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Pigalle, Theatre District, Boston (long)

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Pigalle, Theatre District, Boston (long)

Limster | Feb 21, 2003 12:41 AM

The blizzard was a wonderful opportunity. Sitting at the bar allowed one to glance occasionally at the dusky and now quiet dining room while contemplating the six cheeses that rested on the side of the bar. One of them looked like a runny Rouelle. A savory coincidence that I unfortunately couldn't indulge, given the vastness of the chef's petite menu.

I did, however, indulge in many things, starting with an elegant amuse bouche -- tiny bits of foie gras in a creme brulee, served delicately in an egg shell steadied by a mound of sea salt. I imagined dishes like these were served in this manner to young princes in another, less egalitarian, age. It might have been slightly too sweet in parts, but when I hit the tiny lode of foie gras, their smoky, salty taste blended remarkably well with the creme brulee.

Then, a yuzu kimono around two fat slices of hamachi, the substantial marble subtly cut by the citrusy yuzu dressing. Next to that, hamachi tartare, dotted sparingly with chives, and coated with a slightly creamy dressing. But I can only remember the clean rich fish, exuding its natural flavour in both presentations. To the right, a a small salad of red leafed "bull's blood," (assuming that I remembered the name of these small leafed plants correctly).

A classic turn followed, French blue blood in a terrine, woven layers of pheasant and gelee atop pink, dense foie gras. I loved the play of textures between meaty fibres, the unctious liver and the gelee, thick on the tongue. Warm brioche added a crusty, delightfully powdery exterior and a soft interior (reminiscent of the insides of the thick pancake, quite unlike the fluffy brioches I'm more used to, but a pleasure nevertheless). A salad of greens and pheasant confit, deeper and earthier in flavour, provided yet another layer of contrasts and complements. Finally, from a thick fig jam, a nuanced sweetness and fruit to play off the foie gras. An extremely well composed dish from a classical palatte of flavours. Even better with a sweet acidic balance from a Trimbach Gerwurztraminer 2000.

A masterly stroke next, inspired by India. A small dot of tomato jam perfused with the flavours of the spice-rich sub continent sat on a small slab of fish like red markings touched on Indian foreheads. The tiny amount of jam is exquisite, adding a brilliant touch of toasty spice and a sun dried tomato-like tang to the moist fish, a clean and precisely cooked specimen. More jam and it would have been overwhelming, less jam, the effect would have been much attenuated. A single clam and a few pieces of artichoke hearts played a good supporting role, as Mediterrenean as the olive oil in the dish.

Turning to meat again, I cut into the noble and tender breast of duck, swathed in a thick red wine reduction, punctuated with tiny but subtantial pieces of foie gras that enhanced the livery dimension of the duck. Under severe duress, I might confess that this dish held the only minor flaw of the night, with too much sauce when a thick line across the heart of duck might have made a more succinct yet bolder statement. I forgot the name of the deep scarlet wine (I vaguely remembered grenach among other grapes in this blend) that they poured for me, but it truly opened here, fruit and spice and all, served properly in a vast, thin wineglass, instead of a stocky glass goblet.

Dessert, the inevitable fallen chocolate cake, piqued nicely by a sparing floral pattern of raspberry sauce in the creme anglaise. Pistacchio ice cream is thoughtfully served on the other side of the plate, allowing hot and cold to mingle in the mouth, not on the plate. Enough fruit and backbone in the red to drink here.

Add the gracious, welcoming and helpful waitstaff, a fairy-light chamomile, and the evening was complete. Well, almost. I shall have to save space for the cheese next time.

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