Michel Bras (Laguiole, France) – Near Perfection

Michel Bras - Gargouillou

The mythical stature of French restaurants was looking a bit dim. Aside from Gagnaire and Regis Marcon, none of the fabeled restaurants had truly impressed – a service error here, an overcooked meat there told the take of France. Bras was the last meal of the trip and I did not want to be disappointed so I did my research.

There are a few keys to dining at Michel Bras (and possibly many restaurants.)

1. Don’t order the tasting menu; everyone there is a tourist and the chefs will just crank out the food assembly-line style. Order a la carte & make them work.2. The gargouillo is *must* order dish. If you don’t like veggies, you will be converted; if you do, it will be nirvana

3. Their gallois blanche chicken will be some of the best of your life.

4. The allaiton lamb has a lot of potential and it should be ordered.

5. Order the aligot and save room.

The Hotel

The hotel/restaurant sits atop a large hill near Laguiole, a small tourist town that deals in knives. We had no real directions aside from a red dot near Laguiole on the restaurant’s web site so we had to look in the hills for something that didn’t belong. The lounge for Bras can look like an alien space ship from certain angles – we knew this and we kept our eyes open. Alas, in this distance, we saw something that didn’t quite belong near this rural country road.

The hotel itself, like the others (Troisgros, Pic, Regis Marcon) is strikingly modern. The lounge looks over the countryside and you can see rolling hills for miles. The rooms try to mimick the view but you mostly see the roofs of hotel rooms below you. The interiors are very modern. The dining room is Zen-like with platforms over running water leading from the hall to the dining room. The kitchen is in full view.

The Menu

We ordered a la carte, each ordering our own gargouillou and then splitting the rest. They didn’t want to do this but we persisted and they agreed. Given the quality of fish in France, and the abundance of must-try items, we steered clear of the fish.

1. The Spoons
Beef consumme w/ diced veggies; bulgar wheat w/ lemon confit; & mustard greens w/ marinated salmon. None of these were wow; in fact, they were kind of lacking. The salmon spoon was very oily. We had worried looks. Ok.

2. Gargouillo
It’s all been said before – this is a ridiculously good dish. The aroma of the vegetables coming off the plate is close to mind-blowing. Niche1, the biggest vegetable nazi i know, had a silly grin on his face while his plate lasted. Ours included, but wasn’t limited to, broccoli, asperagus, cauliflower, parsley, ham, various types of onions, truffle bits, squash blossoms, and more. Best vegetable dish i’ve ever had. Awesome.

3. Lobster w/ Young Leeks & Black Sugar

Slightly overcooked, but given what we’ve had at other restaurants over the past few days, this was a refreshing change. Meat was sweet and the slight black sugar coating accentuated instead of overpowered (ahem, Troisgros.) The leeks were very good. Very Good.

4. Gallois Blanche Chicken (breast)
Wow – far better than the various Bresse chickens we had at Ducasse, L’Ambassadeurs, Montrachet, and others. Perfectly crisp skin, moist throughout, wonderful texture, and last but not least, wonderful taste. It’s chicken but it’s a must-order item here. The chicken is cooked sous-vide which explains why it’s so moist; the skin is crisped at the end. Excellent.

5. Allaiton Lamb
Some respected authorities have proclaimed Allaiton lamb tastier than Paulliac so we had to try it. This piece of lamb looked awesome – pink, perfectly cooked, and ridiculously tender. Unfortunately, it didn’t have the depth of taste as our Lameloise Paulliac lamb. It was perfectly done, the kitchen did everything they could, but this lamb just didn’t do its job I’d try it again because it definitely has potential. Very Good.

6. Aligot
Oh My. Awesome. Is it cheese or mashed potatoes?

7. Cheese
We had the best cheese ever – i will have to get the name later.

Overall, this is what I expected French 3-star dining to be – consistently excellent with some “they can do food like that” moments. Unfortunately, only Gagnaire, Marcon, and Bras lived up to this expectation in France. This was an extraordinary meal – my best vegetable dish ever, best chicken dish ever, the gluttonous aligot, and the best piece of cheese i’ve ever had.

I couldn’t recommend this place enough – it will be a necessity on any trip to Paris (yes, i’ll make the drive w/o thinking about it), France, or northern Spain. Yes, it’s 4 hours from anything (San Sebastian, Barcelona, Lyon) but it’s that good.

- chuck

  • stratis

    hi,

    beautifull website and very informative.
    but my last meal at Michel Bras was not reflecting your opinion and i am sure that its not a matter of subjective positioning on the matter.
    The meal was awfull, not even a 1 star level.
    1. Gargouillo, overcooked boring veggies, where i was expecting awesome reflection of his beautifull landscape. No new herbs, flowers with no taste and carrots that you can find in any market. very unmemorable.
    2. fish (turbot), overcooked, chewy, boring…. any bistro of high level makes it better in paris.
    3. foie grass, cooked well, but nothing special and awfull side flavors
    4. lamb (oversalted to no return point), bad bad bad
    5. aligot… nice, but they make it all over town as good….served with but not really the lamb…???
    6. cheese cart, nothing to credit them…
    7 pinnaple and banana (?) what about local fruit choices? plus was like a cruise dinner boring….

    +
    they asked if we want coffee before the desert
    lights too high felt like an airport dinner
    we were served fish course with steak knifes?

    driving 500 km to his place and after having amazing food in italy (Mimo and Adia) we were expecting much better… i will never go back and never suggest it to noone.
    L’Arpege might not be a new found world but is always been great to us and for us…
    michel bras is a 3/10 at the most.
    best regards, keep up the great site!

    stratis

    p.s how come no Marc Veyrat?
    w

  • Pingback: Restaurant Michel & Sébastien Bras | A Girl Has To Eat - Restaurant Reviews & Eating Guide

  • Pingback: Avsmak vs. à la carte « Tryne till Knorr

  • Ferran

    We stayed an ate at Bras on late September 2012 and I can hardly believe that what it is supposed to be a three Michelin starred restaurant showed such lack of care and professionalism in its service.

    The sommelier, while visible attending the rest of the guests through the entire meal, only approached us at the beginning of the menu and simply dissapeared and ignored our table for the rest of the meal. The ‘cold’ service was really a succession of unfortunate mistakes: glasses remained unfulfilled for several minutes (on occasions for five or more minutes), the serviettes and knives though dirty remained unchanged for the entire meal (although they told you that the knive will remain unchanged, in order to keep some kind of Laguiole tradition, in one occasion I left the really dirty knive on the plate in order to be changed and the waitress simply took it and left it again on my side) and finally we repeatedly felt that our table was being neglected. The staff seems too young and too unexperienced.

    No effort was also made to translate the ingredients of the plates on spanish or english language. When we asked for a translation, the waiters only repeated for only one more time and on french language the name of the plate and just dissapeared. And the ‘missing’ sommelier is Argentinian, but as I said before he showed a great determination to just ignore us along the entire dinner (we still do not know why he adopted such attitude).

    My wife left half course and also, as me, two entire desserts and we still waiting some interest coming from the service or from the house about if something with our meal was going wrong or if something could be arranged. They simply removed the plates without any interest in knowing what was happening or why they remained partly or even completely untouched. In addition, the meal did not work well with me and I could not sleep for the entire night.

    The food, while good it was not in any way memorable. I only found to be really three Michelin food, the Gargouillou and (maybe) the lamb. Lack of flavor on several dishes. Huge.., extreme disappointment with the desserts. Even the final ice creams were lacking flavor!

    When we were finally leaving the restaurant, we approached the ‘missing’ sommelier and told him that the dinner did not meet our expectations. He showed a great indifference towards our opinion, as if our disappointment had really no interest for him or for the house.

    Regretably, three months after the visit I can hardly believe what we experienced at Bras. It is just unbelievable! We have eaten in so many three Michelin starred restaurants to know that no remote comparision (exceptuating for the prices) can be established between any of them (Arzak, Sant Pau, the Fat Duck, el Bulli, etc.) and Bras.

    We took the long tasting menu, called Balade, that cost 191 per person without wine.

Share

when not eating ...
putting in the work ...