On my profile, I used to list Le Doyen as one of my two favorite restaurants in the world. Unfortunately, I just had such a mediocre experience there that I have changed my priorities.
The difficulties of the evening began with the bread. I chose a square black bun. When I tried to tear off a piece, it was really tough. The bread sort of shattered rather than tore. Chewing it was a chore and the taste was characterless.
Because we’d had such a good experience with turning ourselves over to the sommelier the night before at George V, we decided to try it with Le Doyen.
We told him something of our likes and dislikes and asked for advice. He suggested a wine from Provence, of which there were only a few listed in the dictionary-sized wine list. We said okay. It was too dry and tart for us, not unlike some of the really puckery New Zealand sauvignon blancs.
We reiterated that we’d like something smooth, maybe with a little oak or butter. We tried another wine and it, too, was exceedingly tart. We settled on the third, a disappointing Condrieu (“Les Chaillees De L’enfer, Georges Vernay 2005) simply because we couldn’t go on rejecting bottle after bottle. It was definitely not worth the 180 Euro cost.
Our waiter had touted the two black truffle starters, so we went with his suggestions (also the most expensive at 120 and 105 Euros respectively). I am a great fan of truffles and was excitedly looking forward to the first course. Unlike past experiences at Le Doyen, however, the waiter didn’t bring out the truffles for us to smell in advance. That should have been a warning to us.
My starter was a plate of three round slices of black truffle interleaved with slices of Jerusalem artichoke, all sprinkled lightly with salt. I tried cutting into the first truffle round and it shattered into tens of pieces. The shards had the texture of wood, but with no earthy smell—no scent at all, in fact. I thought the second round might be better, but it wasn’t. In all, there were probably 9 bites’ worth of truffle on the plate, of which I ate 3. It simply wasn’t worth consuming.
I felt trepidation about the main course, but needn’t have. It was Bresse chicken, poached and served in a white truffle sauce. It was wonderful, but I wished there had been some accompanying vegetable or taste counterpoints. The presentation was uninspired. The price was a hefty 193 Euros.
Our dining experience at Le Doyen cost 790 Euros total. I will go back to try it again someday, but that is based on my experiences prior to this night. Were this the only meal by which I could judge Le Doyen, I would certainly never go back.