I love Truc for their clever cooking. In the same manner, I love Aquitaine just across the street for their straightforward dishes cooked precisely. Aquitaine has been recommended many times on this board, and so it was no surprise when it came recommended too by the bartender at Pigalle where I ate recently.
I loved the gougeres at Aquitaine, a simple but delightful amuse bouche -- a shell that was eloquently soft and lightly flaky, with some heft from an aura of cheese, the warm air in the centre still carrying those savoury flavours.
The bartender was gracious beyond the call of duty throughout dinner. There were complementary pourings and helpful recommendations, and when she noticed how much I loved those gougeres, she had another two brought to me.
Escargot was admirably cooked; tender, plump and bearing a soft snap; they taste like exotic mushrooms. Their flavours come alive when tasted together with the sweet light savoury sauteed vegetables and herbs (essentially a mirepoix) that were mixed in between the fat snails. The bartender told me that they cook the escargot and the mirepoix separately to ensure the right degree of cooking. They then combine vegetables and snails, scatter sharp breadcrumbs over the top and toast the dish in a salamander for the breadcrumbs to get crispy.
The bartender recommended a Californian chardonnay, round with some apples or pears perhaps, and stiffened nicely with a few mineral notes. I was glad that it wasn't as buttery as most CA chardonnays. A light, clean complement to the escargot, and a good accompaniment to the salmon next.
Salmon was wonderfully cooked -- moist, tender and smooth; hard to find salmon with this kind of lovely texture when fully cooked. Delicious. Even better were the cubes of wintry parnips and carrot that added their sweetness to the richness of the salmon. A bed of dark lentils (the menu calls it Beluga lentils - they certainly resemble caviar in form) rounded the dish with a soft earthy dimension.
I was grateful for a complementary taste of pinot noir from the bartender, adding dark fruit and depth to the salmon, a pleasant contrast with the slight sharpness from the prior chardonnay.
Lastly, a satisfying dessert of gingerbread cake with a nice restrained glow of ginger, topped off with soft mild caramelized pears and a scoop of good vanilla ice cream. Another complementary splash of dessert wine....forgot to ask about that nectar with a bit of soft apricots, gentle raisins and a bittery hint of walnut husks.
The excellent food aside, the warm and welcoming service at the bar made for a truly enjoyable dinner. Even in the dark red woods of the stylish dining room and bar, the mood was casual. I felt completely at ease and I'd love to eat there again.