I went to Le Bristol on a Monday for lunch. The next day Tuesday was a bank holiday so the room was only half full. Otherwise they say it tends to be full for both lunch and dinner. The room is beautiful. It is an oval shape, seemingly in the middle of the hotel. Chair are big, soft with arm rests. All the extra touches are there. Big pastry and bread display in the center of the room, rolling champagne table with glasses and several bottles available by the glass (whatelse would one expect with Jerome Moreau, former head sommerlier of Lucas Carton, working as head sommerlier for the whole hotel for the past 5 months. Jerome is slowly building the wine list. Historically it is very strong on Bordeaux. I saw at least five 1961 Bordeauxs on the list with the Ausone around 2500 and topped by the Petrus at 15000. Jerome is trying to get the 1961 La Chapelle on the list as well. But most of his work is on getting the rest of France represented with more normal wines. He will be added several nice Alcase wines from 85 to 95 in the beginning of December. He already has some nice Burgundies. There were several half bottle options for both red and white already as well. The amuses included an airy parmesan cookie topped with a roasted tomato and pesto had amazing depth of flavors. Hot round crab balls, a coned shaped wafer filled with avocado and radish were also offered. The bread table then showed up with at least 10 different breads, including two different loafs, something I have never seen at a 3 star before. I guess bread at this level is a lot easier to deliver if the same bakery is handling breakfast bread for 150 hotel rooms and that start around 600 per night!!!
Before the first course an extra dish I did not order, I do not think this is normal but more Jerome's kindness to let me try more, arrived. Frog legs with tandori dipped sauce. It came with a glass of Condrieau. The legs were on the bone that you used to pick up and dip in the tandori sauce. They were nice and crispy and served this way I realized why everyone says they taste like chicken. I think I could even get my kids to eat these if they did not know it was frogs. The tandori worked very well with the flowery Condrieau and this was a fun dish before some more serious eating.
My first course was a half portion of macaroni filled with black truffles, artichoke and foie gras topped with aged parmesan. This was a spectacular dish. The macaroni was a tube shape and even the half portion was big. The aromas of the truffles and parmesan were powerful and all this different flavors complemented each other well, sort of like a symphony with many instruments hitting a cresendo at the same time. Can you feel the goosebumps on your arms? A wonderful Meursault Charmes from Antonin Guyon 1998 chosen by Jerome had the power and oak to match the dish and the nutty aromas of the wine played well off the nutty aromas of the parmesan. After this dish and the tomato pesto amuse I asked if the chef was from southern France, but it turns out he if from Bretagne (another speciality on the menu is eels and this may be the place to try them). Next I got two one more dish I had not ordered, a pan seared large scallop with old parmesan, blue potato chips and balsamico vinagrette. The unusual combination of parmesan and scalloped worked surprisingly well and was a great excuse to finish my half bottle of Meursault! Not an extraordinary dish, but very well executed.
Next was a veal sweetbread served on top of a layer of bacon with a cinnamon sauce and bacon foam. A theme was developing in the cooking here. Depth of flavor. Smoky bacon, rich, unctuous roasted sweetbreads, aromatic and exotic cinnamon. This is classical cooking with some modern twists (the air like foam of bacon with intense flavor and aromas). It fits the room and atmosphere perfectly. The wine chosen by Jerome was a 2000 Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Nuits from Jayer Gilles. The wine seamed older than its actually aged. Nice smokey tobacco and earthy aromas, rich taste with nice acidicy and balanced oak and load of terrior that kept you thinking with every taste. A great bottle. And it went very well with the next dish, young wild partridge (yes I got one piece of buckshot in my mouth!) roasted whole and served on wild porcini mushroom. A very simple dish with gamey flavor where the mushrooms actually outshined the partridge. And married perfectly with the wine.
I hopped over the cheese and went straight to dessert which was the best I have in recent memory. Pineapple in various forms including cotton candy, poached with cardamon, cinnamon and star anise, in a beignet, in a sorbet with fresh raspberries and finally in a cream with coconut and chocolate. An amazing tour de force that had everything. Classic and modern technics, childish memories like beignets and cotton candy that brought me back to a Sunday at the amusement park, various texture and spice that allowed the pipeapple to show all its qualities and potential. And it all tasted great. This was not like Gagnaire where you wanted more of 1 or 2 of the various presentations. You wanted more of everyone!
Then came out all the candies and macaroons and chocolates to finish the fun.
All in all this was a great first visit to Le Bristol for me. I would not be surprised if they soon have 3 stars. They are certainly trying very hard. I look forward to learning the kitchen better, finding more dishes to go back to time and time again and getting Jerome's guidance thru what will surely become one of Paris's absolute best wine cellars.
I strongly recommend at visit to Le Bristol and please ask for Jerome and tell him you are a chowhound and Marc from Sweden suggested you ask for him to choose your wines for you. If you enjoy wine this approach will help assure a wonderful time at Le Bristol.