Archive for March, 2007

Relais d’Auteuil (Paris) – More Truffles Please

After seeing a variation on the above dish on a food forum, Relais d’Auteuil was immediately added to the Paris lunch itinerary. Michelin has rated it 2 stars – worth a trip – and a trip it was. Relais d’Auteuil is located on the remote edges of the 16th – the cab ride took long enough (from within the 16th) that one might think they were driving to the opposite corner of the city. The restaurant itself is small and intimate with a slightly austere modern feel about it. There are charming and whimsical touches to soften the atmosphere, like the chicken at the end of this post.

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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

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Cordeillan Bages (Pauillac, France) – Cordeillan Capitulation

At some points in time and space, one exists in completely different realities than others. The praise for the 2 Michelin star Cordeillan Bages is so universal and glowing that the awarding of its eventual 3rd star (next year?) will just be a formality. This tidal wave of support and enthusiasm should have been an ominous warning – Pic was another 2 star restaurant from my trip last May that just received its much anticipated 3rd star.

Codeillan Bages (Pauillac, France) -
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L’Aubergade (Puymirol, France) – Three Star Trama Truffles

Michel Trama held 2 Michelin stars for 20 years before being promoted to three in 2004. The hotel/restaurant is located in Puymirol, France atop a hill behind old stone walls. It’s an old 15th century monastery that has undergone considerable transformation while still maintaining its sense of place – you feel as if you’ve traveled somewhere, unlike the modern machinations of Michel Bras’s spaceship in the Laguiole countryside.

Inside, the lobby has been described as “bordello-like” with its leather chairs and eclectic mix of furniture and paintings.

l'Aubergade (Puymirol, France) -

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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.

Ledoyen (Paris) - Cuttlefish Sashimi in Almond Milk w/ Lavender Foam

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