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Trip to Lespinasse (long)

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Trip to Lespinasse (long)

Vivin | Oct 7, 2001 02:10 PM

Lespinasse – An experience in contrasts

Me and my wife went to Lespinasse for dinner on Sat – something we had meant to do for a while. We got an early seating – we called only one day before.

We were seated in the corner – that turned out to be a benefit – we were away from noisy tables that held parties of 6 or more. This way we were able to talk and enjoy our long dinner in peace. Following is the procession of food that followed. I had the chef's tasting menu and my wife ordered the vegetarian tasting menu.

First – A trio of soups for me: I missed out on the rock shrimp in lobster sabayon (allergic to shell fish) and got some mushrooms thrown together in their own juices. On the other hand, the cold pea soup with mint was cool and refreshing. It entertained my head with a variety of subtle flavors. The warm mushroom bisque soothed my soul with a reassuring quality. There was some kind of fish in it too. My wife got tomatoes simply marinated in rock salt – an eye opener on how good tomatoes can be.

Second – My wife got the same pea soup I had but in a largish bowl while I got a piece of sea bass marinated in some sort of Asian-French style (similar in style to the soy/sake marinated cod at Sugiyama) but had berries in the sauce and came with strips of tomatoes. Excellent overall.

Third – Sauteed foie gras with chestnuts and walnuts with a reduced Sauterne sauce accompanied with a glass of an excellent sauterene. Wow! The quality of the ingredients were enough to wake up this palette. My wife got an array of four types of mushrooms that were sautéed in butter and presented in their own jus. A nice medley of flavor, texture and aroma.

Fourth – From here on, I felt I was in a car that had spun off course. Seared tuna on a piece of red meat – it could have been lamb or mutton – braised in a red wine sauce. The whole combination was heavy and the smell and taste of the meat overpowered the tuna. This was obviously classic French cooking that I did not particularly like but would get over. I tried the tuna and nibbled at the meat. My wife had a ragout of asparagii and greens with hazelnut truffle sabayon dressing. Spectacular. The sabayon was perfect at pulling together the salad.

Fifth – My woes continued with a piece of braised bacon in a foamy sauce that I somehow consumed about half of. There was a nice contrast of textures with the outside being crunchy and salty with the fat inside soft and sweet. But it was bacon and did not do anything for my palette. My wife, meanwhile, was polishing off the most perfect risotto with the same excellent tomatoes. Another spectacular creation from the chef.

Sixth – Roasted squab with green beans in a now too familiar red sauce. Another preparation of meat prepared in a way to make it even heavier with nothing to counteract the dense bland flavor. The procession of innovative and eye opening dishes continues on the other side of the table with a light fluffy couscous with variety of vegetables and hints of red pepper assaulting the senses.

How can the same kitchen turn out three courses that are all heavy, bland and texture wise dense while the other three that came out succeeded in entertaining all five senses in a spectacular fashion. Amazing how innovative the vegetarian menu was compared to the chef’s tasting menu.

Seventh – Oranges in a champagne sabayon and champagne sorbet. This would have been sublime had the orange pieces been good. At least they were not sour.

Eighth – The theme of being conventional continued with me getting a all chocolate desert: mousse, ice cream, spunge cake and napoleon. Good but not very revelatory. Overdose of chocolate and not light either. My wife got a minnestrone of mangoes and other fruit with a grilled piece of not so ripe mango. Quite good.

The petit fours were generic. Overall, it was the best vegetarian food that wife has ever had – I believe her. I, otoh, had a meal that started off spectacularly and went downhill extremely fast. The service was extremely good and the wine we had them select was very nice – a Chablis, pinot noir and Pinot D’Alsace that were great but not amazing.

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