This was my 3 meal at Pierre Gagnaire in the past year. All three times I had the tasting menu. The first visit was a business dinner and I was disappointed, too many misses between the strokes of genius. I gave it a second try on my own so I could concentrate on the food. This as an amazing meal (link below). This third time I was with my wife and looking forward to a great meal to discuss and analyze with my wife. I was somewhat disappointed. There were a couple of misses and not as many strokes of genius as the last visit. And the service was lacking a bit. They made no mistakes but they missed the little extras, like explaining all the dishes. Something you realyl need as everything is very complex.
For example, we got 5 amuses and they told us nothing about any. There was a spoon with a smokey fish creme, roe and a half a grape. My wife loved it, I did not. Then a little piece of crispy bread with oyster and raw onions and carrots and some pesto. I loved it, my wife did not. A thin cookie made with salt and nuts covered with liver and what seems like a new potato a half inch in diameter filled with some eel. This could have been the best part of the night. It gets your mind and tastes wide awake and starts the discussion.
The first course was asparagus with cardamom, asparagus mousse, gambas and turtle. Served with cabbage juice and olive oil. It was interesting but the turtle was very tough and many of the flavors got lost. But the gambas come through very clearly and was excellent.
Second, a galette of langoustine with lemon marmalade, cucumber, portugese mushroom and stinging nettle soup with coriander froth. This was an excellent course. All the flavors where clean but married together and a a thin cookie in the middle added some texture and kept some of the ingredient apart until they entered your mouth. Typical Gagnaire when he is on target.
Third a turbot fried on its own with ginger, presented at the table then brough back to be added to the dish (the table side preparation very frequent). The dish had some almost raw scallops and tuna and a corn pasta like a big chunks of cous cous (a Mediterrean theme came throughout the night). All held together in a hockey puck by some pea shells and served with a champagne creme sauce on top and surrounded by a rich tomato bases sauce that was to die for. Again a successful marriage of about a dozen ingredients.
Fourth a big miss. A salad with chick and ham jelly, artichoke pate with duck liver, cuttlefish carpaccio and fresh flowers. The tastes simply clashed, the texture was two chewy and we both left more than half. An experiment gone wrong.
Fifth was back on target. Morels and two types of chanterlles served with roasted red pepper and bear garlic (according to my dictionary). Simpler tastes, very rich, very delicious. He seems to know his mushrooms because he had an excellent mushroom dish last time also.
Sixth was a miss (or maybe we had had too many flavors already). A small hen first roasted on a spit then finish in a small oven dish served with crispy skin, peas and a lasagne of onions. The dish just did not come together for us.
The cheese course was again 3 cheese preparation. First a lovely fruity chevre with oil and a crispy cookie. Second a blue cheese creme rolled in cabbage bread crumbs??? Finally a Savoie wiht a gentian juice. The first two were fine but the last had a medicin flavor we did not like.
Then what may have been the highlight of the meal, the grand dessert. 5 desserts all excellent. A version of a frozen margarita with strong tequila flavor and creamy lime and coconut. A kirsch jelly with strawberries, an almond creme cookie, strawberry sauce and celery. Tremendous. Grapefruit sorbet with coconut creme, pineapple and cucumber. A chocolate tower with different chocolate mousses and cookies (my wifes favorite) and a warm berry fruit bar. Then about 12 different small chocolates and cookies including my favorite rosemary marshmallow.
All in all not a bad meal but 1 real misses and two half misses and not enough jaw dropping amazement over the good stuff except for the amuse and dessert made this about a 7.5 on a scale of 10. I will not rush back to Gagnaire as I feel that the 3 meals this past year have been enough to learn what he can do. And when I do go back I think I will try the normal menu rather than the tasting menu. But I will go back to Lucas Carton soon again and eat the langoustines and be sure of another trip to heaven.