Pierre Gagnaire (Paris) – Strictly Business
Gagnaire was the restaurant I most anticipated on this trip; so much so that I scheduled 2 reservations. However, they canceled one of the reservations unexpectedly. I was a very unhappy camper until L’Arpege came through w/ a next-day table.
To be honest, I’m not unhappy it turned out that way. This meal was very good – flawless even – but it lacked that special “something” that made my last Gagnaire meal transcendental. Solid 3*** dining but no revelations. Still my favorite restaurant, a perfect place to eat a meal alone, and I’ll continue to book a meal @ Gagnaire when I find myself in Paris – just beware of their email reservation system.
I had the Autumn menu. (The below pictures were taken from the same menu – they are used with permission.)
1. Prawns w/ Butter Sauce, Tarragon Jelly, Zucchini Blossom
Prawns were flawlessly cooked and they went perfectly w/ the salty butter sauce. There was also a brown sauce I didn’t catch that was too heavy for the prawns but it was easily scraped aside. Veggies were high quality. Very Good.
2. Squid w/ Squid Ink, Frog Legs w/ Cabbage Puree
Creamy and rich with an interesting texture interplay between the squid and frog legs at the end (they’re both different types of chewy.) The squid ink and cabbage puree also played off each other well. I had a squid/frog-legs dish last time too; looks like Gagnaire really likes this combination – so do I. Very Good.
3. Hake w/ Codfish Intestine and Arugula Pesto
This didn’t reach the extreme highs of my fish/intestine experience @ Gagnaire. The fish was beautiful but there was just a sliver of intestine. What made this dish so sublime last time was the sensation of biting down on a thick piece of the codfish intestine. The acid from the pesto cut through the proteins and fat. Very Good.
4. Crab w/ Raw Oyster, Crab Jelly, Spinach, & Fresh-cracked Pepper
Oysters at the bottom, a layer of spinach, the square jelly above that, and a pinch of crab on top. I didn’t care about this dish but once I ate one of the oysters – WOW. The oysters were quite large but they were exceedingly tender and slowly gave when you bit down – the sea just slowly bled out. Never had anything like it – almost like a (very) excellent piece of tuna (not toro) in its texture. Excellent.
5. Cepes w/ Cepes Sauce, Beets w/ Beet Sauce, and Tuna w/ Cumin & Miso
Slightly sweet (from the beets) offset by the cream (of the cepes sauce.) Intriguing texture, the bite of the mushrooms begin the dish with the tuna providing a softer/fattier counterpoint in the middle. The fat lingers in your mouth w/ the faint miso taste. Very Good to Excellent.
6. Laquered Eel Biscotti w/ White Mushroom served on top of Beef Consomme, Beef Jelly, & Cold Eggplant
The eel had a smoky and sweet flavor but it’s one of those things I just don’t like. This was fairly innocuous which is good to me. The second plate underneath had the wonderful beef consomme – a peppery beef essence. Very Good.
7. Foie-wrapped Veal w/ Nettle Jus & Fig
The veal was flavorful (admittedly, it’s a meat I don’t quite understand the fascination with) but the foie was a bit disappointing – it muddied the flavor instead of adding. The fig was awesome (I hate figs) and the shiso buds added a nice spice. Good.
At Gagnaire, when you’ve finished the tasting menu, you’ve just begun. L’Arpege hammers you over the head w/ portion sizes enough for 3 people; Gagnaire comes to war with an endless stream of desserts. It’s an embarassment of riches when your table has 5-7 dessert plates on it.
8. Green Apple Sorbet
Refreshingly tart w/ a crystallized sugar middle. Very Good.
9. Wild Strawberry Biscuit w/ Strawberry Sorbet & Strawberry Sauce
You like strawberries? More acidic than sweet, that’s fine w/ me. Very Good.
10. Apple Sorbet w/ Almonds & Caramel
Overly Sweet. Ok.
11. Fresh Goat Cheese w/ Black Currant Sauce
Drowning in sauce but, when removed to barely existent levels, offered a great balance between the tanginess of the cheese and the sweetness of the sauce. Very Good.
12. Lemon Gelee & Meringue
Not much recollection, wine was finally taking effect
13. Orange Sorbet
14. Chocolate w/ Green Salad Puree
Very satisfying, bitter chocolate with the earthy, but sweet, puree. Very Good.
A flawless meal – every dish save one performed at a very high level. The meal only had one transcendental experience (those oysters!) whereas the last one had a nice series. Nonetheless, can’t complain, they aren’t too many restaurants that perform flawlessly on every dish.