon in sorrel. However, it was a long holiday weekend about to start and he decided to extend is vacation in the Jura mountains.

Liz, I would try any dish that has the pea, almond and mint stuffing. There are two or three apparently. The “Homard Bleu” was always terrific. You might ask when you arrive if there is a Jean and Pierre dish you could have at dinner. Maybe there is a French way to prepare the wild loup de mer . Other than that, it is not usually possible to know from the menu description if a dish is going t taste sweet or “foreign”. I would ask, unless you like those kinds of flavors.

Beachfan, I wonder if the mistakes were the result of the restaurant's two-week vacation. I wonder, too, if the larder was fully stocked. The picnic we ordered for the train seemed as if was bought on the outside.

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Robert - Lest we forget, because we are such big fans and proponents of French cuisine, that the lights have been dimming on French cooking for a number of years now. In fact a famous eGullet member started an entire thread on this topic which has been thoroughly hashed out.

You can see from reading your post, and our experience at Maximin last April, why Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges and others prefer to work outside of France and in a manner and style that is less restricting than what you have described at Troisgros. The biggest thing places like Troisgros suffer from is that the length of the journey (which although not arduous is still a trek) raises expectations to the level that anything short of a "wow" brings disappointment. Looking at this from a businessman's perspective, and given how far the Daniels of the world have gone in bringing the haute cuisine experience to distant shores, even if it is a somewhat diluted version in order to turn covers, the cost of creating a "wow" that is perfect on every level must be capital, and labor intensive to the point of making it financially intolerable to all but those who have the secret.

I think that is why there is so much emphasis put on the hotel and the cave at Troisgros. It keeps "Troisgros" alive. Those two things are just a matter of good taste and capital. But once you have them they are locked down. Cooking on the other hand, whether we are speaking about creativity in constructing menus or follow through in preparing the food perfectly is a more fleeting exercise. But when you add the 20% of the menu which harkens back to the golden era, those three things, the hotel, cave and classic dishes have probably gotten the "Troisgros experience" to be 75% of the way there to enjoyable.

This is why I am less troubled by your report then you are. There is room to miss in that 25% for simple reasons that include your ordering wrong or Michel just not getting the menu right this particlular season. But what I find encouraging is that I see many of the same items offered as when I was there in May 2001. That Chalons duck and the Pork Chop from the Limoges are stunning as ingredients. As does the fish you described. So I can chalk up your meal to the vagueries of French cooking given the time we live in. Which is mostly framed by our experiences with the Chapels, Robuchon's etc. of the world who cooked when cooking was cooking. And didn't Robuchon confirm this theory for us this week by making his announcement.

Your comments about your lunch at Arpege are telling because they have found perfection, or should I say wow, by removing the wow from the equation. A different kind of wow. And your El Bulli report is clearly a different kind of wow as well. The wow that Troisgros is aiming for is based on maintaining the tradition of the village hotel restaurant on the Place de la Gare as a place that takes good care of you on every level. Kind of like a museum of a day that has almost gone, even though they modernized the experienced. But in the days of yore, you had to travel to Roanne to sample that great salmon with sorrel dish. Today, there must be 50 restaurants all over the world that make at least a variation if not an exact copy. To make a "wow" version, has to be an unbelievable burden on Troisgros. And while the version I had there last May was fantastic, it's not something I would travel half way around the world for. Once upon a time I/we would. In fact you didn't even bother to order it this time. And so it goes.

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