Selecting where to dine at 2-star Michelin in Paris could be tricky sometimes. Based on my experience, it’s often hit (Taillevent / old Le bristol) and miss (Rostang / Carre des feuillants); well the miss was not too bad but I often expected more. When I was in Paris with my wife, I tended to try a new restaurant and if possible having a beautiful dining room as she loves taking pictures. From the recent visit, my choice fell into the “relatively” new restaurant in town – Le Gabriel. It’s the flagship dining place of La Reserve hotel, one of Parisian palaces. The executive chef, Jerome Banctel was the former head chef of Senderens. His (contemporary) French cooking was often influenced by Japanese cuisine; he also likes using Asian spices. Therefore, I thought the food would be suitable to her palate.
It was a dinner and since we would be leaving Paris the following day, I selected dishes from the a la carte menu. We split the appetizers and main course. I loved the succulent roasted lobster with butter served in fruity emulsion; moist and delicious Bresse hen thigh with its crispy skin in yuzu vinaigrette sauce; and the side dish of the 1st serving from the chicken: excellent girolles - meaty & firm, nutty and rather sweet. You can see the rest of the dishes from the link below.
Some of the combination might not always work unfortunately. For instance, the chewy artichoke heart, the most popular dish at Le Gabriel, was nice served in a complex and intense sauce (the salty, sour, buttery flavors all ‘bursting’). It was good for a couple of bytes, but became kind of cloying as you ate more and more – probably since we had it as an a la carte and the fact that it’s vegetables, the portion was generous. Another example coming from our ‘neighbors’; the American couple ordering tasting menu and their main course was pigeon marinated in miso. When the staffs explained the dishes to me, I already imagined and had doubts whether this combination would work. I did not order it, but I saw my neighbors had this pigeon (another house specialty) as their main course. They did not finish them – the wife ate more than half, the husband savored nearly 1/3 of the portion – well, they politely told that they’re full when the staffs asked. However, I overheard from the discussion that they’re not too fond of the pigeon dish.
The fact that my wife and I sometimes can effortlessly heard other people conversation … yes, it’s correct if you guessed that it implied the distance between tables was not too spacious. The tables and chairs / sofas were comfy though. It’s just that the dining room was quite small – fit in about 30 people. For a new luxury place, I was surprised that Michel Reybier did not go for a grand dining room. The room was filled with black and brown color – it looked quite dark in the evening nevertheless the interior was elegant and rather chic. At first, I wanted to order a bottle of “house wine” – probably due to my limited knowledge, I did not expect that the bottles carrying owner’s label would be very expensive (> EUR 200). Hence, I ordered something else
It was a Friday evening and the restaurant was full. Staffs were chatty, enthusiastic and busy. Once in a while, our wine and water were not promptly topped up but the napkin was always changed to a new one. Le Gabriel was a young restaurant compared to many gastronomy places in Paris. However, chef Jerome Banctel and his team worked very hard; he was ambitious, developed his own style and wanted to attain the ultimate goal of receiving 3-star Michelin award for Le Gabriel … perhaps one day. As of now, I think 2-star was more suitable and I got a feeling that this restaurant could be one of the most exciting restaurants to watch in the city of lights. I expected plenty of new creations by chef Banctel in the next 3-5 years.
Pictures of the meal: https://www.flickr.com/photos/7124357...