Ledoyen (Paris) – The Harmony of Modernism
Ledoyen rests in an 18th century pavilion in the gardens of the Champs-Elysees. Some might call the interior grand but the room has the feel of a fallen star. The views are nice and the room is filled with plenty of light but the majesty seems outdated; a desperate attempt to cling to what once was. That may not bode well but the food is modern and Michelin-3-star approved. Of course, I’ve learned that is no guarantee – Gastroville’s 18.5/20 rating is about as close to a guarantee as you’ll get. With that nudge, I decided to give Ledoyen the benefit (or curse) of the last meal in Paris.
1. Amuse – Cuttlefish Sashimi in Almond Milk w/ Lavender Foam
Amuses are often loud and boisterous statements that have little connection to the meal to come. While impact is necessary, a near-contemplative silence can last forever. This amuse pierced through the outside world and softly cooed about the meal to come. It talked of complementing flavors, textures, and harmony. The luscious almond milk’s slight sweetness perfectly complemented the (very fresh) and naturally sweet cuttlefish. The lavender foam, nearly ephemeral in texture, added a subtle but noticeable sweet and floral quality that lingered for a few extra seconds. It was soft-spoken but all-commanding, a rare work of harmony. Sublime.
2. Truffe en Croque au Sel, Quenelle Onctueuse de Foie Gras
Truffles, jerusalem artichokes, some sea salt on the side, and a beautiful foie gras mousse. The first bite left much to be desired – the ephemeral quality of the amuse gave way to a seemingly different experience of contact and crunch. The truffles,despite their high quality, competed with the artichokes for attention in both taste and texture. Thinking I could outsmart the chef, I tried just the foie & truffles – addition by subtraction. It certainly was – this combination failed to excite and made me reconcile the differing “earthy” tastes of the artichoke and truffle.
I played w/ proportions and discovered a magic formula – 1/2 archioke, 1 truffle, and 1 foie. The texture dramtically improved – very crunchy, neither ingredient overpowering the other, with the lightest of mousse finishes. The “green” earthiness of the jerusalem artichoke fed nicely into the darker earth of the truffle. The foie’s richness, at the end, obviously crossed the line into decadence but only by suggestion; the mousse was so light its taste bordered on the suggestive. Excellent.
3. Grosses Langoustines Bretonnes
A deceptively simple dish – 1 langoustine in its shell, 2 fried in a light batter, and a citrus foam that melted on top. The langoustines were incredibly fresh. The fried langoustine was plump and extremely juicy; the sweetness of the fish and the batter, again, playing off each other. The citrus foam, ever so subtle, beautifully cut the dish. The shelled langoustines (they would be revealed once the foam melted) were sweet, juicy, and rivaled any in my trip last May. Excellent.
4. Blanc de Turbot Pommes Rattes Truffees
Unfortunately, you can’t sustain such highs forever. The turbot took forever to bring out. And it was slightly dry – it didn’t have the gelatinous texture it should have. Gastroville wonders if they sous-vide the dish. Not inedible, and certainly better than many French fish dishes I’ve had, but a let-down after the mastery of the previous 3 courses. The truffles on the fish were diced extremely fine and looked like they were painted on. The truffled potatoes in the bed were tasty. Ok.
5. Some Pre-Desserts
I didn’t order dessert (something they couldn’t fathom) but they brought the pre-desserts out. In a way, a perfectly light ending to the meal.
Ledoyen has been added to the Paris rotation. It’s a cuisine that seems ephemeral – harmonious and subtle – experience on a plate. That is what I seek.
Official Site: http://www.ledoyen.com/