The following is a blow-by-blow account of my lunch at Le Cinq on 12 December 2009. Situated inside the Four Seasons Paris, it is led by chef Philippe Legendre formerly of Taillevent.
12:34 – Starting my second Michelin star dining experience at Le Cinq.
12:43 – Shrimp and squid fritters to go with my pink Champagne.
12:46 – I’m told to try the olive oil because it comes from Tuscany. Brittany and seaweed butter are served.
12:54 – The seaweed butter is an amazing alternative to truffle butter. The amuse-bouche arrive.
12:55 – The pumpkin soup with celery foam had sea salt pop rocks on top, very amusing.
The scallop on blini with horseradish cream. It’s a great bite, however it doesn’t last long. Before you can enjoy the scallop or the blini, it’s gone.
Seasonal vegetables, pickled. I watch another couple across the room, the man picks up the spoon and is ready to pop it into his mouth. The woman then stops him and encourages him to use utensils. I am a fat American and use the ceramic spoon as it is intended. The vegetables are so deeply marinated but not acidic, tender yet crisp.
12:56 – New setting, seafood fork and a fish knife.
12:59 – Razor Clams from the Galice Region
Razor clam with seaweed butter. Once again that butter mixed with salty seaweed. As I have expressed before this seaweed is like the truffle of the ocean, though instead of being the star of the plate it almost grabs the flavor of seafood and brings it to the forefront. The razor clam in the shell is a bit tough and requires some work with the fish knife. Between bouts with the cooked clam, I dip into the cold raw razor clam salad.
13:04 – People are filing in, I feel a little too casual and modern with my outfit, however the lack of ties in the room makes it feel comfortable.
13:06 – New setup, fork and fish knife. My frites and frites fork have been taken away, shame I didn’t use it, but Americans eat with our hands. I see an older couple still tucking into the frites. The older gentleman picks with his fingers, the lady shrewdly hovers over the frite with her fork as if casting a spell to choose the right one.
13:08 – Fall Mushrooms in Slightly Bitter Raisin Marinade, Crackers with Eggplant Fondue.
The fondue is served in a stemless martini glass, with dry ice in the chilling bowl. I’m assured that it’s non-toxic, I pretend that I’m amazed by the fog. (see video)
I begin with the mushrooms. Full of texture, juicy and satisfying. Each bite, you swing between fig, mushroom, walnut, currant, then serrano ham. I would have like a little more acidity or salt because somewhere along the line too much water got into the dish.
13:14 – Mushrooms and figs and oh the horror, I drip on the tablecloth. The mushroom plate is taken away and the waiter brings cracker forth.
I snap the cracker into three portions, in between the dollops of the eggplant. The flavors here are reminiscent of the mushrooms. The crunch of the cracker is followed by a smooth and brightly tangly eggplant, the fig doesn’t bring any flavor but the seed pockets bring a nice grainy texture.
I am surprised by the eggplant fondue. It’s more of like a eggplant and chestnut remoulade. The shavings of raw artichoke are surprisingly savory and thick. If I close my eyes, I can imagine the artichoke shavings are white truffle.
13:20 – A French family of four sitting near me. The son (early 20s) is allowed to remove his jacket! I’m shocked to see he’s in jeans.
13:23 – A place mat is set down to cover up my stain and to be replaced if I stain again.
13:24 – Fresh Duck Foie Gras From The Landes Region, Roasted with Citrus Fruit, Louise Bonne Pear, Gingerbread Crumble.
The entire plate smells of Christmas because of the roasted pear. I’m intrigued by the jelly pink thing on the side. If there were a yellow swirly of sauce, it would be a Joan Miró painting. I am excited and my heart is racing. I pick up the sharp knife to slice into the foie gras, but encounter the gingersnap underneath. I understand that if gingersnap wasn’t here there would be an messy pool of juices on the plate, but this is one tough cookie. The first few bites of foie gras without the gingersnap are heavenly. I try the foie gras with the gingersnap, but I find it best to be eaten with the pear.
I assume the pink block is a grapefruit gelée, but to my surprise, there’s a supreme of grapefruit in a pink jelly. It is not as refreshing as I need it to be, but that just speaks to the quality of the foie gras.
13:35 – To go with my hare, Chateau D’Aiguille 2005 as suggested by the sommelier.
13:41 – To my right there’s a quartette of French ladies toasting with pink champagne… one of them has a fake Chanel purse.
13:45 – The older French couple (the old woman with the frites fork) slow, frail, showing every bit of their age (late 80s?) ponder their glasses of wine as they await their next course. I wish for their longevity, grace, and style. I wonder if they are hard working folk or a come from old money. This meal is a splurge, on anyone’s budget.
13:47 – Wild Hare Shoulder From The Beauce Region, Stewed with Grey Shallots, Quince Preserve, Chanterelle Mushroom Ravioli
This plate feels fancy and crude at the same time. I braise stuff all the time and it would look like this if I had the time to make individual plates. The allure of this dish is the difficulty to procure the meat. I don’t think that the hare is impressive and I can only praise it for the fond de veau in the sauce. Poking around the plate led to the nice surprise of chanterelle mushrooms and the cube of quince pieces was fun to eat.
Overall, I’m saddened by the plate.
14:00 – New napkin, and the promise of dessert
14:12 – Guanaja Chocolate Iced Crisp, Café Liégeois
The Café Liégeois is fun with the “Le Cinq” button on top. The cappuccino foam is a single mass floating atop coffee granité, so one has to spoon it with great care… or shoot it in one gulp.
The crisp is an amazing tower of textures. I knock out the bonbons of ice cream inside the tuile. The chocolate is murky and bitter, a dastardly delicious tease for anyone who loves dark chocolate. The coffee ice cream is so light and tastes of fresh milk, I dare say it’s more of a gelato. Despite the gilded coffee bean and the gold leaf, the ice cream stole the show.
The vanilla mousse, chocolate mousse, and the crème anglaise were unctuously thick and punctuated by the crunchy almond cookie. I can’t stop grinning while eating this dessert.
14:23 – I have a sneaking suspicion that I have another dessert coming.
14:26 – The Italians ordered the shoulder of lamb, it’s being served table-side… showy eurotrash bastards.
14:30 – Their subtle way of kicking me out or spending more money, the dessert cart arrives.
14:31 – I choose the nougat (I forgot the French word for it, and I say Turrón) and the rose guimauve (marshmallow).
14:35 – A very pretty server sets a beautiful blue goblet in front of me and explains that the Watwiller water she is pouring comes from a spring in western France. Due to its neutral properties and lack of minerals, it’s good for digestion.
14:40 – I ask for the bill.
14:47 – I finish and walk out, but forget that I have a box of complimentary caramels at my table.
14:48 – I run back into the dining room and the maître d’hôtel picks the box off of the table, hands it to me, and pats me on the back with a great smile. I cannot help but shrink at their unfailing deportment.