Took a bite of the week old gingerbread house with the same curiosity that led me to drink the water in the Delhi Airport
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.
The following is a blow-by-blow account of my lunch at Taillevent on 11 December 2009. I arrived at 12:30, greeted by no less than five people, and whisked off to my corner banquette in the Lamennais Dining Room.
Upon sitting I’m asked if I would like a glass of the 2000 Dom Pérignon or the Taillevent Champagne. Seeing that I could get Dom Pérignon anywhere in the world, I opt for the Taillevent Champagne.
As the head waiter finishes setting down the champagne, another waiter presents me with a plate of cheese puffs, and encourages me to eat them with my fingers. After taking one, he set the plate on the table.
The menu and wine list arrive. I make my selections and request wine to only go with the duck. I sit and savor my cheese puffs and champagne.
12:47 – Royale raifort et mousse au saumon
Salmon and horseradish mousse
Perfect, the radish matched the horseradish royale and the salmon mousse was an impossibly light foam
12:51 – Rémoulade de tourteau à l’aneth, sauce fleurette citronée
Crab rémoulade with a whipped citron sauce. Dill sauce. Consistent flake in crab, almost off-putting thinking that crab is handled so much. The white sauce was an eye-opening blend of citron. Dragging in the dill dots on the edge provided a spark of herbal flavor.
1306 – Looking around the room, I spy the sea urchin royale which is served in sea urchin cups and topped with the roe settled on rock salt discs.
1314 – Langoustines Royales
Langoustine tail with roe (below) and tarragon sauce (above). Chutney is a little too sweet, and herbs are a nice respite. The crust enhances the lobster flavor, almost like eating prawn chips along with prawn. Technically intriguing, since the crust is rolled and striped like the layers of a croissant.
If there is a reason to fault them for not staying a three star Michelin restaurant, I think it would be dishes like these. Though it is flawless, the harmony wasn’t there.
Note: Wine waiter number two, who fills my wine glass, uses English. Im sure they are all trained to pick up on the preferred language of the tables.
13:24 – Epeautre en Risoto Grenouille aux girolles
Spelt risoto with frog legs. The frogs legs are grilled to perfection and douched with butter. The fond de veau underneath it all ties the dish together and makes it sexy. Two deboned muscles were thrown in and the crisp garlic chip could have been thicker.
13:29 – I think the super cute waiter noticed I picked up a frog leg with my fingers and brought a finger bowl and bone plate.
13:34 – Fuck! A fish knife!
13:42 – Rouget, Tapenade & Citron Aux saveurs méditerranénnes
Red snapper with artichoke. There’s a squared off block of artichoke purée underneath the artichokes. The fish is moist and the skin is delicately crisp. The jus on the plate has yet to speak to me.
13:50 – I’m obsessing over the spot of tasteless jus I dropped on the tablecloth… mortified.
13:54 – A 2001 burgundy is been served. So guess the duck is up next. The wine was already opened and sitting on the service table. I didn’t see if it was served to someone else.
13:58 – I have to say now… I have to fault the Swede next to me for tucking his napkin into his shirt. It’s almost as bad as my spill on the linen. As I type this, I see red wine drips on the tablecloth from the main waiter who served me the wine.
14:00 – As I wait for the duck, I see several desserts being served.
14:00 – Ooh, and a cheese course.
14:01 – I forgot to mention, when I placed my order I was asked how I like my duck. I asked for medium rare.
14:02 – Uh oh.. I felt a shirt button shift
14:04 – I’m seeing something served table side. Something with a pastry crust and being portioned into three perfect plates, each person getting the same exact meal.
I see a wine stain or sea urchin stain next to the woman at the table in front of me. The crummier (ramasse-miettes) who looks like Mo Rocca, seemed unfazed.
14:09 – Canard de Challans Rotie Aux Epices – Aux cerise et à la verveine
Roast duck with fruits of the season.
Yeah, the wine is perfect! I think there was something lost in translation because my duck is overcooked.
The fruits are on a purée of pumpkin. I can’t tell if the warm, yet still crunchy ball is quince OR pear. There was a poached soft grape.
14:21 – Across the room I see the four frenchmen receive their rare duck. I’m jealous.
14:23 – Knowing that this was the star of the meal, I’m now really sad.
14:25 – Ossau Iraty Pain brûlé et piment d’Espelette
Soft white basque region cheese with a confiture of cherries. The circle of pepper is a beautiful presentation. If there were any doubt of the mixture of sweet and savory, I would suggest this dish. The arugula is an exceptional compliment.
14:27 – The swedes have been served the same cheese course.
14:29 – I see a wheel of soft cheese with an ashen rind served with a great smile.
14:31 – The head waiter for this room is putting his arm into it, but making it look like he’s enjoying it.
More cheeses from the board are being served
14:33 – At this point, A 1000€ bill wouldn’t shock me… this meal is so luxe.
14:36 – All plates cleared.
14:37 – The cheese board is taken away. My salt and pepper have been cleared.
14:38 – The waiter who looks like Mo Rocca clears the crumbs off the table next to me onto a plate. Mo then gets another plate to collect my crumbs.
14:41 – The rich foursome of French men get rowdy. I’m sure the young handsome one complained about the amount of bread consumed by the party, because the oldest one throws a piece of bread at himhim. The piece of bread was then smeared with cheese and the young handsome man stuffs it into his mouth and chews with his mouth open, as asks for more bread.
14:42 – More silverware
14:43 – The table that sat right after me have finished their meal.
14:44 – The table in front of me paid their meal in less than a minute. They leave, with petit fours on the table.
14:45 – The table is cleared and looks as if nobody ate there, save for the spot left by the woman earlier. The linens must be replaced between lunch and dinner.
14:48 – Listening to the swedes complaining about how American airport security ruined it for the world… go fuck youself. Clearly they have never been on an Israeli airline.
14:49 – Fraicheur Mandarine et Palet au Chocolat
Both are served, but the custard is set directly in front of me.
The citrus custard has an almondine foam. The fresh blood oranges are a surprise because I thought the red layer was raspberry.
The custard mousse at the bottom is whipped and porous, I guess this is a good style choice since the horseradish royale in the beginning was a thick smooth custard.
14:54 – The custard is finished and taken away, Mo Rocca sets the chocolate cake in front of me and I notice the caramel sauce is in the shape of a C – clef or the Japanese sound “u” or ooh.
The sugar lace is so dark, which echos the deep richness of the chocolate. The sandy almond cookie is clearly just a vehicle for the mousse.
14:59 – Only by eating the crumbs, I realize the butteriness of the almost cookie. It’s a shame that it had to bow down to the mousse.
15:00 Now to the petite fours
The butter cookie, just melted. I wonder how much of that was really flour or crushed nuts
15:02. – I’m kissing the overflow at the seams of the macaron, it is filled with a delightful banana cream. I’m trying to delay the inevitable.
15:03 – The macaron is slight chewy and the sweetness exploded. Within chewing three times, it melts into nothing. I sip some water and it’s such a clean finish.
15:02 – I think this is a pistachio cream tart. I overturn it so the cream hits my tongue. I can’t describe the flavor. There’s a sweet milk and a melon-like flavor, and before I can analyze it further… it’s gone.
15:07 – The mousse tart, I’m wondering if it’s hiding something. On second thought, maybe the silver is the flourish here and it’s just a standard chocolate tarte. The base is a bit tacky…
15:08 – Dark and coffee flavored. I’m glad I didn’t get a coffee, it would have been lost.
15:09 – The chocolate. I’m guessing it’s a plain piece of chocolate. Standard and perfect.
15:10 – The shine is beautiful, I wonder if it’s waxy.
It’s a thin outer coating and a smooth milky ganache inside
15:11 – No, it wasn’t waxy
15:12 – I purposefully drink my water so that someone fills my glass. As I write this line someone has already filled it and left the table
15:14 – I imagine that’s what running a marathon is like.
15:16 – I whisper “l’addition” and Mo Rocca hears me as if said it through a bullhorn.
15:17 – The bill is presented on a silver tray but Mo is looking for the room’s head waiter. He’s clearly busy cajoling the four annoying french men.
15:21 – I’d like to be let out of my table.
The kids decided to have dinner elsewhere so I decided to make a little something for myself