Troisgros (Roanne, France) – Jeckyll & Hyde
Troisgros has quite a reputation in the French dining world – all-star cooking with a preference for citrus (when in season) and spices. However, the reviews you read are often polarized – one review will proclaim it the best meal on a trip to France while a second review will complain the food was unbalanced and the spices overpowering.
Like most of the 3-star countryside French places, the restaurant is a hotel. Mind you, these hotels are generally spectacular – ultra-modern design, state-of-the-art facilities (no gyms though!), and impeccable service.
It all makes for an easy evening. You come down to dinner whenever you like (generally between 7-9pm); get seated in the lounge where you sip on champagne and figure out your menu; and then, about 45 minutes later, claim your table in the dining room. This is luxurious dining at your own pace – it’s nice. After dinner, you can retreat back to the lounge, finish your wine (or order more drinks), and smoke cigars if that’s your thing.
And you never see the bill. It magically appears on your hotel charges when you check out. Easy dining.
We opted for the tasting menu, exchanging sole for the frog’s legs. Given the horrendous quality of fish in France, and this being a Sunday dinner, we thought we could outsmart the tasting menu.
1. Amuse – Mushroom Mousse w/ Slices of Mushroom
I didn’t catch the French so this is my best guess. The mousse was extremely light & airy but there was a small essence of shellfish that permeated it. The mousse would surround your mouth and disintegrate – a wonderful texture and sensation. There were also specs of red pepper on the plate. Excellent.
2. Asparagus 3 Ways (Sweet Pepper, Mint, & “Black”)
Niche1, an asparagus nazi, proclaimed them among the best asparagus he’s had – great ingredients, perfect cooking. Each sauce complemented the asparagus. The sweet pepper was a touch too sweet but still very good; the black, presumably squid ink, had a deeper, richer sea taste; and the mint was my favorite. If nothing else, I’ve learned to like very good asparagus on this trip. Excellent.
3. Foie w/ Grapefruit & Peas
The seared foie was watery and had a flan-like consistency; I’m unsure if this was on purpose but it tasted excellent. This seems to be “the way” they like to cook it in France and Spain right now. The grapefruit’s acidity and sweetness cut the fat. The peas were very good, as well as the small onions that accompanied the plate. Very Good.
4. Frog Legs Tempura w/ Tamarind & Lemon
6 frog legs, fried, with a generous amount of tamarind. Taste-wise, the tamarind overpowered the frog legs. Execution-wise, they were too greasy. Conceptually, this wasn’t even a 1-star dish. A satisfying dish, but not what I expected here. Not Good.
5. Lobster w/ Caramelized Juices
The lobster was overcooked; the caramelized bits, spruced up a bit w/ pepper, overpowered the meat. Not Good.
6. Lamb & Brulee
A solid piece of lamb that was a touch overcooked on the edges but nice in the middle. The lamb itself was a bit flavorless, with the crust giving it most of its taste. Good.
7. Parade of Desserts
Overall, it was a solid meal for a lesser restaurant but it didn’t live up to the potential of the earlier courses. The earlier courses relied on subtlety (a tweak with red pepper, essence of tastes, & ephemeral textures.) The later courses took a completely different turn where the crust (tamarind tempura, caramelized juices, lamb crust) dictated the flavor instead of the ingredients. This may have been ok but the crusts overpowered the ingredients in most cases. The meal definitely dropped off hard in the middle and i did expect more from such a famed 3-star restaurant.