In the mid 00’s, Alleno, Barbot, Piege, Moret (and a few others) were considered as young and talented chefs that would carry French cuisine in the new millennium. Fast forward a decade later or so … Alleno and Barbot were already 3-star chefs for a while, even the former had 2 restaurants with 3-star. Many expected that Jean-Francois Piege to be among the elite with 3-star in Paris, however his name was gone / under the radar for some times especially after he decided to leave Hotel Crillon in ’09. Even when he re-claimed the 2-star at Thoumieux, not many talked about it. However, his name appeared again and often, after he (finally) opened his own dining place – Le Grand Restaurant situated in the small street not too far from the Elysee palace. 2016 onwards, Chef Piege has appeared in plenty of magazines and tv programs in addition to receive a couple of “chef of the year” awards (again) from Pudlo and Champerard.
I first encountered Jean-François Piège’s cooking more than 10 years ago during his tenure at Les Ambassadeurs. Some of the dishes were ‘in principal’ similar to the ones at Ducasse Plaza but somewhat inferior, especially in terms of meticulous execution, nevertheless they’re quite promising. I was not very much aware of Chef Piege’s presence until last year when I continued my mission to try other 2-star restaurants in Paris. It was a late evening with lots of rain that delayed my arrival to the restaurant by nearly half-hour. As I entered the restaurant, the maître d’ knew and expected me as I was the last diner arriving. The open kitchen was bright in contrast to the low-lit dining room. Contrary to its name, Le Grand restaurant was actually an intimate dining place with only (about) 25 covers and it was fully booked on Monday night. I was seated near the kitchen and heard French was spoken pretty much at every table. I recalled 3-4 tables celebrated special occasions. I also noticed several groups ordered the chef’s menu with Grand vins pairing – if tonight was the barometer, I would say the restaurant was doing really well financially.
For my case, I ordered the (mijote moderne) tasting menu - there were 3 courses + cheese + dessert. I could not help but realized that since his days as the head chef of Ducasse Paris, the gastronomy restaurants that Jean-Francois Piege has led always have dishes utilizing caviar and langoustine as his specialties. These were usually the best stuffs like what I experienced during this dinner.
-The first dish came in a chic & shining silver egg-shaped ‘metal’: as I opened the top, I found a crisp potato puff with light cream inside and a dollop of caviar on top – stunning. For the bottom part, I was treated with shellfish extract jelly and caviar – lovely
-Two large langoustine tails were fresh, sweet and succulent. They were served in mariniere sauce with hazelnut butter and nasturtium flowers
-The pre-dessert was fabulous. It was a pristine and soft blanc-manger with runny vanilla cream inside and crisp caramel disc on top – easily the best blanc manger I’ve ever had
I let you see from the links below for the rest of the dishes. In short, the meal was exquisite. Although not every dish was perfect, the dishes were delicious and harmonious. I could sense that the chef-patron devoted lots of energy and emotion in creating his food. The service was competent with plenty of staffs worked efficiently. For those celebrating something, similar with what happened in Alain Ducasse Plaza, staffs would take and give polaroid photos to capture guests’ memories. When the kitchen only left with serving sweets, Jean-François Piège visited and greeted every table. He would take time to answer any questions – he was in one table for more than 10 min.
I enjoyed my meal and Le Grand Restaurant very deserved its 2-star. Along with Taillevent, it’s my favorite non-3-star restaurants in Paris. With some luck, Chef Piege will eventually get his 3rd star … probably sometimes in his early 50’s – my 2 cents