I just got back from spending the weekend in Paris. You might say thats crazy but it was my 10th year wedding anniversary and the only time ever we spent time away from our kids (5 + 2 years old). I love food and I am into cooking, ingredients, technique, wine, cocktails and all that these things entail. I am also addicted to the chowhound site. I read reviews of restaurants that I know Ill probably never visit. I enjoy to hear other peoples opinion on what I find to be so interesting; cuisine. So naturally I sought out the European chowhounds out there in cyber-europe for advice on where to dine for the big, nicest meal of all on Saturday night. I reckoned that Ill find my own way on Friday and Sunday nights. And heres my story.
Friday night we wanted a nice brasserie. We were not up (literally) for a big night out or for the trimmings of a three star meal and settled on Brasserie Julien (16, rue du Faubourg, 01 47 70 12 06). Julien was in out Avant Guide book and the hotel concierge had heard good things about their kitchen. The restaurant sat in the middle of the block sandwiched between ethnic looking grocers, halal butchers and gated-up store fronts but this harsh outside let open to a very pretty inside; 30 foot ceilings, restored art deco fixtures and several GIANT 15 x 15 foot mirrors. We were seated in a corner booth in the American section (for some reason at the three restaurants we ate dinner we were seated next to Americans). We got talking to the couple next to us. They came from Texas and he was some kind of Boudreaux expert and was just back from judging something. He told us that a few years ago he read an article about a guy who was buying up all the old brasseries in Paris and restoring them and thats how he heard of the restaurant. Hmm. We ordered the fixed price menu and a half bottle of wine. The foie gras was tasty, the steak tartar was fresh and tasty, the cheese course was uninspired and the crème brulee was too eggy for me. The stand out dishes were stuffed endive and Serrano ham and the Sautéed duck breast. The endive was stuffed with a nutty bread crumb mixture, broiled and cooked just right. A few slices of Serrano ham complemented the slightly bitter, nutty but plain tasting endive also served with a simple lettuce salad. The duck was remarkable in how well it cooked; the breast was rare to medium rare they rendered all but a delicious layer of duck fat and the skin was crispy, really crispy. The duck was served with mashed potatoes and pan reduction gravy. The food was solid and very French and the ambiance was excellent. I would go back but I wouldnt go out of my way to get there.
Saturday night we were well rested and ready for action. We had 8:30 reservations for Lucas Carton (9 place de la Madeleine, 01 42 65 22 90). The exterior of LC did not make an impression on me. I vaguely remember dark wood and an understated sign but I cant say much else. We settled on Lucas Carton in part because of mdibiasos (fellow chowhound) comments. He described the interior as upscale bistro and I think he is on mark. I think that LC has three stars not because of how it is decorated but because of the food and wine where as the setting is more important to other three stars. We had a glass of 1985 Dom Pérignon to whet the appetite. We ordered the fixed price menu and were given sea bass tartar with almond cappuccino and crayfish ravioli in a light cream sauce for Amuse bouche. Here is the menu and my comments:
Vouvray "Le Haut Lieu" 1998 - D. Huet
Fifteen years of ageing in Noël Pinguet's cellars have brought to this white chenin
a lot of amplitude and harmony which underlined the terroir through iodine, lime, verbena and tufa notes.
Large green asparagus from the Durance valley steamed
with USA Transmontanus caviar on the top
and served with an asparagus cappuccino with almonds\\
I think that asparagus is excellent choice for starter. I found that the soup (cappuccino) to be admittedly delicious but maybe too heave for the delicate steamed asparagus and the shaved asparagus salad. The star here was the wine. The bouquet smelled strongly of asparagus and matched divinely with the dish.
Puligny Montrachet 1er Cru "La Garenne" 2001 - D. Larue
Very racy, this chardonnay from the Côte de Beaune is underlined
with little notes of vanilla and a very fresh lemon minerality.
Lobster with a "Bourbon de Madagascar" vanilla sauce,
angel-hair vermicelli cooked in a watercress chlorophyll sauce,
leaves of baby spinach and sorrel
I subbed my tempura sole for the lobster based on some of the entries on chowhound and I was glad. This may be almost the best lobster dish I have ever had. I bet there was very close to a whole lobster on the plate and the fusion of flavors seemed to be extended by the wine. It is in a vanilla sauce but not a sweet vanilla sauce. I was so happy to find that the claw meat was not over cooked but so sad to taste the other claw to find it was mushy and over done (the tail and body meat were cooked correctly). On paper I was not looking forward to the pasta but that turned out to be a mistake because the angel hair and the greens not only supported the lobster but actually added an element all their own. Ive read that LC has the best lobster in Paris and I know why people feel that way.
Condrieu "Les Grandes Chaillées" 2002 - Domaine du Monteillet
Viognier from the North of the Rhône Valley,
at the extremely fine body with aromas of apricot, peach and aromatic herbs.
Sole prepared as a tempura,
emulsion of cucumber with curry powder of Madras
I only had a bite or two of this dish. I found it to be very satisfying like an upscale fish and chips style. My wife said it reminded her of walking down the street in England and passing a chip shop and then an Indian restaurant. She is right, that fusion of great smells is what this dish tasted like.
Barbera d'Alba "Marun " 2001 - Matteo Correggia
Native grape variety from Italy's Piedmont region, the Barbera produces fleshy wines with a wheedling fruity. Very ambitious, this wine is also gifted with spiced assets that resulted from maturing in oak.
Rack of lamb cooked in a crust of summer savory and rosemary,
vegetables and "Taggiasca" olives
Both of us agreed that this was the best dish. There were about 4 or 5 tiny lamb chops served around roast vegetables and olives. Now when I say tiny I mean it. My wife joked that these chops came from fetal pigs. The meat was so succulent and well cooked I could have had another whole order. The chefs put out the artichokes and the mini eggplants and roasted tomatoes that dotted this dish cooked to an excellent degree of doneness. And the wine played less of a supportive role than in the other dishes. It seemed to me that the wine almost contrasted this slightly sweet and salty dish. But the combination of the vino and the food was outstanding.
Moscadello di Montalcino 2000 - Tenuta Col d'Orcia
White wine from the Muscat family produced from late harvest in Tuscany.
Aromas of lemon, ginger, pepper and honey.
Fresh goat's cheese with pink ginger,
Szechuan pepper and confit lemon served with toasted bread with raisin _______________
I had wished that I swapped this course out for another shortly after tasting it. I prefer for a cheese course to be more about the cheese. I found the pepper and the ginger and lemon rind to overpower the goats cheese. It was like the wine influenced the other ingredients and they stuck the cheese in because they didnt know what else to do with the flavor harmony. I did not enjoy this dish.
Riesling Auslese 1999 - JJ Prüm
From the heart of the Moselle region, this Riesling has an exquisite delicacy
which perfectly matches the rhubarb, lime and the grapefruit flavours.
Rhubarb dessert served with blood orange marmalade and crispy cinnamon biscuit
I am not a dessert person. I often say that Im more of a seconds guy than a dessert guy. I do not believe that I am really qualified to comment on this dish. In saying that I thought it looked and tasted good. I was surprised to see that the wine matched the sweet food so well. I couldnt help but wish I subbed this for a savory dish. Is that wrong I dont think so.
All in all I enjoyed the Lucas Carton experience. I have eaten equal or better food with a much more friendly L'addition. LC excels at pairing food and wine like I've vot seen before. I can see why Michelin gave LC 3 stars (I can't wait for Michelin to come to New York). When I go back to Paris I probably will not go back to LC in favor of trying a different 3 star but I did enjoy my time there and I do recommend it.
Even into Sunday night dinnertime we were still recovering from Saturday nights feast and an early morning return to our hotel room. We wanted light fare and decided on seafood. La Lorraine (2-4 Place des ternes, 8th. 01.56.21.22.00) was recommended to us by the concierge for good seafood. The restaurant sits across the bottom of an apartment building with big windows and modern furniture. Again we sat next to Americans. On the far corner of the building separated by a fish tank with a feuding spiny lobster and piranha is La Lorraines fish market. The market supplied local shoppers with fresh fish. The cool part is that the waiters walked outside to the market and returned with platters of shucked oysters and mounds of chilled seafood. We ordered ala carte and split foie gras and escargot for starters. The pate was rich and delicious (an improvement to Juliens) and the escargot dish had a fresh herb and garlic sauce and was outstanding. I should mention that the menu had a wide variety of raw shellfish like periwinkles and whelks and razor clams and so on, but particularly oysters. I think there were 11 types of oysters and a bunch of stuff I did not recognize even though the menu was in English. We settled on the oyster sampler plus an additional half dozen of the small sort not on the sampler dish. Each one tasted better than the next all with the subtle taste of the sea. We washed them down with a half bottle of chilled red wine. The oysters were in a giant bowl of ice garnished with seaweed and served with tiny bread and mignonette sauce. I was still hungry. I asked the waiter to recommend something more substantial. I had a dish of sauerkraut with sausage, what looked like smoked pork loin, a third of an inch thick piece of streaky bacon, pig trotters and in a separate little brass pot there was more sauerkraut with unidentifiable pig pieces and what tasted like and appeared to be a hot dog. And French fries on the side. Very piggy. For desert we had crepes flambéed in Grand Marnier with espresso and Marie Brizzard. I really enjoyed La Lorraine and I will definitely check it out for lunch the next time Im in Paris.
Thats all for now. Pete Sucato