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Alain Ducasse -- Plaza Athenee

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Next Tuesday, on April 12, chef Alain Ducasse will be hosting a food market in the interior courtyard of the hotel Plaza Athenée. He's rounded up his favorite producers and is opening the marché to anyone who wants to visit and shop. It's sounds surreal, and like a super excuse to check out this five star luxe hotel.

The market will be open from 10am-noon, and then again from 2:30-6pm.

Hôtel Plaza Athénée, 25 avenue Montaigne, 75008 Paris.

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Yup, I received some sea salt as well from this visit

When I ate there for the first time, they gave me a big loaf of bread for breakfast :laugh:

Actually they also allowed me to take away the sweets - caramel, nougat, chocolate etc.

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Alain Ducasse … again, but this time is my review of his flagship restaurant in the newly renovated Plaza Athenee. I was supposed to complete it last month, but works and families stuffs prevented me from doing so. Anyway, it was not my initial visit here, but with the big changes that the hotel and this restaurant went through – it looked as if I came to a “new” restaurant, which was very unusual for me to burn money in the new fine dining restaurant, too risky. However, I knew and contacted Denis Courtiade (restaurant director) prior to my visit; he had managed to persuade/convince me that I should give it a try. He took good care of me in my previous 2 meals at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee (ADPA) under Christophe Moret, so I believed that I would be ‘safe’ under his guidance. Moreover, my wife and I would be staying in-house for a couple of days.  

 

We arrived at the restaurant nearly 9 PM and the restaurant was half empty (it was full house 30 minutes later). We were seated in the middle at the new dining room, but I think it had equally sophisticated/luxurious ambiance (Ducasse’s favorite designer, Patrick Jouin with the help of Sanjit Manku, gave the already beautiful dining room a different look). As most people should be familiar by now, Alain Ducasse decided to remove meat and poultry from the menu, replaced by a new concept called “Naturalness” aka healthier and more sustainable use of produce. The restaurant only provided dishes created from 3 elements (trilogy): fish & shellfish (from ports of Quiberon & Lorient), vegetables & fruits (from Trianon Versailles garden), and cereal or grains (it can be from anywhere). I just saw the menu from a short period of time when Denis offered me to choose dishes for us containing & considering “masculine & feminine elements” and of course, I quickly agreed. The meals began with a healthy juice by mixing carrot, apple & celery (instead of champagne) and several amuse-bouche. For instance, a bowl of sorrel, salsify and chestnut; grilled Sardines in olive oil (very good) as well as sea bream tartar with chick pea mousse. Then the garden and marine tasting menu officially started.

 

Mine

-Similar to my previous visits or meals at Robuchon gastronomy restaurants, the kitchen brought a twist of dish with caviar and traditional garnishes. The metal bowl has cold jelly, lentil and generous portion of caviar (a great texture contrast of smooth caviar & jelly vs more coarse lentils). As a variation, there were buckwheat pancake and pressed caviar cream. It was delicious and I love the combination as well as delicate textures.

-Braised blue lobster with ceps. The lobster was superb and supple; it went along nicely with meaty and ‘nutty’ ceps and they’re tied together nicely with lobster jus. A great dish that looked luxurious and rustic at the same time

-After such excellent beginnings, it was not easy to keep up. For the main course, I had red mullet cooked with its scale – it was pleasant by itself. However, I found the sauce (the fish’s stock and its valuable liver) was too intense. I enjoyed the vegetables tian as side dish since they helped to reduce the mullet’s liver rich flavor   

 

My spouse

-She began with ADPA’s classic: langoustine with caviar and consommé. The portion was bigger with more caviar on top, but the presentation was new. The fresh langoustine was of top quality; it was well enhanced by the caviar’s briny & salty taste as well as the broth’s (infused with lemongrass and ginger) deep flavor

-The most popular dish of the night (we saw more than 10 orders of this): perfectly cooked and sweet scallop paired with, as expected in autumn, aromatic white truffle and the whole brioche of comte and cauliflower. The brioche was a smart idea and tasted really good. The ‘brown’ sauce was also delicious – magnificent!

-Her main course suffered similar issue with mine. The meaty and white sea bass was of great quality, but the sauce had too strong flavor of black olive stock. The young leeks were pretty good. She liked eating the fish by itself without any sauce  

 

For the transition between appetizers/main courses and cheese/desserts, ADPA provided rice dish. We liked it a lot; it was wild black rice cooked al dented, baked together with clams, squids and octopus. The shellfish had pleasant texture and light flavors – a nice way to slowly wind down.

 

Desserts

Since both of us opted to have no cheese, the kitchen (probably as per Mr. Courtiade’s recommendation) sent us 4 different desserts from the menu.

-roasted pear’s variety; it’s delectable. The pear was served with crunchy chestnuts, Corsica myrtle liqueur and ice cream

-warm Normandy milk skin was in contrast to the cold ice cream; both served with sweet wild strawberries. It was a delicious and refreshing dessert. Both of us enjoyed the smooth texture and light flavors of the milk skin

-the chocolate and coffee (manufactured) from the Paris factory; this dessert was available in all of Alain Ducasse fine dining restaurants but each (head) pastry chef was free to create and interpret the dish on his own. Here, we had thick and strong chocolate flavors; complemented by good coffee with pleasant aroma. A small slice of chocolate tart was exquisite. Of course, there was a good quality of home-made ice cream as well

-lemon from Nice prepared in different forms and textures. It was full of flavor ‘explosion’ especially bitter and sour; served with kombu seaweeds and tarragon

-lastly, the timeless rum baba showed up and it was outstanding as well. The sponge cake was moist with smooth and “light whipped cream” and top quality rhum. It’s still my favorite among Ducasse vast dessert ‘portfolio’

 

For the petit fours, we only had tasty praline chocolate bar accompanied by sweet muscat grapes. The tea infusion as digestive was available and it was still excellent. That’s the end of our food journey that last more than 3 hours; the pace of each course was just right.

 

Although there’s not meat, the technique and execution used were still very much French. The standard was very high and in general, we had excellent food though in my opinion, it was slightly inferior to my first meal here. I respected Ducasse’s bravery: for the new concept as well as appointing a new and relatively young, around/in his mid-30’s, head chef (Romain Meder) to do so. Normally, a top chef would ask his very experienced brigade for opening a gastronomy place bearing his name, like in the case of Joel Robuchon brought it Domonori Danzaki who has been successful in leading Robuchon restaurant in Singapore. I would not worry about the Michelin star ‘lost’, within 2 years ADPA should be a 3-star restaurant again.

 

While the food was wonderful, the service was even better than the food. Under the leadership of Denis Courtiade, my finest maître d’ maison in the world, we experienced the pinnacle of what 'perfect' service was supposed to be. Denis always paid full attention while being discreet at the same time; he could be humorous when necessary but knew exactly when not being obtrusive. I felt to be treated not just like royalty, but as an 'old' friend coming to his place. Staffs were respectable to guests, yet they were not intimidated and made diners felt very comfortable. Our assigned "femme maitre d" named Cecile also did a wonderful job. She was professional and friendly. My wife loved talking to her about many things and you could see the small details such as an eye contact and body language that she really engaged and enjoyed the conversation as well as doing her job. As a matter of fact, the special part of the whole dining room brigade was the smooth flow/movement, gestures and postures as well as the flair. Their performance was sensational. They're well supported with elegant uniforms designed by George Feghaly - mostly in white and grey that beautifully matched the overall ambiance. Monsieur Courtiade shared that it was his aim to give guests an unforgettable experience and for us, Denis absolutely achieved that goal with flying colors. On top of that, I comfortably declared that it was the finest and most fun service I've ever received in any restaurants. If there’s such thing as ‘perfect’ service, we experienced it during this meal

 

It was an exceptional dining experience. I would love to return here in different season and try the food as it becomes more mature and the kitchen team is more settled down. I had no issue give 97.5 pts for this meal (easily a 3-star standard in my book)

 

More detailed reviews (about the dining room, new wine list and ‘la trilogie’ ingredients): http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.sg/2015/04/alain-ducasse-au-plaza-athenee-3rd-visit.html

You can see the pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/AlainDucasseAuPlazaAtheneeParisFrance3rdVisit#

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In general, I like the restaurants that Alain Ducasse owns and runs especially the ones bearing his name. Although I was not too impressed with his dining places at Le Meurice and Dorchester, I always had wonderful experiences at Plaza Athenee (I have not dined at Le Louis XV for nearly a decade now). No doubt that the restaurant’s cordial service and my friendship with Denis Courtiade, the recipient of many hospitality awards including “Le 1er Prix de la Salle lors des Trophées Le Chef”, made a different. I returned here again last May – it’s been a while that I’ve never eaten at Ducasse Plaza during Spring. It would also be the 2nd time I savored Ducasse food under the new concept of ‘Naturalness’

 

The food, once again, was delivered and executed at the high level. I ate a few half courses dishes and really loved the following:

-Gelatinous and pleasantly chewy vesiga (Sturgeon bone marrow) served with nutty + grainy chickpeas and briny + high quality caviar. All of these elements worked together in harmony. Alain Ducasse was very good indeed when creating a caviar-based dish

-Besides the one at Taillevent, I was spoiled with another spectacular Turbot dish for this trip. The thick turbot ‘filet’ (perfectly cooked with the bone) was fabulous, having succulent + flaky flesh and deliciously fatty. The fish was accompanied by sea cucumber, fresh & sweet peas and beans. Outstanding!

 

I opted to try cheese this time and was pleased with the selection (3-year old comte, stilto, salers and sheep cheese). Denis also recommended me 2 excellent desserts: natural and iced Rhubarb with fennel cream and cake, also consisting of tart acidic rhubarb & versatile fennel. The other dessert was a deep & bitter dark chocolate with nutty barley and (quite) intense whisky-flavored sherbet

 

The service was, once again, exceptional and even better than the food (seriously). The (large number of) staffs delivered attentive, amiable, polite and discrete service. I didn’t have any particular assigned maître d’ this time, but anyone who served me was professional and knew what he/she was doing. I did not arrive until 9 PM and truly appreciated when Mr. Courtiade was waiting at the entrance. He came to my table nearly every hour; even we chatted and walked around the hotel when I left the dining room to take a break. Before midnight, we were talking one final time and then he said that he had to finish up his paper works at the office and would not return to the restaurant again for the day. I was glad to return here to have a wonderful meal with delicious food and superb service. Thanks to Denis that the house gave me free drinks, including a few glasses of wines.   

   

The restaurant was full house even though it was on Monday. I was told that the return of Ducasse Plaza in the top 50 best restaurants list this year might have been the reason. A couple or a group of people who celebrated special occasions; the restaurant gave them instant pictures they could take home (some kind of polaroid photos). A new thing I noticed here was that Ducasse gave bigger opportunity for female staffs to hold important positions at his flagship restaurants such as the current head pastry chef and the assistant sommelier were women. 5th visit to this restaurant is certainly not impossible. Given, Alain Ducasse’s habit to always evolve / find something new, perhaps I should not be surprised if several years down the road, the content of my meal at the Plaza Athenee would be filled with something very different.  

 

More detailed review: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.co.id/2017/08/alain-ducasse-au-plaza-athenee-4th-visit.html

 

Meal photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357@N03/sets/72157683893786741/with/35551069350/

 

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