I remember way back when I had more time to peruse the Chowhound site. A few years ago, I was super busy planning for a big trip and wrote this query:
Well, now I'm back to write the review of the place I ended up going to. Yes, I realize it's 2 years later. :/
I ended up scheduling one meal - at Esens'all. The rest of the time, I just wandered, drank too much coffee and champagne and ate amazing pastries from the hole in the wall next to the metro station.
I picked Esens'all because I wanted sometime unique, and totally chef driven. I was glad I did and enjoyed one of my favorite meals ever.
I wrote notes as I was eating, so forgive me for any flourishes, I was drinking. :)
The room was beautifully decorated in a style I adore and with less than 20 seats it's definitely an intimate experience, despite being completely full. I was a solo diner with a bunch of couples on dates and 6 top of couples. The waiter was fantastic - as soon as he realized my French was bad, he spoke English with me. It wasn't until mid meal that I realized his English was about as good as my french. He definitely put forth an effort and managed the entire front of house by himself.
Smoked cream foam with ice cold cucumber juice and caviar sized clear tapioca.
If this is any indication of how the meal is going to go.... Wow!
The contrast between the cream and the crisp taste of the cucumber was great. Then finding the tapioca made it a dish rather than a drink. Light, but substantial.
First wine - white burgundy 2002.. by itself, high acid and tart.
Cheese mousse with fresh radishes and salmon roe
As is my custom, I taste each component individually. The mousse is a bit bland, but ultra-light. Excellent technique. The radishes only have the tiniest of bites, clearly super fresh. I'm not fond of fish and salmon roe can be fishy. But once I had the bite all together... A very balanced dish. The roe added the saltiness that the mousse needed. The radishes are lost in the flavor, but added a fantastic texture with just a hint of them on the end of the taste. Garnished with salicorne. I've never had that, but it added a tartness. There was a salicorne oil as well drizzled on the top.
It paired beautifully with the wine. The creamy and saltiness balance the tart. I now know I'm drinking a good French wine.
This was the first mis-step, but it was a minor stumble. Anyone who has eaten those fried onions out of a can knows how fantastic they are and these blew those out of the water. But paired with the pistachio foam made the dish too high in umami to be balanced. There was an egg sized mozzarella ball to help temper it, but it was a bit tough. I had a hard time cutting it with the spoon. The garnish (I think it was salsify) was not micro, so it was in the way of the dish. Finally, the bowl was hot, so the foam fell. A few easy fixes would make this dish better. The wine did not hold up to this dish
Cote du thogue? A bit bitter... Likely would have been fantastic with the last dish.
- a roasted peach in vervena sauce with smoked caviar.
We're not only back on track, but we're sailing now. Best dish I've had in a very long time. The sweetness of the peach went beautifully with the smokiness of the caviar. The creaminess of the sauce kept it grounded.
The wine pairing is spot-on. Without the food, this wine was curious... I'm not sure I liked it. With the food, it became a lovely, slightly minerallly, just a tiny touch of sweet, golden nectar to go with the peach.
- salmon on top of a mushroom ragout with some foam.
At this point, the restaurant was full, so I wasn't able to pester the waiter with questions, so I'm not 100% sure what the foam was. As someone who doesn't like fish or mushrooms, this dish could have been one I left alone. But I ate well more than half of it. The salmon was cooked beautifully. My photo doesn't show
the true color...this was a super bright pink dish. Topped with pinions and some type of flowers. The flowers were ultra bitter-tasting like a bad walnut. Leaving those off, its a solid dish.
The wine trended more mineral with this dish, nothing special.
filet with roasted hazelnuts
Another misstep... It was ok, but not as fantastic as the other dishes. I definitely expect this when eating 8 courses from an experimental chef, but this one falters on execution. The waiter (who's English is limited and my French is limited) said it was beef, but let's pretend it's pork. As a pork dish, it's pretty good. Beautifully cooked throughout without being tough, but no sear on it. The hazelnuts, pan sauce and veggie garnishes were all appropriate for the dish, just nothing to write home about.
I missed the wine label, but it's a red that will hold up well to savory beef. It's a bit heavy to this dish, so I'm waiting to see what dish comes next before drinking too much.
- powdered, frozen fois gras with cocoa and citrus.
Oh my! This is why I love chefs taking risks... Fois gras snow. With chocolate. Sigh...
The chef came out and microplaned the citrus at the table and explained the dish. Beautifully presented and just magical in the mouth. The citrus was something I hadn't heard of and with my ears and his accent, I didn't want to pester him to write it down. It was the size of a lime, dark green. He said the juice was too bitter, but the skin was used.
If I could have licked the dish, I would have!!!
I'm glad I held off on the wine - it's a perfect pairing.
I asked how he made the snow and I was told it's a secret. :)
I was given a choice of cheese and a dessert or two desserts. I choose 2 desserts as I wanted to see what he could do.
Dessert wine - coteaux du layon. Nice pineapple flavor and only mildly sweet.
- served with strawberries and (candied?) pistachios
I was actually so excited about this that I forgot to take a photo before I dug in. Yummy, yummy, yummy. Good balance of umami nuts, tart mousse, and sweet strawberries. A few flowers added the occasional floral note.
It paired lovely with the wine.
- cold chocolate with powdered licorice and tarragon ice cream.
A risk, but it played out well. Unfortunately, by this point, I was so full that any food would have too rich. And this was really rich.