129 Avenue Parmentier, Paris 75011, France Telephone: +33 (0)1 43 57 45 95
So, there we were clinking our glasses of sparkling Savoie wine, thankfully near the front of the queue which snaked out the door and out by a third of a block. The moment was nearly upon us, excitment had been mounting since almost a year ago when San Pelligrino dictated our next food odyssey would be Paris at Le Chateaubriand the worlds best number 9 restaurant.
I scanned my eyes across the plain walls, close tables packed with people and the askew art deco lights, it looked like a bistro, sounded like a bistro but the colourful plates coming from the kitchen were definitely not veal chops and frites. Everything was pared down, stripped back to the best bits; the food and the wine. A principle mirrored in the unapologetic set menu, which read like exotic gobbledegook (French) to us, but we had faith in the five surprise courses and wine pairs ahead of us.
To get us going we were given little puffs of joy, light and resonating of cheese. What followed was a quartet of amuse bouches, firstly a chilled pixie bowl of pale pink hiding a nugget of delicate sea bream, hinting of chive but also of grapefruit. Followed by another taste of the sea, creamy yet clean oyster with pops of tapioca and zing of iced citrus salt. Moving on with an impeccably blanched asparagus, steeped in rich Iberico pork sauce with an eye popping smattering of cod roe. Finally a three fold treat of land and sea submerged in their own juices; smoked eel, foie gras of butter like consistency and a gentle crunch from the foraged mushroom.
The second of the fish courses looked like a pretty plate of varying yellow circles, slightly more 2D in comparison to what had been presented previously. But in fact it proved to be another imaginative play of texture and flavours, pieces of subtle john dory, smouldering smokiness from toasted cob nuts, slithers of potato all tossed in a buttery sauce with aromatic zest from the yuzu.
No complaints either on the meat main, I don't think there has ever been a restaurant where I haven't been able to pick a fault. How can you when each dish is so elegantly presented and each turn of a fork unveils another element to taste and marvel at? Cracking through the crispy potato roofing exposed a tangle of lemon salt crusted watercress, organic chicken with a gamey finish, flakes of black truffle and puddles of chicken liver paté.
I love the value the French put on cheese, exemplified by a cheese dish being served as an equivalent to two exquisite deserts! I guess where a mound that sits so proud and defiant as this, there is no reason not to. The waiter reeled off what was before us a little to quickly but what I did catch was that there was truffled pecorino, morbier and a creamy goat.
So for my desert double act I had a chinese mushroom, flecked with vanilla, clementine segments drenched in rum and turret tops of cream. The fungi looked more like an other worldly translucent blossom, it had an understated mellowness allowing the texture to carry the other flavours of the dish, like the sweet explosion from the fruit and luxuriant cream. Whilst the rum served to lull you further into your mood of contentment.
|described on the menu as : Clementine, rhum, vanille|
I am a chocolate desert lover, so when this arrived I immediately thought what is half a macaroon and a dried apricot supposed to do for my sweet tooth? I thought too soon, I dived right in and soon discovered that this was no apricot but a caramelized egg yolk! So gooey it was like a golden custard coated in a sugar shell that tasted like caramel popcorn. The dish's counterpart was another version of egg and sugar but in a meringue form, adding a hint of nuttiness, eaten together they mingled in perfect harmony.
There was nothing I had not eaten before but what was extraordinary was the assembly of flavours and textures, maximizing each ingredient by cooking it to perfection and making each dish a feast for all your senses. Even to the final palette cleanser, of a pineapple chunk with sugared Indian spices you were tantalized by the colours, appealing to the eyes, but just as much to the palette and the nose. What I had not mentioned was the friendly service, genuine smiles and enthusiasm from all the staff grounded the relaxed atmosphere of the place, letting the food take pride of place. When I am next in Paris I will be sure to revisit, with a weekly changing menu there's sure to be more playful combinations to coo over.