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Taillevent Merged topics


Holly Moore
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Eugene, that's very kind of you to ask after my wine promise. For someone who has not been to a three-star restaurant in France, Taillevent is a good introduction. Actually in some ways (treatment and service for sure), the two of you may become spoiled. Have a great time.

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Unfortunately, I have to agree with the negative comments about Taillevent. We were there for dinner on June 6, 2001. It was a huge disappointment. The new chef, Burgos, is very heavy-handed and what was once good food (Taillevent's old chef from 1981 to 1999 - Phillippe Legendre is now at Le Cinq) is now mediocre at best. Our welcome from Jean Marie, the GM, was as warm as ever. Vrinat is still very much an active owner - he is there every night overseeing the dining room. But the service which has always been Taillevent's strength is not as smooth and seamless. For example the commi handling the wine kept appearing with the wrong wine and was sent back 3 times for the bottle we ordered.

We had the tasting menu. Foie gras was overcooked. The ravioli stuffed with mushrooms and truffles was oversauced and the ravioli tasted like glue. The rouget was nicely done except for the fact that the accompanying braised fennel was soggy and the sun-dried tomatoes so sweet that they ruined the taste of the rouget. The lamb was OK, but nothing special. The brie salad was much more a bistro dish than a 3* experience. At this point, Taillevent is an institution like Bocuse but I wouldn't call it a 3* restaurant like Gagnaire or L'Ambrosie.

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I agree with Liz that Taillevent is not among the stronger three-stars in Paris cuisine-wise. Here's a menu from 2001 roughly translated so that a sense of the dishes available can be had:

Legumes du moment etuves a la minute (Seasonal vegetables)

Galette de Courgettes aux jeunes Primeurs (Galette of zucchini)

Foie gras de Canard de Chalosse pane au poivre (Duck foie gras from Chalosse duck with pepper)

Cappuccino de crustaces a l'infusion de cepes (Shellfish cappuccino with an infusion of porcini)

Ravioles de Champignons de Paris aux Truffes (Mushroom raviolis with truffles)

Pissaladiere de Rougets de Roche (Rock red mullet)

Boudin de Homard Breton, Fumet cremeux de crustaces (A signature appetizer of Brittany lobster sausage -- it is white in color, and tastes somewhat like pike) -- This was 240 FF during 2001.  I have sampled this dish twice; it still does not impress me, although it is not bad tasting.

Quenelles de volaille aux girolles (Poultry with chanterelles)

Tomates grappa farcies de piperade (Stuffed tomatoes)

Fish Main courses

Rouget en filets poele a la Phoceenne (Pan-fried filet of red mullet)

Sandre meuniere a l'embeurre de chou (Sander? meuniere style, like sole meuniere, with cabbage effects)

Dos de bar dore sur la peau (Back of bass)

Sole en filets cuite sur l'arete (Filet of sole)

Homard breton rissole en troncons (Brittany lobster)

Meat Main Dishes

Filet de boeuf grille au jus de truffes  (Grilled filet of beef with truffle sauce)

Escalopes de foie de canard poelee au Banyuls (Pan-fried duck liver with Banyuls wine)

Carre d'Agneau dore aux olives noires (Rack of lamb with black olives)

Cote de veau de Correze en cocotte a l'echalote grise (Veal from Correze cooked in a cocotte with grey shallots)

Poulette Gauloise Blanche truffee rotie a la broche (Roasted white chicken with truffles)

Canard de Challans roti aux epices (Roasted duck from Challans with spices)

Pigeonneau du Vendee roti a la Broche (Pigeonneau from Vendee roasted)

A six-course tasting menu (unspecified) was 850 FF/person. Taillevent is one of the less expensive three-stars in Paris, not only with respect to the cuisine (although lunch can be had less expensively elsewhere, as in Grand Vefour for 71 euros, although I was not impressed with an a la carte meal there recently), but, as Steve P mentioned, with respect to the wine. Since the wine list (or at least key parts of it) is included in the middle of the large menu, if the parties planning the Paris trip are interested in specific bottles, I can provide a price quote from 2001.

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  • 3 months later...

Michel del Burgo, executive chef of Taillevent has announced that he will quit before december.

He will now be the chef at La Bastide de Gordes ( Vaucluse ). Jean-Claude Vrinat has not yet announced Burgo successor but he said that the new chef is practicaly chosen.

Patrice Demers

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Patrice -- Do you have any news on why Del Burgo is moving? Is it voluntary, given that Bastide would be a significant step-down (although I have not dined there) and used to be run at one point by one of Del Burgo's disciples, Thierry Château? :hmmm:

By the way, do members have insight into why Del Burgo had been selected by Vrinat in the first place? There was a piece in Thuleries (spelling) on Del Burgo sometime in 2002 which provided some background on the chef.

Speaking of chef movements, Ghislaine Arabian has been dismissed from her namesake restaurant (yes, this is at least her second instance at having been terminated). Bonjour Paris, a website with good information on Paris culinary goings-on, reports:

http://www.bparis.com/newsletter1464/newsl...m?doc_id=110269

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Jacques Mazet, the owner of the Bastide is a friend of Burgo. Burgo also like this region very much and he has previously worked at Chandioux in Avignon.

The Bastide had lost her only star in 1993. Michel del Burgo will work to regain the 2 stars that the Bastide de Gordes had in her best years.

Patrice Demers

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Thanks for the news. It's great to have stuff like that posted here early. It's a significant step down in some ways, but it's also an opportunity to build a restaurant and reputation as well as perhaps an opportunity for a better life style. As a lifelong city dweller, I nonetheless understand quite well why one might prefer Gordes to Paris. How old is Del Burgo and does he have a familiy?

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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Chef Del Burgo is 40. When we filmed with him in May 2000 his son had died one week before. He wanted to do the shoot anyway as he needed to stay focused rather than dwell on his tragedy. He showed amazing grace under pressure, one of the most important traits for any chef in any condition. His move could be the belated consequences of his loss.

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Del Burgo has at least one other child, possibly. In a 2002 Thuliers (spelling) magazine article, which had a chronology of his work and included photos significant to Del Burgo, he is shown with at least two children, I vaguely recall (???).

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I will write a more extensive post in a few days...but we have

just returned from Paris and Provence.

We returned to Taillevent....and were very disappointed by

our unexciting meal....whether the chef is disheartened or

our palate was unappreciative, I do not know....but I am

most interested in this note re: his departure.

Interestingly, we fell across [no prior knowledge] Bastide de Gordes

and enjoyed an absolutely fabulous lunch there.

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Being received at Taillevent is akin to being enfolded in a

silky cocoon of gentle, gracious, attentive,solicitious service.

M. Vrintat & his staff are omnipresent. Care is exercised to

present the aperitif glass w. the "T" facing the diner. The room

is elegant and restful, traditionally decorated, with tables elegantly

appointed with linens, china & crystal and small, elegant flower

arrangements here and there.

Unfortunately, the menu is not exciting. To clarify my biases, I am

not a fan of Gagnaire and enjoyed Astrance but found it a little too

avant garde for my palate. Taillevent's menu is in the traditional

mode[ i.e. one I usually like] but nothing about it invites, excites,

or seduces. We kept reading it and reading it, as though that

would somehow add options!

The tasting menu for the evening seemed mostly unchanged

from the one we had shared two years ago so we decided to create

our own. We each began with the ravioli [thin noodles stuffed w.

morel laced mushrooms] in a frothy creamy sauce, generously garnished

w. minced black truffle......good, not great.

We then shared an order of bass w. violet artichokes. While the bass

was perfectly cooked, the sauce [which we had failed to notice] was also

mushroom based. In addition to not needing the repetition in taste,

I did not care for the darkness of the sauce.

The whole chicken, roasted w truffles under the skin and en cocoltte

followed......it was served in 2 courses...the first, the breast, was

a little dry while the 2nd, the thigh,leg and oyster were tastier and more moist. A few pan veggies accompanied this dish as well as a pot of

pureed potatoes [far from the best I've ever had].

One of our desserts was the chocolate T. dish of fondant w. pistachio creme anglais. I have forgotten the other. The mignardises were

pleasant.

I found the mis en place/ amuse bouche to be quite awful....a tall

shotglass shaped dish with beef gelee at the base, topped off w.

chilled creme of carrot and an unidentified oil floating on top. I

noted more Americans there than ever before.......and other diners

were returning these glasses empyt, so I assume they liked the item.

Elegant surroundings and service are wonderful.......but we also

wish to enjoy the cuisine. We did not ---especially not in view of

the expense of such an evening---and will not return.

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I'm usually sorry to hear about a disappointing meal, if only because dinner is anticipated as the highlight of my day--or at least my public one. I realize this was a fine meal and perhaps a very fine one at that, but nonetheless disappointing for good reason. With a limited budget and limited time in Paris, Taillevent has never risen to the top of my short list for Paris. It's a bit less likely to appear on that list now. I really don't enjoy elegant restaurants unless I find the food exciting enough to warrant the expense and fuss. That said, I'm sure there are many who will still enjoy Taillevent.

Still, I'm curious to know if you felt the meal was much worse, or more tired, than the last time you were there, or was it a matter of the restaurant not improving with the times, or of your changing expectations. You describe your self as having traditional tastes but enjoy a certain level of creativity, or at least a bit of curiosity about the avant garde. I suppose I'm wondering when even a traditional restaurant has to inject a bit of life into a menu just to stay conservative rather than become reactionary or just tired.

I'm actually more curious about other things which we can't really deduce just from knowing that Americans were there in greater numbers than you noticed before. First, I thought American tourism was down quite a bit in France, but yours is not the first report I've heard about Paris being overrun with Americans at the moment. Taillevent has long been popular with Americans, but I wonder which ones are dining there now. I'm far from convinced that most diners in any restaurant appreciate the food, but I often wonder what drives Americans to choose the restaurants they do in France. By that I mean the ones who don't post in eGullet and the one's I've never met. I suspect there are many who have the money and not the palate and if a fine restaurant attracts that crowd, it can lose the edge of having to please discriminating diners. Still, both Michelin and GaultMillau award their highest rating to Taillevent. One might wonder if the restaurant is faltering and if it will improve with a new chef. Of course the trick in life is to eat at a two star restaurant the year before it appears as a three star and not to eat in the three star the year it loses a star, but of course one should always have bet on the horse that came in first.

: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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Bux, I had been pondering the very issues you raised about

memories, expectations and slippage. I think that my memories

[of the overall experience] supported my expectations. I found

no slippage in service or ambiance but found the menu limited

and lack luster. Should even successful restaurants have a fixed

menu? Most other three stars modify menus with the seasons

and market and offer new dishes over time. We were last there in the

months of February and May, different seasons albeit a year

apart. However, I didn't notice any significant change in offerings.

My final conclusion was that the cuisine had slipped somewhat. At

approx. 105 euros for the chicken, it needs to be delicious! It wasn't.

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I would ask it to be both exciting and delicious, but there's a sufficient audience that will pay that price if it's merely good and the service and luxury are there. On the other hand, as I'm looking at the Michelin, it seems as if the other three stars are raising the ante. Have there been so many restaurants in Paris where the set menu is over two hundred dollars as there are this year?

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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  • 3 weeks later...

When I heard the news that Michael del Burgo the chef at Taillevent was leaving at the end of the year, a funny feeling came about me. Three weeks earlier I had booked a table for dinner for my wife and I, her cousin and her fiancé, and now my inclination was to cancel. How could a chef on his way out be inspired to cook interesting food? I then set out on a long road of procrastination about what to do. It lasted so long that I found myself a week before the date of the reservation and I still hadn’t decided. My uncertainty was further compounded when a less then stellar review of a recent meal appeared on this website. And it got worse when all of a sudden I received an email from someone who had recently eaten at L’Elysees du Vernet and who reported that they had a terrific meal. Now I had a logical replacement as the chef at L’Elysees, Alain Lecomte, had been hired to replace del Burgo as the Taillevent’s chef. What to do? Just to show you how long my procrastination lasted (very much unlike me if you know me,) I took a little notebook with me on my trip and I wrote the telephone number of both Taillevent (to confirm or to cancel) and L’Elysees in it. There I was, the day before the date and I was still undecided as to what to do. It wasn’t until I picked up the phone that I was overcome by a certain sense of loyalty to one Monsieur Jean-Claude Vrinat and when they answered “Taillevent bonjour” that I decided to confirm instead of cancel.

Taillevent is among the more conveniently located restaurants in Paris. It’s really right off the Champs-Elysees. You just turn north at rue Washington, walk two small blocks to rue Lamennais and turn left. Taillevent is about 100 yards up the street on the left. Rue Lamennais is a transition street, the further away you walk from rue Washington the more discreet the street is. By the time you reach the restaurant, the hotel particulaire that houses Taillevent doesn’t seem out of place at all. Since this was originally a private home, you enter the restaurant into a proper foyer (it’s good when names of spaces actually match, as opposed to the foy –yer in my Manhattan apartment, this was a actually faux-yay) where they greet you, take your coat etc. You then pass into a small transition room and if you went straight you would end up in the kitchen. But they lead you to the right into the buildings main entrance room. There are four tables of diners here, one in each corner. And directly in front of you there is an elegant staircase that leads to an upstairs dining room. It’s as if you have walked into an Atget photograph. But if you are to be seated in the main dining room, they lead you through the entrance room and into a room to the right of it that faces onto the street. This used to be the living room of the house. It is a fairly large space with tables along the walls and a row of back-to-back tables in the middle of the room; I am guessing it seats around 60 people. The room is paneled as if you are in a private club. And indeed that is what Taillevent is as much as a restaurant. It’s sort of like Rao’s or The Ivy with a well pressed suit on.

They sat us at the corner table to the right of the door as you enter the room. After a few minutes of sipping glasses of champagne, they brought us menus. There is no separate wine list at Taillevent. The list is printed inside the menu. And quite a list it is. It is chock full of well priced wines when compared to what the same wines would cost elsewhere. Some of the wines, like the 1995 Raveneau Chablis Blanchots we drank, were priced at about what we might pay for it at auction. And the list of potential choices available was deep. Something that is quite unusual for a three star restaurant. Normally the lists are so overpriced that I am scavenging around looking for the one bargain. And if I get lucky I find two choices. But this list must have had four to five well-priced choices from each region in France. The other thing is that Taillevent is not a sommelier intensive restaurant. They have one who opens the bottles and pours the wine, but your captain is completely conversant in wine and can guide you through the list if you need help. It makes it slightly more user friendly. But there is one more plaudit they have earned. Invariably they always offer you a way to improve your wine choice with a wine that is off the list for a slightly higher price. In this instance, a few minutes after I ordered the Raveneau, the Captain returned to my table and offered me a 1990 Raveneau Chablis Clos, which is a Grand Cru for 128 euros. Quite a terrific price for what is arguably one of the better bottles of Chablis made in the last 50 years. But I have some experience with that wine, and I know that it still isn’t ready to drink and could probably use a good 90 minutes in a decanter before it opens up. So I stuck with a Premier Cru 1995 figuring it would be easier to drink on short notice. But still the offer to significantly improve my meal for a small increment in price deserves special mention.

The menu at Taillevent is not the type that is ever going to blow anyone away. That isn't just true with del Burgo's menu; it was true of the menus the two chefs who preceded del Burgo devised as well. Flashy food featuring cutting edge technique and presentation is not Taillevent’s bailiwick. But that doesn’t mean you will see a menu full of items we stopped eating decades ago like Gigot en Croute. But somehow while the menu projects a cuisine that appears safe and conservative, what you end up with on your plate does not seem old fashioned or passé. Staid yes. But not without the house being cognizant of making things contemporary. Kind of like the way they modernize the design of a Mercedes 500 sedan over the years.

I started with the Lacquered Challosse Foie Gras served with a three-fruit marmalade. It looked like they had composed Foie gras into the shape of a pie, lacquered the top and then roasted it. They served a slice in the shape of a wedge, not really much different in size then a small slice of a cream pie with a silver dollar size pile of marmalade on the side. Extremely good, and it isn’t quite Foie gras season yet either. The marmalade was lightly spiced, and it made a good foil for the Foie. Other starters at the table were a lightly fried egg stuffed with olive tapenade, and a pistou bouillon with flash-steamed vegetables. Each dish pronounced delicious by their owners. We also ordered the house signature dish which is a lobster sausage served in a creamy shellfish broth for the table. Excellent as usual. The Raveneau Chablis was a bit tighter then I would have liked. It exhibited certain steeliness that a 1995 Montee de Tonerre from the same producer didn’t exhibit when I had it earlier this year. The wine could use another 3-4 years or a good hour decant.

For my main I had the veal chop. It is served for two, but it is slightly larger then the veal chop I usually eat at home for one. Then again, the veal chops I buy to cook at home are not quite as firm in texture or as rich as this chop. And after it is trimmed and sliced, each person is presented with a grand total of four perfectly even slices. But the meat is served with mushrooms and echalotte grise (the famous gray shallots from Normandy) that have been sautéed in the pan along with the veal chop and then sliced. Really top quality veal but the mushrooms and shallots were amazing quality. This made three nights in a row where the vegetables were absolutely top quality and better then what I’m used to getting at home. Similar reports of happiness came from other diners at the table who had the sea bream and the John Dory respectively. Our 1989 Meo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanee Chaumes was a bit disappointing. I’m a big fan of Meo’s ‘89’s and I’ve had numerous good bottles of his Vosne-Romanee Brulees and Clos Vougeot. This wine wasn’t anywhere as concentrated as those two are. A pleasant drink, but it wasn’t the level of quality that makes me purr.

The evening’s humor was courtesy of my wife’s cousin’s fiancé Nathan. While we were waiting for our food, I told them how Taillevent is famous for cleaning stained ties during the dinner service. Sure enough, after we ate our entrees (those are starters in France,) I noticed that he had a large streak running down his tie. I told him I was going to notify our captain and he begged me not to. But I couldn’t resist. The captain noticed a little commotion at our table and he came over to see what was going on. I pointed to the tie, Nathan said that it was okay, but the Captain stood there with a stern look on his face and held his hand out for the tie. Nathan, a guy who sings in his synagogue choir on Saturday mornings was not about to challenge the Captain’s authority and dutifully removed the tie after which it disappeared from site. He was not a happy fellow. But the rest of us couldn’t stop laughing. The tie was missing for quite a while. Through our entire main course. Occasionally we would ask about its whereabouts and he would look at his watch and say it wasn’t ready yet. Then before the dessert course he appeared at our table with a grim face. The tie he was reporting could not be saved and they were going to try and turn it into a bowtie just so something could be salvaged. Then he said he would be right back and a moment later he returned with the tie on a silver platter and a small pair of silver scissors. Of course the tie was perfectly clean but he had his shtick down pat and he had us rolling in the aisles. It was all good fun but it makes the more important point that Taillevent, in spite of its air of superiority, is really a very relaxed place.

I had some cheese (I can’t remember so don’t ask) and some sorbets of passion fruit, banana and coconut. I noticed that the famous Marquis au Chocolat (a chocolate terrine in pistachio sauce) dessert was missing from the menu and I asked about it. “We don’t serve it anymore” I was told. “That’s the price of progress." But my long face was brightened when they brought me a small plate of chocolate mousse in a pool of pistachio sauce.

So in the end I was happy I kept my reservation at Taillevent. The food was top notch and the service was about as good as it gets. They couldn’t have been more gracious and a terrific time was had by all. But it’s a different type of three star experience then the one I had the night before at Arpege. Arpege, and restaurants like it, emphasize the gastronomic aspect of a three star meal. Taillevent while interested in serving three star, but not cutting edge food, is more about being pampered. And they are so good at it that you will have a hard time finding another place that does it as well. And if you are in the mood for that type of experience, I can’t think of a better place to take a meal.

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Steve, thanks for the wonderfully detailed report. You captured the spirit of Taillevent perfectly. Did you eat gougeres with the champagne aperitif? The best anywhere, sigh.

I sat at that table on my first visit, and the only off note of the evening was the Minister of Something-or-other at the next table who smoked big stinky cigars throughout.

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Plotnicki, thanks for trying to get to the bottom of what makes a three-star restaurant tick. Now that you've gone to the two worst three-star restaurants, will you be eating at a good one for comparison? I hope so!

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think it may be the best restaurant in France. Not that I've eaten at all of them; but having been to most of the ones that lay claim to the title I can say I think Gagnaire was better. I haven't been to Veyrat, though.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It looked like they had composed Foie gras into the shape of a pie

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

Fun report to read, Steve.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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