Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Septime (Paris) 01/2013

It is hardly a distinction to point out that there is not one restaurant in the 11th Arrondisement that has gained even one Michelin star but Septime, a relative newcomer to the area serves a unique and inventive ever changing menu of 'good' food. Under the baton of Chef Bertrand Grebaut the menu changes daily, sometimes even between lunch and dinner. From the patron's point of view this makes specific menu recommendations impossible. The menu at night is a prix fixee (Eu55) for a 5 course meal, reduced to Eu 26 I think, for a 3 course lunch (Tuesday to Friday). They have several small dishes available as starters and an extra cheese plate (Eu8) can be added. They do not serve extra's, amuse bouche or whatever. Water is served in old brandy bottles. 
Service is very good with plenty of wait staff who are extremely helpful. They have an interesting seven page wine list and wine by the glass is not listed but arranged by consulting the a waiter. I drank a surprisingly pleasant  light and smooth red Les Roches Seches (The dry rocks) Les Saint Martin (Eu8/glass) 2011 which retails at about Eu13.5 / bottle.
Waiters appear not to be specifically designated to tables so four different waiters served me. All were extremely accommodating to my frequent questions.
Tables are smallish bare wood with one for eight people and the rest for two but they can easily be moved.
The room is 'neo-industrial' with peeling plaster, cement walls and wood floors. Noise levels vary with the patrons but can be considerable. The place is always pretty well full so reservations are highly desirable.
Bread is light sour dough with soft centre and crunchy crust.
The meal began with Veau de lait smoked ricotta, trout caviar, mustard herbs oca and bread crumbs. Oca (Oxalis tuberosa), one of the 'Lost Crops' of the Incas, has been described as The high energy, super versatile vegetable of the ancient Incas' and is second to the potato as the favourite root vegetable in Bolivia and Peru. I'm not sure why. It had a crunchy texture and an inoffensive taste. It was, however, only one element in quite a complicated dish  with a combination of unusual textures and tastes, crisp, crunchy bread crumbs, and oca, chewy ravioli like covering over the soft cheese., a remarkable dish.
Bettergraves,(Beet) both red and yellow with salt, smoked Magret duck, red wine sauce, beetroot sorbet with foie gras., (duck not goose) and sevasin seeds. Prettily presented the foie gras beetroot puree was extraordinary. The remainder of the dish again characterized by interesting and well matched flavours was also pleasing with the seeds providing a satisfying extra crunch. Another fine dish.
Seared St. Jaques (scallops with seared cabbage and Brussel sprouts came with a superb almond and butter sauce. The scallops were perfect, barely cooked, sweet and delicate. This contrasted poorly with the powerful taste of the sprouts. The cabbage did not much affect the over all dish but it was not a good combination.
Slices of crispy skinned moist chicken breast with scorched lemon, a little lightly cooked delicious chicken liver endive and crosne. This is another vegetable I have never seen before. Originating in Japan it got it's name from the French town where it was first cultivated. It is a perennial, only a few centimetres long, it is a pearly white twisted, carrot shaped tuber crunchy but with very little taste. I found the lemon a little odd in this strange dish but it was an experience to eat chicken in this way. 
A plate of cheese, Bleu de laccueil and a handsome sliceof St.Nectaire were both light and irresistible. Damn the cholesterol. 
The dessert was a beetroot sorbet, meringue, dried slices of tangerine with some olive oil and vanilla cream Anglaise. I loved it but one could take exception to the olive oil.
As every dinner is different, and the menu is set, with no choice, one can not promise it will be a totally enjoyable experience but I'd bet it will be. 
Score:: 15.5 /20

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Restaurant Petrelle (Paris) 01/2013

We chose this restaurant because some 'fashionista' in a Vogue interview said how much she loved the place.  She's got a lot to answer for. We arrived punctually at 7.30, passed the display of fresh vegetables at the entrance
                                                                                and in time to see the chef pick up his cat from his work bench, in his tiny kitchen,and place it on the floor.                                                                             The waiter, only one, had to look after 28 diners who had all arrived by 8.30. He brought us a hand written 
 photocopied menu

                                                                               and a decent wine list. The two connected rooms for the guests are oddly furnished with a variety of different chairs, odd bits of statuary or tiles on tables      and some books dating back 150 years. A variety of completely unmatched  decor, peculiar murals and different over head lights in each room                                                                           must be intended to create an impression of some sort but it failed to have any appeal to us. 
The chef works, single handed in a tiny kitchen with the help of one kitchen hand to wash dishes, pots and so on. He is keen on organic and grows a lot of his own vegetables. 
The waiter produced a couple of crusty biscuits covered with mushrooms surrounded by sliced radish and a bit of green. Totally undistinguished 2/10.
                                                                            The menu was quite short. There was a fixed price three course option(Eu38)  but it did look exciting so we went for the a la carte. Starters were expensive, about Eu 33 ostensibly because they had truffles Sandra had an egg in a cream sauce which was quite good although the truffles did  
nothing for the dish and the side salad was jarring. 5/10.                                                                                  I had seared scallops which were overcooked, served with what was probably some finely sliced veal. There were truffles somewhere here too but this was poor cafe food 3/10.                                                                             The wine, a 2010 Rully, was pleasant             and the bread, a little over baked but very good 5/10. Sandra specified very lightly cooked for her main course of sea bass.  It came seriously overcooked and the waiter apologetically took  it away and my meal too 2/10                                         He returned 20 minutes later with both our dishes. The accompanying vegetables on both our dishes may have been the freshest in existence but were marred by grit in them. My dish, potted lamb, was good farmers food. Quite tasty but the sand was awful! 2/10.                                                              Undeterred we gave it a last try and ordered dessert. Sandra's lemon tart was an extremely tart tart which would have not made it to the shelves of any of the dozen or so patisseries we have patronized 2/10.
 Regrettably my baked custard was no better 2/10. 
                                                                              As we were leaving, we could hardly wait to get out of the place, we were offered a very good meringue 6/10
                                                                            The bill fot this heavy handed cooking was prodigious, almost Eu180, (1/3rd the cost of a totally superb meal at the three star Le Meurice) Without being asked in any way, the waiter reduced it by Eu 24, the cost of the desserts, because of the grit in the vegetables. He did a prodigious job. I was disturbed that both the cat and presumably the chef's dog wandered about the restaurant being fed by guests. Without a doubt he would be penalized in Australia by the Health Dept.

Score: 11/20

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Le Meurice (Paris) 01/2013

                                                                The restaurant at this grand hotel on the Rue Rivoli, opposite the Tuilleries is renowned for the magnificence of it’s dining room as well as the food presented by Chef Yannick Alleno. We had decided that the set price New Years eve menu was too expensive to bare at about A$1700 / head before drinks but decided to have lunch a few days later. There were two set menus A$150 or A$320/head and an a la carte menu with dishes ranging from about A$80 upwards for entrees and up to about A$300 for mains. The menu in the evening is very little different, most of the degustation being the same, and about A$30 dearer. This is very much the upper end of top class Paris hotels, a room for one night is about A$1400.
When we were seated and remarked on the splendour of the room                                                                 the waiter assured us that the food would match it and the service would be exemplary and it was indeed faultless.
Show plates  are cut out in the centre and remain on the table for dishes to be served in them.
An amuse bouche before the meal was a pretty presentation of squash three ways, as a biscuit, as a lokum with date and as a mousse. It was sweet and flavoursome with a slightly pumpkin like taste.
                                                                The first course was raw shellfish, oyster, scallop, clam, calamari and sea urchin coral served with a sweet red cabbage jelly with Juniper berries and a touch of ponzu. This was decorated with edible foraged flowers and tiny enoki mushrooms. Very simple but simply delicious for crustacean lover. The meld of flavours were the work of  a master(10/10).
Translucent shredded cod with olive oil had a garlic which had been deep fried and filled with petal shaped potato with vinegar and water cress.  A simple set of ingredients that blended perfectly to make a delicate dish. The cod quite wonderful, So simple, so good.
                                                         Poached duck foie gras in consommé, melting daikon radish. We were beginning to feel the genius of Yannick Alleno’s cooking. The dish was again marked by the same characteristics of simplicity of ingredients combined gently, without being over fussy to produce exquisite combinations.
                                                                   Wild sea bass came next with fricassee of potatoes and black truffle in a jus. This is an exceptionally fine fish at any time but could not have been better than this.
.                                                                   As with all the dishes a waitress brings them on a large tray from which two waiters take them and bring them to the table in unison. If they are covered the waiters the raise the covers simultaneously revealing the food. If one leaves the table before finishing a dish a waiter quickly appears, provides a fresh napkin and covers the dish again until you return!
                                                               Fillet of milk fed lamb with fresh herbs, cutlet with sweet peppers and black pudding.  Cooked as requested the lamb was what can only be obtained from the best butchers. Another distinguishing feature of all these dishes has been the jus. In every case it has been light and flavour some and formed part of the dish rather than dominating it as happens very often even in very good restaurants at times. Mashed potato, creamy and smooth came separately.

 Thin tartlet of  Parmiggiano Reggiano, riquette salad mixed with taggiasche black olives. Comments would be superfluous. I do not usually care for the taste of olives but here, again, nothing was dominant and the parts were greater than the whole.
                                                           Several desserts followed, including sponge cxake with lemon, cristal leaves with tequila sorbet.
                                                             Roasted heart of pear with caramel, stuffed cocoa biscuits with chocolate, which was magnificent and sundry other sweet delights.

We drank a splendid 2009 St Joseph Domaine Pierre Gaillard and a very good Volnay - Pitures 2005 made by Jean -Marc Boillot wine by the glass at quite moderate prices.
Truly the best lunch either of us has ever had.
Score:19.5 /20