I just came back from a great trip to Paris. My first night was at Lucas Carton and my first visit there since Jerome Moreau has left to go to the Bristol. I am happy to say that while I miss Jerome the dining room is being run as professional as ever. This has to be the best service staff in Paris on a whole. The amuse was Champagne Vranken Demoiselle - Cuvée 21 served first to a frothy and creamy chicken broth with thaï spices. The ginger and lemon grass really got the saliva running and match the champagne beautifully. I wish they sold the Vranken in Sweden because it is one of the best apertif champagne I have every had. I honestly think I prefered it to the Dom Perignon I was soon to have the same night. The next amuse was a ravioli filled with scallops and a buttery sauce with crisp green apples. Again the saliva faucet was turned on at full power and wonderful with the Champagne. I chose to eat the Prestige Menu with wines which at 500 was expensive but probably about 150 cheaper than order the same courses and wines ala carte. This was new at LC since in the past the menus at dinner have not been that much of a price break.
The first course was Osetra caviar served with Cevennes onion that had been baked in clay. First they onion was presented whole fresh out of the oven still in the clay. Then it came back blended with the caviar and served on three oriental soups spoons and topped with a little pistachio. This was to match the wine, a Dom Perignon 95 that had a nice roasted nut nose. I was a little afraid of this since I usually find caviar very fishy and harsh. This was more like butter. The caviar was luke warm from being mixed with the diced up onion and maybe is was the soft, sweet onion that brought a balance to the caviar that made it to my liking. I think this dish also shows the genius of Senderens cooking. Only three ingredients, caviar, onions and pistachios. A unique preparation and a great well thought out wine to match (although I really found I liked the tartness of the Vranken more then the depth of the Dom, maybe the Dom should have another 5 years to get to its best). It also set the tone for the rest of the meal, decadence.
Next was polenta with white truffles with 1990 Corton Charlemagne - Domaine Bonneau du Martray. Again the dish is simple. Creamy polenta, five slices of white truffle (what an AROMA!!!!) and a quail's egg. But what depth of flavor. Pure luxury in all senses (the sound comes from the "ahs" you make yourself after each fork!!! The wine worked well but again may have been a little young to show it true potential, but this is a great burgandy and had the right acidity to cleanse the palate after each bite and prepare it for the next wave. Again, my one word is decadent.
Here it took a break from the set menu and added in a Foie Gras with exotic fruits. It was the only dish I had had before and I wanted to eat it again since it was so great last time and has not been on the menu for a while (they have had trouble finding the right wine to match). It is a great and again simple dish. Pan fried foie gras and exotic fruits like mangos, papaya, passionfruit. The wine was Late Harvest 1997 Gewurztraminer - Domaine Trimbach. I do not usually like Gewurtz but I remembered loving it with this dish a few years ago (but that was a different Gewurtz). Well I loved it again. I also asked for a sample of Chateau Grillet Viognier they had open to test with this dish. I was thinking the flowery, exotic Grillet could with the exotic fruits. And I love Viognier and Grillet. Well, I hate to say I left the glass full minus one sip. This wine, which is a great wine I love did not work at all with this dish. Instead I finished the Gewurtz plus the free refill (a great thing about LC wines by the glass is EVERYONE gets free refills!) even though it is a wine I normally do not enjoy.
Now we are back on the regular menu. Saddle of hare with Szechuan pepper and cacao and a sauce with Italian cherry juice. A sweet brioche with cherries, topped with corn and mustard. Wine, 1983 Graham Vintage Port. The hare was perfectly cooked, very tender and tasty. The sauce and powdered cacao on the side match the full, rich Port perfectly. And the alcohol of the port matched up to the strong flavors and aroma of the dish. But the most interesting part of this was the way the hare was sliced. The saddle was like one long small fillet, about the size of a small lamb fillet. It was slided vertically into two sliced with the crust against the plate and the pink inside of the fillet looking up at you. I was told that they had tried cutting the hare both into two long pieces and into several round ones. In the test tasting they found the hare tasted more "elegant" when cut into the long pieces. But they had no idea why. They wondered if it had to do the the way the muscles fibers ran along the fillet. Well I could not compare since I only had the long version. But the next day I thought a lot about the concept. And I think no matter how they serve it when you cut it into pieces to put in your mouth you get basically the same pieces. Could it matter which way you sliced first? But then I realized they served they way they did when you cut a slice to put in you mouth your fork goes into the inside (ie part of fillet that did not have contact with the frypan) and the part that hits your tougue first is the part that was in contact with the frypan and has the spices "burnt" into it and shows the full malliard effect (carmelization). When served the other way your fork would probably go into the top of a round slice that had not had pan contact but under that, (except for the two end pieces) is another unexposed area. The pan contact parts are around the edges. So it is pure meat that hits your tongue first (plus sauce) and the crust hits the taste buds as you start chewing. I wonder if there are any food scientist out there who could comment on my theory as to how there could by a difference in taste based on how the meat was cut and served.
Finally dessert was a medley of quince (sort of like a cross between apple and pear I think). A poached version with cinnamon, an oven baked with orange peel and crystalized in ginger ice cream. The wine was a Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 1998 - István Szepsy. I was told this is a very small producer working in traditional manners. Great wine, great dessert with a fine variety of flavors and textures and a perfect end to a decandant evening.
I can still highly recommend a visit to LC to anyone that can spend a lot of money, enjoys combining great wine with great classic cooking with minor twists, understands and appreciate great raw ingredients and loves being pampered by friendly informed service. And does not mind sitting close to others, because you do this at LC and many guests end up talking to the guests next to them about how much they are enjoying their food. LC is decandent and fun!