L’Astrance (Paris) – Second Chances for Three Stars

L’Astrance was somewhat of an enigma from last May’s France/Spain trip. Back then, it was the hot table in town; the young genius who deserved his third Michelin star if only he’d buy into the necessary trappings – lavish rooms, ornate silverware, and more menu choices. It was a very good meal but it did leave me wanting. Nonetheless, the memory was pleasant enough that it warranted a dinner for the truffle trip. We made our reservation for this trip and the big news was announced a week later – three stars!

Unfortunately, I am one of the few that doesn’t get it. It’s a good restaurant that certainly has potential but, in addition to the mistakes, it just leaves me wanting. There’s none of the ephemerality of an (“on”) L’Arpege dinner; nowhere near the finesse of Manresa; and the ingredient quality compared to Les Ambassadeurs is hardly close. Maybe I’m still playing catch-up in these fine dining circles and I don’t have a need for this new “thrill” yet. The new, improved pricing (re: Michelin 3 star pricing) is certainly not as attractive as it was last year.

1. Truffle Brioche

Butter and ok truffles – it is what it is. The trufles did not have a very strong taste, disappointing considering it was truffle season. Ok.
l'Astrance (Paris) - Truffle Brioche

2. Codfish Puree / Yogurt Infusion

Aromatic with a satisfyingly salty finish. It was brightened up quite a bit w/ some lemon. While I’d say it was a very good dish, you just get the feeling it could be taken to the next level. Very Good.

l'Astrance (Paris) - Codfish Puree / Yogurt Infusion

3. Mushroom / Foie Napolean w/ Lemon & Waternut

His signature, total harmony, earthy, creamy foie, textural marvel. Very Good.

l'Astrance (Paris) - Mushroom / Foie Napolean w/ Lemon & Waternut

4. Seared Scallops / Seasame / Bitter Flower / Yuzu Confit / Bergamot

Firm, sweet, but too little yuzu – it really brightened up the flavor and added a much needed dimension. Good.

l'Astrance (Paris) - Seared Scallops / Seasame / Bitter Flower / Yuzu Confit / Bergamot

5. Pan-Fried Brittany Sole w/ Bok Choy

Slightly overcooked sole with a thai curry sauce that was too much for the fish. This is the sort of dish I just don’t understand – it’s not the elegant spicing of Manresa or L’Arpege – it comes close to being an assault. (We also experienced the same thing last year w/ Trosgrois’s frog legs.) I would be thrilled to have something of this quality in a Thai restaurant but I can’t say I consider this even 1* quality. Ok.

l'Astrance (Paris) - Pan-Fried Brittany Sole w/ Bok Choy

6. Cod Ball / Black Truffle / Shellfish Broth

We venture from Thailand to its Vietnamese (or Chinese) neighbors. The ingredient repetition seems a tad lazy but the textural differences between this dish and dish #2 may have been the point? If so, I’d say it might be more obvious if you served them together? Again, perfectly tasty, but not the refined cuisine of a newly appointed 3-star Michelin restaurant. Truffles didn’t add much – they were on the cardboard side. Ok.

l'Astrance (Paris) - Cod Ball / Black Truffle / Shellfish Broth

7. Celery Soup w/ Black Truffle & Parmesan Mousse + Hazelnut Oil

Creamy but one-dimensional. The truffle didn’t really shine through; the hazelnut oil gave it most of the taste. Tasty, perfectly satisfying, but…. Good.

l'Astrance (Paris) - Celery Soup w/ Black Truffle & Parmesan Mousse + Hazelnut Oil

8. Duck Breast w/ Eggplant, Olive, & Vanilla

Wild duck was slightly overcooked but it had good flavor. When combined w/ the olive/vanilla, it had a taste that was becoming of their 3rd star. If only that meat wasn’t overcooked. Good.

l'Astrance (Paris) - Duck Breast w/ Eggplant, Olive, & Vanilla

9. Lemongrass / Pepper Sorbet

As good as last time – an excellent pre-dessert. Excellent.

10. Pineapple / Jasmine Tea

Poor pineapple quality, the jasmine tea and OJ had some potential. (Sorry, no picture and notes are a bit bare.)

11. Chicken Egg w/ Jasmine

A jasmine bomb, but spiced nicely. Very good.

l'Astrance (Paris) - Chicken Egg w/ Jasmine

12. “Fresh” Fruit plate

The quotes are mine – an absolutely ghastly and embarrassing fruit platter for *any* sort of restaurant – yuck.

This meal didn’t approach the quality of our previous meal. Others have reviewed it recently with surprisingly different results. The ingredient quality in our meal was not top-notch (some might say it was the season) but conceptually, some of the dishes just didn’t work. L’Astrance is at its best when it approaches the ephemeral and balances the light flavors in a dish with surprising adeptness. When this happens, I can understand the acclaim; it just hasn’t happened with consistency during my two visits.

- chuck

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  • tranber

    Technical comment: Why people who write restaurant reports or reviews never think of including the restaurant’s info? Your article includes no website address, no email address, no phone number… Where is l’Astrance? I found it on Google, of course, but I could have saved time if you had simply added the URL on your page.