For the first time I went to Pierre Gagnaire and did not have the tasting menu. No do not think that ordering 3 courses at this place means 3 courses. First let me say a few things, one for the first time there where empty table at Gagnaire, and this was a Sunday when he is basically the only 3 star open. LC on the other hand that is often not full during the week was totally packed on the Saturday the day before. I wonder if many people have gone and now saying, I've done that, what's next. I hope not because Gagnaire is a great cook and this cooking and service is evolving. One visit is not nearly enough to get to know if you like him or not. Second, the wine cellar got over heated in the summer and throw away. They only have about 20 different wines now. But for me that is not a problem since I do not think this is the place to drink wine. It is too hard to find anything to match all the different courses and flavors. I usually just order a simple red or white. And I am seriously considering beer next time I visit. Finally even on a Sunday Mr Gagniare is there working both the room and spending a lot of time in the kitchen. He is dedicated!
Now the food. The first round of amuses had four cold finger pieces and 3 warm. Memorable was two crispy thin slices of banana filled with figs puree, a carrot sushi roll, a spicy little dark muffin, a coned wafer filled with radishes. Basically you got just about every type of taste, sweet, sour, smoky, acid, bitter, crunchy, salt, soft... in these 7 amuses. Your taste buds are awake and almost in shock. Before the appetizer I ordered (Langoustine) comes in come in 4 more amuses, this time, each is an actually a plate of it's own with 3-4 bites!!! The diced melon with avocade cream and melon just was the most memorable. So simple, so different, so delicious. Also was dried anchovies with spanish cured ham, a white bean and radish dish and raw tuna with a shellfish cream that had octopus, oysters and mini clams. I guess they refuse to let anyone leave without hitting double digits on the number of plates that needs to be washed!
Then came the first food I had paid for, the Langoustine. It came of five different plates with 5 totally different preparations and spicing (try to match a wine with that!) The best a grilled tail with sweet soya and a sweet nougatine wafer. The sweet salt combination of the spicy match the sweet salt of the langoustine itself. There as also a raw version with green apples, very light and refreshing, a thick mousse with cucumbers and a cream sauce, a fried version topped with lentils, okra and curry, and a jelly made from the shells with carob seasoned. Not all preparations where amazing, but all where different and again all styles, textures and world regions and preparations showed up on the table.
My main course was turbot. It came in only two version. A lovely, juicey perfectly undercooked (I mean that, fish like this should be a little undercooked) fillet with rich roasty salcify (a root vegetable similar to a very thin, long tender parsnip) and a cream sauce. And a side dish from unmentioned parts of the fish (maybe they were afraid to say the cheeks or chins me being an American but I can strongly recommend the cheeks and chins of many fish from past experience) in thins sliced on top of polenta with leeks and a curry seasoning. The filler version stole the show here. Very classical, deep rich flavor with few ingredients. One of the best fish courses I have had in many years and proof that Gagnaire does not have to get odd ball to do great things. He also showed (as he did with the langoustine jelly from the roast shells) that he follows the basic rule of the cooking of our great grandmothers. Nothing goes to waste, all parts of the raw ingredients get put to use. More proof that his classical background may be coming more into play as his cooking develops and matures.
For dessert I could only manage some sorbet, that came served with some fresh edible flowers. They had only two flavors, cassis which was a real winner and a very good but not memorable mango.
Gagnaire is still a place everyone that loves food must visit several times. It is almost shocking to think that two such different restaurants and experiences as Gagnaire and Lucas Carton are only a few kilometers from each other. Trying to say which is best is like trying to say if golf is better than reading.