Pic (Valence, France) – The Empress Has No Clothes

Pic is a Michelin two star restaurant, hotel, and fancy-diner an hour outside of Lyon. The stylings are the W on steroids – modern to the point of function-less with a palette of Prada black and gray. It’s held in high regard because the chef is one of the few (if not only) female chefs that has garnered two Michelin stars. And she’s doing it by combining her presumably traditional French background (her father owned the original 3-star Pic) with asian ingredients and influence.

We opted for the extended tasting menu.

1. Amuses
They served us a plate full of amuses in the lounge. I wasn’t in note-taking mode (two dishes noted below) but they were all very good to excellent (with the exception of one.) The meal looked like it would be quite a surprise.

a. Salmon, Dikon Radish, & Comte – all sliced very thin and wrapped together in a circle. excellent texture and taste.

b. Tower of Tomme Foam & Lime – excellent texture, acidity, & taste.

2. Foie Creme Burlee w/ Green Apple Sorbet & Popcorn
The foie coats your mouth and the savory gives way to the sweet. the sorbet, once mixed, gives it all a tang. I’ll forgive the unnecessary piece of soggy popcorn on top of it all. Very Good.

3. Bluefine Tuna / Duck Foie w/ Arugula Sorbet & Chinese Mustard Flowers & Greens
The tuna and foie were interspliced in a block w/ the sorbet & flowers sitting off to the side. The tuna was a HORRIBLE quality for a restaurant of this caliber – it was old – its color sickly, its texture watery, and it lacked any sort of flavor. I tried to give it a shot – the proportion of foie to tuna was way off – the foie overpowered this pathetic tuna. We had to send it back. (more on this later.) Poor.

4. Egg w/ Mint Foam, Nuts, Escargot, & Zucchini

This was the make up dish – the outside of the egg was watery and the inside a tad hard, preventing it from melting in the foam all the way. The escargot were killed – hard little overcooked lumps. This dish was definitely too busy – maybe it subscribed to the vietnamese tradition of “every bite should be markedly different.” Despite its shortcomings, it was a satsifying dish given the horror of the previous. Good.

5. Langostine w/ Pea “Gloop”

Langostine dry on outside, watery & mushy on inside; the pea sauce a gloop – it would have a hard time falling off an overturned spoon. Regardless, the 2 flavors didn’t mesh well together. Not Good.

6. Turbot w/ Rhubard, Mussels, & Taragon Foam
All of the ingredients were overcooked. The dish made some sense w/ turbot, rhubard, & the foam; however, the mussels had no place. I didn’t finish. Not Good.

7. St Pierre / Creme Aubergene in Sparking Wine / Coconut Foam on a bed of Eggplant
The fish was severely undercooked – it was cold in the center. The creme aubergene coated the fish and it was very cloying. The coconut foam was good but the eggplant made no sense. i didn’t finish. Not Good.

8. Egg Yolk, Potato Foam, Beet, Green Apple, & Onion Gratin
The potato foam had a weird gritty texture and the egg yolk added nothing. onion gratin lurked beneath w/ chunks of beets & apples. Weird, none of it is integrated in any way. I didn’t finish. Not Good.

9. Lamb
The crust gave it some taste but the meat lacked any substantial flavor. Not Good.

At this point, Anne Pic came to our table. The discussion below is paraphrased but she refused to admit her tuna was of bad quality.

Anne: What was wrong with the tuna?
Us: It wasn’t very good.
Anne: How come?
Us: Didn’t you look at it? It’s old.
Anne: That was a great piece of fish.
Us: No.
Anne: Did you like everything else?
Us: No. The Creme Burlee was very good but everything else was not good.
Anne: Ok, bye.

The abrupt manner in which she left left a sour (pardon the pun) taste. She didn’t care about the quality of our meal – she fled to the next table seeking congratulations.

10. Dessert Amuses
Several small desserts including an awesome milk chocolate cream and very good assorted chocolates.

11. Strawberry w/ Creme & Pistachio
Awesome wild strawberries, sweet with acidity, a fantastic end to a dismal meal.

Obviously, I won’t be returning. Even if the ingredients were good and the kitchen consistent, the food is horribly muddled. All of the dishes had elements that, at best, added nothing at all; and, at worst, detracted from the dish. The food had way too much fuss – it reminded me of bad American restaurants that thinks more is better. It’s impossible to understand how this restaurant garnered 2 stars w/ the menu we had.

Then there’s the issue of the fish. First, anyone who has eaten a *decent* (not super fancy) sushi meal will have an idea what constitutes a good piece of tuna. How can this 2-star chef, who undoubtedly has had access to great sushi meals considering her reported influence, argue for so long over the quality of the tuna we ate?

The amuses and desserts were awesome. Our theory is they were probably done by the same person. If so, this person should be immediately promoted to head chef – they might deliver on the promise of a great meal – leave Anne to the empire building (which she has done quite well with.)

- chuck

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  • http://www.ulteriorepicure.wordpress.com ulterior epicure

    Yikes. Sorry to hear about your disappointment at Pic. At least you left on a nice sweet note… too bad about the rest of the food. Especially disheartening was the fact that Chef Pic was actually in.

    Was “gloop” how the pea was described on the Langoustine dish, or is that your own editorial nomenclature?

  • ChuckEats

    ulterior, that was a long time ago – not sure. it doesn’t sound like an appetizing way to describe a dish so maybe it’s my cynicism :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7QWQHGMAJQMFTXO7NYXEOMFH3E Max Ledford

    Anne Sophie Pic is 2011 world best female chef. You need to go back and try it again