Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Restaurant Troisgros, Roanne


Recommended Posts

I think comments such as this are very telling about a restaurant. At a two star restaurant years ago, after I selected a red wine for my main course, the sommelier told us to leave some for the cheese and returned to suggest a particular cheese we should add to our selection because he thought it went very well with the wine.

Now that is great service!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to post
Share on other sites

Now that is great service!

I recall that after I selected the wine, he told us that he was particuarly pleased with that wine. He thought it was one of his best purchases lately. It was a St. Joseph from Bernard Grippa and St. Joseph was the closest wine area to the restaurant. Of course 90% of waiters and wine stewards compliment my wine choices. The most profuse compliments come from my selection of a wine they're most eager to get rid of, so I pay little attention to those kind of comments. This time he apparently meant it and took great care of our sevice, making sure to pace our consumption. It was an excellent wine, but it was also more expensive than any St. Joseph I had tasted before, so it seemed reasonable at the time. In retrospect, it must also have been a great year, because when I found a Grippa St. Joseph here in NY from another year, it was excellent, but not quite up to the one we had there. Many things go into the memory of his service that night. He also introduced us to Maury, a dessert wine from the south my wife found intolerably medicinal, but for which I developed a taste before my glass was finished. Most memorable was the deftness with which he plied his trade with one arm. These are the kinds of memories of hospitality that have solidified my francophilia over the years.

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.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I recall that after I selected the wine, he told us that he was particuarly pleased with that wine. He thought it was one of his best purchases lately. It was a St. Joseph from Bernard Grippa and St. Joseph was the closest wine area to the restaurant. Of course 90% of waiters and wine stewards compliment my wine choices. The most profuse compliments come from my selection of a wine they're most eager to get rid of, so I pay little attention to those kind of comments. This time he apparently meant it and took great care of our sevice, making sure to pace our consumption. It was an excellent wine, but it was also more expensive than any St. Joseph I had tasted before, so it seemed reasonable at the time. In retrospect, it must also have been a great year, because when I found a Grippa St. Joseph here in NY from another year, it was excellent, but not quite up to the one we had there.

Context means a lot, especially with wine. It is unusual for even the same vintage of a particular wine to taste exactly the same from one time or even bottle to another. This I find especially true when tried over a larger geographical area. The most important point, I find, however, is that if everything is clicking during a particular dining experience the effect is synergistic and my pleasure in particular aspects is heightened that much more. The converse is also true. The more opportunity I have to carp, the more fault I find even with things I might otherwise praise in other circumstances.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

Link to post
Share on other sites

Context means a lot, especially with wine. It is unusual for even the same vintage of a particular wine to taste exactly the same from one time or even bottle to another. This I find especially true when tried over a larger geographical area. The most important point, I find, however, is that if everything is clicking during a particular dining experience the effect is synergistic and my pleasure in particular aspects is heightened that much more. The converse is also true. The more opportunity I have to carp, the more fault I find even with things I might otherwise praise in other circumstances.

The effect can be synergistic. I'll agree that inertia can have a large effect on one's enjoyment, especially of a meal. I can think of many instances where a bad day was saved by a good meal and a bad start in a meal managed to be saved along the way, but more often than not, good meals get better as they progress and bad meals get worse.

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.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I was reading the October issue of Bon Appetit yesterday and there was a small mention that Troisgros was adding a new place to his restaurant empire. Is this the same person- a relative or just a coincidence?

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Link to post
Share on other sites
. . . Is this the same person- a relative or just a coincidence?

I guess it would depend on which Troisgros Bon Appetit was talking about? :biggrin:

Claude went to Brazil, where he met and married a Brazilian and where he makes his home. That hasn't stopped him from opening restaurants in Miami and New York. CT was his restaurant in NY. It was in the spot later occupied by Union Pacific. He is currently involved in the Chodorow restaurant that occupies the old Rocco's on 23rd Street. More here.

From Claude's own home page, here's his version of the family history:

The Troisgros family Chef tradition begin in France in the early 1930.

The pioneer, Jean Baptiste, known for his boldness and his culinary talents, gain Fame to break some “taboo” from the Traditional French Cooking. His two sons, Pierre & Jean, have been the creators of the world famous concept “ la Nouvelle Cuisine Francaise”, and from 1968 until today, hold the maximum “3 stars” Michelin Guide rating.

The third generation preserve the family tradition in France with Michel, at Restaurant “Troisgros” in Roanne, with Anne Marie, at Restaurant “Gravelier” in Bordeaux, and with Claude, at Restaurant “Olympe” in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Pierre and Michel have a cafe in Roanne and one in a department store in Tokyo as well as their three star restaurant in Roanne. La Maison Troisgros web site.

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.

Link to post
Share on other sites
...I can think of many instances where a bad day was saved by a good meal...

Interesting that you said this in this thread - because our meal at Troisgros saved an exceptionally bad day. I had misjudged the driving distance to the town - it rained buckets during the whole drive - the traffic was horrible - and we arrived at the hotel/restaurant in a totally horrible mood about 30 minutes before our dinner reservation. We were frazzled and wet and had awful headaches. Rushed upstairs - showered and changed. Went to eat. And - although I knew it wasn't the thing to do - I ordered a gin and tonic before dinner - because I really wanted one. And the staff - which really didn't know exactly what a gin and tonic was - didn't call me an American idiot. They huddled - and put together a somewhat unorthodox - but totally refreshing - gin and tonic. And the rest of the evening was all uphill from there :smile: .

By the way - I am glad to hear that the rooms with the restaurant have been renovated. When we stayed there - they looked like something out of a 1970's Playboy magazine fantasy (complete with a spiral staircase in our room which was difficult to navigate after dining with a healthy amount of wine). I think the current decor would be more to my taste. Robyn

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...

My euro trip this past spring, for the dining part, I slightly put emphasize on "respect the tradition" and yes it means that I put more weight to dine at the restaurants with a long history in the haute cuisine world or have been awarded 3-star michelin at least for 10 years or so. Among those, one of them is Troisgros - the restaurant that currently enters the 3rd generation and does not show any sign of weaknesses.

Food/Wine (95/91)

I ordered the tasting menu - "Impressions de printemps", the price is quite reasonable compare to 3-star in Paris. However, I changed some of the dishes on the menu and fortunately the restaurant is very accomodating. I didn't feel like eating the John Dory or foie gras (not a really big fan of duck liver) so instead I subs them with some of the Troisgros' classic dishes. Troisgros is known to be in the frontline in terms of cooking using sorrels - dated back as early as 1960's if I recall correctly. The dishes with sorrels are:

- Warm oysters wrapped in sorrels. The sorrel is as expected to be acidic, but the oysters were not really in their top season - it's not very fresh. Even the simple cooked-oyster preparation at Sushi of Gari NY taste better. No wonder Oud Sluis was not willing to serve any oyster dish.

- Salmon (firm texture) with sorrel sauce. This dish on the other hand is superb and especially the sauce is simply divine - a classic sauce preparation at its best. An wonderful dish

The other 3 dishes are

- Pan fried's frog legs - another excellent dish. It's flavorful and very tender. Simple ingredients elevated to gastronomy level food. Sorry JG, your frog's legs dish is inferior compare to this one

- Troisgros also gave me the best piece of lamb's meat I've ever tasted. The lamb almost has no fat or skin which makes it more difficult to prepare, especially to get rid of even the slightest "funny" smell - it's very succulent and the flavor spreads equally. I simply forgot about the side dishes - some vegetables and cream of eggplant. A perfect lamb's meat

- Crayfishes wrapped in leek and olives. The prawns are quite good, but the combination was not too fantastic. I was not really moved with this dish

Oh before I forgot, in the beginning as amuse, I was served

- Frozen green peas soup, very refreshing to start a meal

- Razor clams served with garlic. The clam has good texture and taste is right, not as salty as it looks.

- The cheese selection is up to the standard of 3-star restaurants. For this trip, I would say that Hof Van Cleve collection is the best. Troisgros has a very good Saint Marcellin, Saint Nectaire and Epoisses, while the local wine cheese is ok.

- 3 small desserts are served towards the end of the meal (probably one of the most interesting ones during this trip). It started with mikimoto - a very sweet meringue balanced with the rhubarb's acidity and grapefruit's sour taste.

- A small pie served with peas and wild strawberries. Again, another combination of the pie's sweet taste along with sour taste from the fruits and the jelly.

- Cherries with ice cream. It's always good to end a meal with a fresh ice cream/sorbet, the mint element inside pretty much clear up any after taste left from the meal. Great combinations of small desserts.

While it's often considerend as the best restaurant by many people, this is not even in the top 5 of my favorite meals unfortunately, yet I would still gave a very high score - 95/100 (2 3/4*). Probably I need to come again one day in different season to try to understand better about the cuisine here, the a la carte menu looks interesting too.

The restaurant is also known to have one of the best wine selection in the world as explained by many wine experts in this forum. It's indeed the case, but with a limiting budget for wine (as I was going to Paris the next day), I chose to drink wine by the glass.

- The house-brand rose champagne is refreshing with a lot of gas - not too bad

- The white Condrieu is explosively rich with strong and round flavor in the mouth. A perfect pairing for the salmon

- The red Saint-Joseph is rather terrible. It's rather "bitter" with some "medicine-like" smell

The choices of wine pairings (about 5 glasses priced at EUR 130) look intriguing. I almost ordered it.

Service/Decoration (94/92)

The service here is more on the conservative side, but very impeccable. Many of them spoke decent english, even better than a few 3-star restaurants in Paris. The maire d'hotel was very flexible when I requested to change some of the dishes from the degustation menu. I came almost 30 minutes late (arriving around 130 PM) since I missed the earlier train, however I did not feel being rushed at all during my lunch.

The restaurant is comfortable and very spacious especially the middle part. The design is simple yet elegant, decorated in neutral colors - white and brown. Along the walls, there are many contemporary artworks. The cool part - the side part of the dining room is connected to the hotel's intimistic garden - very green and peaceful.

If I have to quantify the overall experience here, it would be 93.5/100 (A solid 2.5* by michelin-standard). The potential of many other great dishes I saw at the menu is high, I could probably just touch the surface of what the restaurant is capable of cooking. If one has time, it's probably better to stay overnight and dine here 2-3 times and sample as many dishes as possible. Last but not least, below is the link of the pictures I took there (enter the gallery). Thanks

troisgros 07

Edited by Bu Pun Su (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

Funny how people on these boards can have the same things but be moved in completely different ways. Our meal at troigros was really good, but something left me a little wanting. If you asked me to compile my dream menu between this meal and the one at Bras three days later, it would probably consist of half and half.

But the two restaurants rate very differently for me. The difference? The Bras dishes that miss out do so by a whisker. The troigros dishes that missed out bombed. In relative terms, they really disappointed. Which was such a shame: the winning dishes were real stars. And I think Ian and I were pretty much of the same view.

We arrived just after 8pm. I phoned ahead a few times to see when they wanted me to arrive, and they just said whenever. Yet I got the sense that we were somehow 'late'? We were shown straight to our table, and there were no canapes. Is this normal?

We went for the tasting menu, and slotted in two extra dishes. We were excited.

Amuse: Razor clams

1444568976_c4e62651c5.jpg

Don't remember a great deal about these. Very tender, no noticeable acidity.

Course 1: Frozen pea soup with orange

Sorry, no photo. But this was great. Clear clean pea flavour. With a nice zing from the white orange flavoured layer on top.

Course 2: Marinated sardine with tomato and samphire

1444571318_15ce020991.jpg

Great dish. Lively, fresh, and full of flavour. The fish was topped with a tangy jelly. The presence of samphire signalled the start of a trend throughout my France and California trip. Bizarrely, the tasting menu had 2 options - one with the sardine (E145) and one without (E185). So E40 for a single sardine!

Course 3: Bain marie of foie gras with apricot and pink peppercorns

1443710663_02b813a70d.jpg

I loved this dish. When Troigros' dishes work, they are extremely intense, but very light, even with foie. The apricot and pepper foil was very effective.

Link to post
Share on other sites

So it started very very well. But then it started to wobble.

Course 4: INSERTED EXTRA: Frogs' legs with cauliflower and tamarind

1443713131_ebd3343378.jpg

This just wasn't special. I liked the texture of the cauliflower crunch, but the sauce just seemed a little unrefined. There was an element of curry spicing in every meal of my trip. On every occasion it lacked finesse. Just wait for the lobster...

Course 5: Roasted cod with tomato water

1443715131_7f2d4d4cd8.jpg

Truly stunning dish. The fish was excellently cooked, but the tomato water was the star of the show. Poured at the table, it was remarkably perfumed, intense, but light. I love this style. Possibly the dish of the night.

Course 6: INSERTED EXTRA: The Famous Salmon with Sorrel

1443716957_1a37c8d036.jpg

What a contrast. This was a shuddering example of how food has moved on. The sauce was heavy, rich and sickly. It immediately made us all feel full. I'm usually first in with the mopping bread, but I left most of the sauce behind.

NOTE: I don't hold this against Michel Troigros. We added it into the menu. It was our fault. And I'm glad we did it. But it really wasn't good.

Course 7: Lobster with "sauce curry" and pineapple

I really wish I had a photo of this. Another resounding disappointment. It was just so naff. There's no other word for it (Ian takes the credit). Pineapple! Bloody hell. The lobster was fine, but completely betrayed by the curry sauce and the pineapple. I just don't get the fish/curry combo in a restaurant like this.

Pineapple!

Course 8: Pigeon "Kiev", with foie gras and truffle

1444581818_34a1a3199d.jpg

We swapped this dish in for the lamb. And again, what a disappointment. The foie was fairly bland, and the truffle! Look how thick it is. It had no flavour, no perfume, and was chewy. And the deep fried kiev technique is another thing I don't quite understand in restaurants like these. There is a ceiling to the heights such dishes had hit. The best I can ever muster is "excellent, for a deep fried breadcrumbed preparation" (like the rabbit at the French Laundry later in the Summer).

Course 8a: Sweetbreads with pickled fig and onion

1443720639_1b7ca88947.jpg

Two of us had the kiev, the other had the sweetbreads. This could have been great, but was let down by cutting up the sweetbreads before cooking. They were tiny tiny tiny. By the time they were crispy, they were overcooked. Perhaps it suffered from the transformation into a tasting menu portion? The acidity of the fig was full on, but I loved it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And then wow, right back on form (and kicked the shit out of Bras' desserts). The desserts that follwed were possibly the best progression I have had. None really wowed like the violet ice cream at Mugaritz, for example, but the three together were the perfect end to the meal.

Dessert 1: Mikymoto a la creme persille

1443722797_fe5b2c1f96.jpg

A beautifully light meringue sandwich. The parsley cream was the star: just enough of it to provide the backdrop to the rhubarb and the meringue.

Dessert 2: Tartlette of wild strawberries and peas

1444587982_8ef2f0393a.jpg

Stunning. What a combination.

Dessert 3: Blanc-manger a la menthe, peche blanche

1443727289_c463b4fa79.jpg

Again, superb. The quality of the peach was breathtaking. Mint jelly on an almond blanc-manger gave a subtle sharpness, as did the superfine slices of mint. Such a light, uplifting end to the meal. We polished off the rest of the champagne we started with. Yum.

Overall then, a mixed experience, even when taking our own misguided tampering with the tasting menu out of the equation.

Lobster, curry and pineapple!

But the very best dishes were really really good, and make me want to go back. And I'd take that rollercoaster over a straight line of "nice" any day.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Andy, I read your report with great interest, and some trepidation. We have reservations for dinner at Troisgros in November. It's a very special dinner, prompted by a certain milestone birthday (which shall remain unidentified :wink:). My husband said he would take me to dinner anywhere, knowing that I very much wanted to experience a *** meal.

It was not an easy choice, and of course "anywhere" didn't actually mean absolutely anywhere in the world, since we decided to only stay away 4-5 nights, and we're flying from the Northeast. After much deliberation, menu comparison, travel-arrangement-figuring, etc. I chose Maison Troisgros. Perhaps not the most exciting or cutting-edge or over the top restaurant I could have selected, but I have long wanted to dine there, and I wanted to stay outside of Paris.

So, assuming that my choice is a fait accompli, what can we do to maximize our experience at Troisgros? Note: we will be staying overnight, but we opted not to reserve the special package for dinner-and-lodging so as not to limit our dinner or wine selections.

Edited by bushey (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites
So, assuming that my choice is a fait accompli, what can we do to maximize our experience at Troisgros? Note: we will be staying overnight, but we opted not to reserve the special package for dinner-and-lodging so as not to limit our dinner or wine selections.

Difficult for me to say, having only been the once. I think you will have a better experience staying in the hotel.

The dishes that hit the spot were stunning. Absolutely stunning. All I can say is to steer clear of the dishes I've mentioned, and have a look at Howard's meal there last Autumn - he didn't have a single dud dish:

http://londonfood.typepad.com/stuff/2006/12/tres_gros.html

And if anyone's been just before you go, try to get the lowdown on the hits and misses.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have got one advice for you how to maximise the experience - choose some of the great classics a la carte. I had the Blue lobster grilled & flamed, with herb butter (in 2 services), followed by the Fillet of Charolais beef with chopped ginger and pepper, lacquered with a meat glaze. These are dishes that rely heavily on the quality of the basic ingredients. I found Troisgros to use only the very best. It was hard to imagine a better lobster or a better beef. So, my advice would be to go for less but more substantial courses and give the itsy-bitsy tasting menu a miss. I have known this restaurant since when Pierre was still head chef and have to say that I don't find all of Michel's avant-garde creations to be a real progress in comparison.

Link to post
Share on other sites

had the - untampered with - menu that is shown above and also, last Friday, the Autumn degustation menu.

The descriptions are excellent.

Troisgros is one of my three favourite restaurants.

My advice would be - "don't add/or change dishes on the gastronomic menu".

Michel Troisgros is quite an experienced chef and puts these things together for a reason.

Stay in the hotel - Roanne has nothing comparable.

PS if you have time, try a meal at Le Central, the Troisgros Brasserie next door: the terrine to share and souffle omelette with local blue cheese are sensational. (good little wine list too).

Link to post
Share on other sites

On the basis of my meal, I would agree with Algy not to tamper with the menu. BUT, why should the dishes we inserted be allowed to be worse dishes? It's not the flow of the menu I'm talking about here; the Kiev was a poor dish.

Algy, what was the lamb like? (we swapped the kiev for the lamb). And what was your take on the lobster with curry and pineapple?

And can you give us a run down of your autumn menu last week?

As for Ameiden's suggestion, I think this depends on your own tastes as a diner. For me, the one "classic" dish we had (the salmon) was very weak. That is not the kind of food I like to eat in 3 star restaurants any more. Its modern cod counterpart, on the other hand, was astonishing.

Of course, I can't speak for the lobster or the beef, but the current beef dish on the website menu sounds to me like a steak and red wine sauce, and is stated to be from 1960. That is not what I would travel to Troisgros for.

Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a good reason the Latin expression "Degustibus est non disputatum" has survived to our times, because one of the reasons I would go to Troisgros is for the "familial" plates. The piece de boeuf à la moelle sauce Fleurie and the saumon à l'oseille are classics that were perfected by Pierre and Jean are incomparable. I can intellectually relate to the new cuisine with the Japanese influences of the son/nephew/grandson Jean Michel, but emotionally I still cleave to the traditional favorites. I understand that my generation must bow to the genius of the molecular, bizarre combinations of the Pierre Gagnaire devotées. There is room for all, to prefer one style doesn't condemn all others.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree - that's why I think the right approach for bushey depends on her (and her husband's) personal tastes.

Within the context of my Michel Troisgros tasting menu, and my own preferences, the salmon felt heavy and out of date. And IMO, they are "classics" because they were cutting edge at their time, and may be incomparable now because few high end restaurants cook like that any more.

But there are many many others who feel quite the opposite.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 years later...

Time for an update - although my meal had some really heights with divine dishes, the overal experience didn't click with me. Main issues were an almost complete lack of textures, unrefined dishes, an unsound menu dramaturgy and a totally overcooked lobster. Still on three level, but much less stellar than expected...

One questions puzzles me: is the lack of texture and a step towards modern cuisine deliberate? So, the cuisine is still stuck in Nouvelle Cuisine with the acidulée touch... What do you think?

The whole story is up on High-End Food. Enjoy.

Edited by IFS (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Hello,

These is what I thought of my meal here last June.

Please click here for full commentary + photography: HERE

Once upon a time, it was the physical geography of a land that dictated the creation of settlements. Supplies of fresh water, flat land for farming, an easily defendable position – these were the factor’s that informed the decisions of early explorers. Examples abound: in England, London(ium) lay upon a busy river-crossing; in Turkey, Byzantium controlled the access to the Black Sea as well as the route between Europe and Asia; in France, Carcassonne sat atop an impregnable hilltop…

But that was thousands of years ago. In the France of today, what with townships long-established and one’s necessary needs mostly met, just as it was nature’s hand that directed the flow and collation of essential communities, it is now the hand of man that selects the most apposite settings for his own leisure. One pertinent illustration of this is the Autoroute du Soleil. This manufactured feature, steering the modern, motorised travelling Frenchman, has neatly regulated the location of some of the country’s greatest restaurants.

For seventy years or so, droves of affluent Parisians would dribble down the Routes Nationales 6 et 7, en masse, seeking the sunny south. To fuel, feed and fatten them, restaurateurs followed, relocating old and opening new establishments along the highways. These establishments became institutions: la Côte d’Or, Lameloise, Georges Blanc, Troisgros, Paul Bocuse, la Pyramide and Pic included.

Each of the above-mentioned restaurants holds or has held three Michelin stars, but one has held them longer than any other, anywhere – and continuously since 1968 – Troisgros.

Jean-Baptiste Troisgros and wife Marie originally ran the small Café des Négociants in Chalon-sur-Saône, deep in Burgundy’s bosom. Together they had two sons, Jean and Pierre, born just two years apart. In 1930, just after the arrival of the youngest, the family moved to Roanne, a sleepy town west of Lyon intersected by the RN7, where they bought a modest restaurant with several rooms attached that stood opposite the train station; they named it the Hôtel-Restaurant des Platanes. Both self-taught, Jean-Baptiste managed the salle and the cellar whilst Marie prepared regional, bourgeois recipes. Although it was the wife cooking, her husband determined the cuisine. Superfluous garnishes, multi-use roux…such things were disregarded in favour of simplicity and ‘sincerity’. It was an instant success; within five years the couple had made their name and renamed themselves the Hôtel Moderne.

Following the war and occupation, the two sons, raised in the restaurant, were able to begin their training. Jean apprenticed in Paris whilst Pierre went to the Hôtel du Golf at Étretat then Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Initial training completed, the brothers reunited under Richard at Lucas Carton (where they became friends with the young Paul Bocuse) then worked under Point at La Pryamide followed by stints at Maxim’s and the Hôtel du Crillon before returning to Roanne. Taking over the kitchen, together they quickly earned their first Michelin star in 1955, sparking another name change. As les Frères Troisgros, Pierre was chef and Jean, master saucier; their father continued as maître d'hôtel and sommelier. By 1965 they had a second star; by 1968 they had their third. The accolades did not stop there though with Christian Millau announcing that at Troisgros, ‘I have discovered the best restaurant in the world,’ four years later. Such recognition attracted many fine young cooks, some of whom went on to make their own names: these included Bernard Loiseau, Marc Haeberlin and Guy Savoy. After consolidating in the seventies, the eighties saw the pair expand their business, purchasing a bordering building and launching five boutiques as well as branded products in Japan. However, in 1983, Jean died; in tribute, the Place de la Gare separating the restaurant and train station was retitled Place Jean Troisgros. During the subsequent year, Pierre’s son Michel joined him in the kitchen.

Ten years earlier, Michel had left the nearby Lycée Technique Hotelier in Grenoble – having at sixteen already met Marie-Pierre, his future wife, there – and started out on a course that would see him move across France and to Brussels, London, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo: ‘from a tiny child, I have always moved to the rhythm of a kitchen. [After Grenoble I trained] alongside Alain Chapel, Roger Vergé, Frédy Girardet, Michel Guérard, Pierre Wynants, Alice Waters, Michel Bourdin at the Connaught [was] the perfect career path and also one with a huge amount of variety.’ Although difficult, Marie-Pierre followed, working at the Hilton in Brussels, Connaught in London, Petrossian in New York and Pré des Sources in Eugénie les Bains. The couple’s next stop was supposed to be Sydney where they were prepared to open their own restaurant, but en route, they returned to Roanne. It was to be a brief, six-month stay, but Jean’s death that summer changed everything. Michel had to remain at la Maison Troisgros.

Father and son cooked together until 1993 when Pierre stepped aside and allowed Michel total control. Although he had ‘inherited taste’ from his father, to the kitchen he brought his own style: ‘my cuisine is minimalist with no flounces, sometimes playful and I always strive for balance in my respect for flavours. These flavours are precise and bright as I use acidity to effect. And I allow myself absolute freedom when it comes to seasoning.’ He also grew the family’s interests with le Central – a bistro-deli opposite the station – in the nineties; le Koumir in Moscow in 2001; la Table du Lancaster in Paris three years on; Cuisine Michel Troisgros in Tokyo in 2006; and most recently, la Colline du Colombier in the Loire countryside not far from Roanne two years after. Meanwhile, he was awarded Chef de l'Année by Gault-Millau in 2003 and with a Légion d'Honneur the year after.

Fringing the Place Jean Troisgros, which revolves around a sculpture of large, metal forks, la Maison Troisgros occupies a prominent spot. The complex is composed of multiple, inter-connected structures whose combined exterior is enveloped with lush shrubs and climbing greens. Within, the restaurant, kitchen and hotel surround a sizeable garden styled with neat trees and shaped potted plants. On one side is the massive yet serene cuisine, adjacent to the dining areas, of which there are three differently decorated ones designed by François Champsaur and seating eighty in all. The principal room, the largest and brightest, is beige and oak trim and opens onto the garden.

Large tables are distantly spread out and spread with a double layer of creamy linen; vibrant green cover plates customised by Bernaudaud and scrawled over with curvy thin scribble adorn them. A large Eric Poitevin painting hangs in the centre of the room. Outside here, above the hotel’s reception, is a small library that houses books on food and travel and boasts portraits by Dauchot and a Pia Fries relief.

During the warmer months, canapés and aperitifs are taken in the garden, where guests are also invited to read the carte. Along with the ALC – which features three classic Troisgros recipes (avant cela, il y a la cuisine de Jean & Pierre) – there is a menu du jour and extended seasonal tasting menu. Thanks to the family’s long, strong relationships with many of the region’s top winemakers, the wine list is as vast as it is impressive with over forty-thousand bottles in the cellar.

Amuse Bouche 1: Chinois de tomates au caramel; semolina avec riz soufflé, citron vert; et crackers chutney ananas, coriandre, tomate. An impeccable alabaster platter was presented carrying a colourful collection of dim sum-esque bites. Encased in herb-beer-and-sesame crust then fried in peanut oil, this ‘Chinese’ cherry tomato with its sweet, crystallised coat was spicy and crunchy on the exterior while moist and refreshing within. A small fried rectangle of creamy, smooth semolina came bound in brittle rice crispies; a wedge of lime sat besides. Lastly, a large cracker puff, topped with pineapple chutney and peeled slice of tomato, was rather hard and a little impractical, quickly breaking into many pieces.

Les Pains: Pain de mie, mais feuilleté, sésame et aux céréales. Four sorts of warm bread were served: decent baguettes of regular and sesame, seedy cereal roll and light, fluffy swells of cornbread. Alongside these sat a demi-sel butter from Charantes-Poitou.

Entrée 1: Maquereau au cassis. The shallow hollow of a wide, white plate was filled and sealed with a mirror-like layer of blackcurrant jelly; two clear-cut morsels of mackerel, glistening due to their still intact silver skins, were set upon this gelée together with a diminutive diamond of blackcurrant-vinegar-imbued onion, itself straddled by a sprig of salicorne and dotted with mustard, whilst another brace of these sat along the rim. The fruity jelly was subtly sweet and sharp whilst the mackerel, very clean. The greens added saltiness and mustard the hint of heat, but all in all, the flavours of this dish were perhaps a little too subdued.

Entrée 2: Gnochettis d’artichaut à la sardine, à peine fumée. A trio of skinny gnocchi, crowned with two tiny slivers of sardine and ribbons of orange rind, rested amidst alternating strips of artichoke heart sprinkled with sweet almond oil; the pasta, actually also made of gently smoked artichoke, were filled with béchamel. The delicate gnocchetti were nearly undifferentiable from ones of normal dough in terms of texture, though their casings were sweeter and nuttier. Inside, the velvety sauce afforded an able mouth-feel whilst the raw vegetable, with which the aromatic nut oil worked nicely, offered crunch.

Entrée 3: Girolles & moules de bouchot à la « peau de lait ». A sizeable plate with sunken middle was set forth. Across its centre, a square sheet of milk skin was stretched out, its corners stuck upon the huge brim; whilst inflated from beneath, it was simultaneously weighed down by some saffron cream. Carving open the elastic crust covering golden-brown girolle mushrooms and Bouchot mussels, more of this sunshine yellow sauce was found. Specially grown on wooden poles that project out from the sea, these moules were juicy and fleshy whilst the springy mushrooms had a peppery-fruitiness that matched the distinct saffron pleasingly. The milky surface, the consistency of which was interesting, was itself rather tasteless.

Entrée 4: Mezzaluna de pomme de terre, parmesan & truffe. A quartet of dainty half-moon shaped ravioli, scattered with pea halves and chopped mousserons, had a velouté onctueux of mushroom butter poured overtop at the table. The al dente pasta, which in a familiar twist, were in fact formed not of egg, but potato, were packed with more of the tuber, parmesan as well as truffle of Tricastin from the famous town of Richerenches (one of the largest black truffle markets in all Europe). When unwrapped, the mezzaluna imparted surprisingly strong earthy odour whilst the truffe’s savour went naturally well with the parmesan and fairy ring mushrooms. The petit pois added sweetness and some texture whilst the silky soup, enriched with jus de volaille, was comfortingly rich.

Plat Principal 1: Cabillaud à l’eau de tomate et à la pastèque. A deep bowl was brought bearing a very neat block of Breton cod encrusted with dried tomato, a wafer-like tongue of watermelon and quartered tomato that had been soaked in Jerez vinegar; tableside, the introduction of eau de tomate created a shallow, amber bath around these. This very flavourful and concentrated bouillon – similar to a fruity-sharp dashi – was warm, salty and quickly became tinged with pastèque essence. The fish, which had been poached for fifteen minutes in olive oil, remained almost raw and agreeably flaky. The tomato was faintly tart whilst the watermelon, full of succulence.

Plat Principal 2: l’Escalope de saumon à l’oseille (la recette originelle comme je l’ai toujours vu). A flat, slim peachy-pink filet of Scottish salmon sat amidst pastel yellow sauce strewn with sorrel; the plate itself was unique, depicting several of the same fish in one corner. This is one of the Troisgros family’s most celebrated creations and has remained on the restaurant’s menu since 1965; it was also one of the most widely imitated dishes of nouvelle cuisine. Based on the Loire recipe, alose à l'oseille – fresh-water shad with sorrel sauce – this was originally said to have been an improvisation by Pierre Troisgros' mother-in-law in an attempt to finish the excess sorrel she had leftover after making sorrel soup. Here, the fried salmon, firm yet still not fully cooked through, was moist and flavoursome. The sorrel sauce of reduced white wine, Noilly Prat, mushrooms, cream, shallots and white pepper in which it swam had lovely creaminess and a distinct acidity that proved a tremendous foil for the fish.

Plat Principal 3: Homard bleu à la poudre du voyage & à l’épine vinette. Oven roasted and smeared with exotic spices, the tail of blue lobster and its claws, their skins coral-coloured and speckled with crimson barberry berries, were placed on Swiss chard stem and blades respectively. The tender lobster with its at once familiar and foreign seasoning – thyme, cinnamon, etc – was tender and toothsome. The épine vinette, a fruit more popular in South American and Persia (and believed to have been used to make the Crown of Thorns), had strong sourness that complemented the shellfish and spices, as did the barely bitter, moist chard.

Plat Principal 4: Beignet de pigeonneau aux amandes fraîches. In the dish’s centre a beignet of squab breast, wrapped in spinach and coated with squid-ink-dyed breadcrumbs and almonds, lay in jus de foie laced with Jerez vinegar; on one side came a row of griotte cherries, almond shards and small broadbeans whilst on the other, a tian of tomato and courgette flanked by the bird’s thigh. Served separately, a mousseline of aubergine was light, creamy and intense, even if eventually somewhat monotonous. The pigeon, its skin crisp and tasty, was an appealing raspberry hue and had beefy relish. The sauce held the elements together with the vegetables tending refreshment and the fruit, nuts and beans, tartness and crunch.

Les Fromages: la tradition des fromages fermiers, frais & affinés. The cheese chariot carried between thirty and forty varieties supplied by two local affineurs including one of France’s most famous, Hervé Mons. From the selection chosen, the milky Brillat Savarin, a cow’s milk from Normandy; fruity, firm tomette de brebis from the Pyrénées; dense, full Charolais, a mixed cow’s and goat’s farm cheese; and thick, creamy Tarentais from the Savoy all stood out. A sweet vanilla and tomato chutney as well as pieces of raisin bread and hazelnut butter sablés accompanied.

Dessert 1: Sabayon à la verveine et au chocolat. In a martini glass, dusted with powdered chocolate, lemon verbena sabayon concealed raspberry compote and crumbs of more choc. The airy yet thick cream had a light, lemony zing that was in harmony with the sweet acidity of the berries. Brittle bits of Valrhona, whose milky savour shared an affinity with both the other ingredients, kept the consistency interesting.

Dessert 2: Mikimoto à la poire et à la coriandre. Named after the famous Japanese jeweller, this dessert was composed of two meringue spheres split in two and reassembled to resemble an oyster shell complete with small quenelle of pear sorbet representing the pearl within. The make-believe bivalves were embedded on another thin jelly base (like the mackerel before). Well-made meringues were crisply coated whilst fluffy inside; William’s pear sorbet was more cold than anything else; and the coriander leaf left behind a nice citrus note. This jelly was rose and a little sugary.

Dessert 3: Nage de cerises, granite Campari & glace basilic. A delicate pool of cherry jus, lined with plump dicings of the same fruit, surrounded a tangy, cool granité of Campari. Atop these rested a silken scoop of excellent basil ice cream that was herbal and faintly minty-sweet. Against this, a fine meringue tile painted with ground basil powder lay askew. The strong anise edge of the alcohol struck a chord with the herb.

Petit Fours: Petit sablé pâte d’amandes; tuile de chocolat avec fruit de la passion; cigarette curry; et neige framboise et pistache. A curvy glass vase bedded with wooden potpourri bore an assortment of petit fours: pistachio and raspberry seasoned meringues; curried wafer; chocolate cracker with passion fruit; and an edible biscuit figure. The meringue bauble was pleasant and had jam hidden within. As thin as paper, the cigarette also had mild, lingering aftertaste whilst the skinny tuile held seedy, sharp crème. The multicoloured man made of marzipan was a very amusing and affectionate addition, although rather unremarkable taste-wise.

A 1998 Puligny-Montrachet Clavoillons, Domaine Leflaive and demi-bouteille of 2000 Chateauneuf du Pape, Clos des Papes, Paul Avril partnered the food.

Service was diligent and adept; the staff were relaxed and I felt fairly at ease as I ate. In many ways, it was a rather faultless performance. Yet, all the way through, I continued to discern a little distance and detachment. It was not a case of anyone being unfriendly or impolite, but there was a lack of interaction or intimacy. Others might label this professional reserve, but even were this accurate, there was still something certainly wanting here – a sense of occasion.

The menu commenced with some initial nibbles that, inspired by the Orient, were not unexpected given the chef’s predilection for the Far East, but were not memorable. The first course of maquereau au cassis, arresting and appetising in appearance, was in fact lamentably muted. This was true even more so of the gnochettis d’artichaut that came next. Things picked up with the girolles & moules and the mezzaluna, but never actually took off. Of the dishes that followed, it was the classic escalope de saumon – a supplement onto the carte – that was maybe most flavoursome. The choice and standard of cheeses were excellent, but desserts seemed merely an afterthought. When Michel was asked to describe his perfect meal, he confessed that he would ‘gladly pass on dessert’, so it ought not be a surprise desserts did not compare well to savouries here.

It was, in truth, a lacklustre lunch.

Enchanted by the legendary Troisgros name, as well as the exciting prospect of the chef’s own cuisine acidulée, the hope for a meal very memorable was high. However, although there was clearly considerable potential here, titanic expectations proved titanic-like indeed; the common, continual complaint throughout being a lack of pronounced savours and of general deliciousness.

The chef’s style was one characterised by a distinctive and creative application of classical French technique within recognisably Italian and Japanese outlines. The former influence was one that has been felt by Michel Troisgros since birth. His maternal grandmother, Anna – or as he would refer to her, la Mémé Forte – was responsible for feeding the family; thanks to her, a life-long love of tomato sauce, lemon and simplicity in cooking were established. The chef’s tastes were reinforced and broadened by a career that took him all across the world. Following on from the tradition of such kitchens as those of Chapel and Giradet, working for Guérard in New York showed him real diversity for the first time before Alice Waters presented his beloved Italian fare in a brand-new light. Living in California also re-introduced him to Asia. His father, Pierre, had spent several months as the opening chef at Maxim’s in Tokyo when Michel was still young; returning with exotic gifts and, more relevantly, exotic ingredients, his son was instantly inspired by the land of Japan. The chef has made an average of two trips there each year, for the last twenty. He is even experimenting growing wasabi near Roanne with Japanese and local farmers whilst he has also convinced a citrus seed manufacturer in the Pyrenees to grow yuzu for him.

This was all patent on the plate. The amuses, the mackerel entrée, the cabillaud and Mikimoto dessert all obviously betrayed some of this Asian motivation. Meanwhile, the gnochettis, girolles & moules and mezzaluna were evidence of the Italian influence in his cooking. However, though all these might be classified easily into such brackets, each also bore originality. This was in the form of flavour combinations – cod and watermelon; pear and coriander – and of compositions and invention with Italian recipes all reconstructed in some way – the open, milk-skin ravioli; the substitution of wheat for various, uncommon ingredients in the pasta. Additionally, on the whole, there was an acute appreciation for aesthetic; colourful, clean and attractive, some of the courses were really rather striking in their construction. It was with such technical, crafty and artistic qualities that the cuisine excelled today.

Where the meal failed to deliver was on the most important factor – taste. Subtlety can be impressive, but here savours were just too mild. In many instances, it was a case of the dish looking better than it tasted (therefore almost doubling one’s ultimate disappointment). An example would be that maquereau au cassis. Minimalist and elegant, with its elements poignantly poised upon a glass-like layer of gelée, this appeared special. Unfortunately, all the flavours were simply not marked enough for my liking or to leave a lasting impression. The same criticism can be levelled at the subsequently-served small artichoke gnocchi. Gracefully arranged around the plate, even smaller slices of sardine and snippets of orange rind delicately balanced upon each of them, this showed sophistication, but offered little else. Nevertheless, there were several exceptions to this pattern; the Tricastin truffles, l’eau de tomate and l’escalope de saumon à l’oseille, all come to mind immediately.

The escalope de saumon à l’oseille warrants singular mention. A vintage Troisgros recipe from the sixties, when the cooking borrowed much from rustic kitchen and the food had ‘earthy simplicity’, this dish sat in shocking juxtaposition to everything before and after it. How ironic it was that this symbol of nouvelle cuisine, this signature of the house of Troisgros commemorated by the railway station opposite the restaurant that was once repainted salmon and green in its tribute (although it has recently been refurbished), was now but an arresting anachronism in the context of this meal. Yet, on the other hand, as if just to complicate the matter a little more, even though far less prim and essential in its presentation and a little less polished, this actually bore the strongest flavours. Whereas the rest of this menu was typified by gentle, mild savours whose revelation and pleasure required more of my effort and determination, here the richness of the salmon, the cutting acidity of the sorrel, abounded unabashedly in every bite. This last detail leads me to my last major point.

Acidity. ‘…[it] is a recurring theme in my cooking. It's almost everywhere and often helps structure a dish, creating a backbone – the elements in the plate all relate to it and it makes sense of the whole. If bitterness represents a serious side in the palate of taste, acidity often provides a note of irony.’ It is fair to say that the chef has built a reputation on his penchant for aigre-doux and acidité (something else he owes to la Mémé Forte and her use of lemons and citrus). Thus I thought it rather curious that the course in which the most sharpness appeared was one not conceived by Michel himself, but by his grandfather. Taken alone, this was surely not an issue, but because it was almost totally missing from the rest of the meal, this was a concern.

What with each plate neither ever really fulfilling the potential of the restaurant or the promise it itself professed to possess upon its very arrival, nearly every dish was tainted with some degree of disappointment: therefore, it was only inevitable that the entire experience would fall fairly short of success. Furthermore, any frustrations were not ones attributable to the incidence of errors or to any single thing explicitly disagreeable, but to a common mundaneness. The food was forgettable and the acclaimed, the sought-after acidulée absent from the cuisine.

This flatness in the cooking seemed echoed by the earlier-described dullness in service; just as the dishes lacked life, the staff did too. That sensation that one is eating somewhere truly special – that ought to be a central aspect of dining at this level – was definitely not there.

If truth be told, I felt as if I could have been having this meal at any table in any town almost anywhere…and that is certainly not what I considered ‘worth the trip for’.

Food Snob

foodsnob@hotmail.co.uk

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...