Ben and I are in the middle of a gastronomic frenzy. This due to a confluence of a visit I took to Lyon, the start of the festive season and some nice social offshoots from our online efforts. So, here's the first of a slew of posts, this one all about my trip to France.
I ummed and aah-ed about whether to post this, because, after all it's not really a London thing, but one of the meals was just so good I ought to mention it.
My friend, Guy was in Lyon for a conference in the last half of the week so I decided to join him for a weekend there. It was my first trip to Lyon and on a recommendation I booked a table for Troisgros for our Saturday lunch. Prior to this we had dinner on Friday night at a charming little restaurant called 'En mets fais ce qu'il te plait'. It's run by a Japanese chef and his wife, but the food is very definitely French in style. It was difficult to find and difficult to book, but worth it. Inexpensive and definitely room for improvement, but food with an eye to the future. It will be interesting to try it again in a few years. It some ways it reminded me of Bacchus. The interior of the restaurant is quirky vintage Tokyo, the proprietors are lovely people.
I have eaten in two star Michelin establishments before, as well as at the Fat Duck which subsequently went to get three stars. I've also had a disappointing visit to Jean-Georges in New York which has since received three. Troisgros though was, I felt, my first genuine three star experience. I hadn't experienced the sheer number of waiting staff though. Although this was initially a tad intimidating eventually we were just floating along on a sea of careful attention.
We went for the Couleurs D'Automne menu at 180 Euros.
Bouillon frais de couteaux, a la clementine
This was a sort of sharp fruity mush with some pieces of clementine on top. That really doesn't do it justice though. Clear vibrant flavours and good palate cleanser.
Melba de coquilles Saint Jacques & wakame, a l'oursin
Toast melba with a carpaccio of scallops, short pieces of wakame seaweed, topped with a sea urchin. Great. You know you might think an oyster summons up a littoral sense, well this brought the coast to your mouth and brain in different dimensions. Freshness and complexity of taste and texture.
Bain-marie de fois gras, chataignes & cepes croustillants
This looks like a shallow plate of something brown mousse-like sauce covered in a darker jus with some thin slices of cep and chestnut. on top. When your spoon hits the surface though you go straight into a deep, sort of foie gras pudding. The dark sauce covering it was a veal reduction (almost demi-glaze). The cepes and chestnuts offered a wonderful chewy contrast, with the chestnuts also providing dryness and sweetness. This was profoundly good. Every mouthful a marvel. In between mouthfuls you couldn't quite bring to mind exactly how good the last mouthful had been. Not for the last time we mourned the ending of the dish.
Cuisses de grenouilles poelees au tamarin, chou-fleur croquant
Sauteed frogs legs with very thin slivers of cauliflower and a loose tamarind sauce - the tamarind sauce was vibrant, quite spicy with a strong sour kick. The sweetness that tamarind can give was played down.
Pieces de bacalhau doucement pochee, pomme Granny
Salt cod, poached at low temperature. This had a spice/peppered crust and was accompanied by potato puree and thin batons of granny smith apple. This dish didn't make sense to me until I tried the other two with the apple, then balance was achieved. Really quite a powerful pepper kick here.
Noisettes de chevreuil au beurre de capres & de raisins, conchiglione de chanterelles grises
This was a masterpiece. The noisettes of roe deer were very succulent and were topped by an almost imperceptible layer of foam. This foam was a meat sauce but with a strong hint of raspberry. At this point our bottle of Burgundy had fully opened up and with its own fruit hints matched the dish very well indeed. Capers and raisins were artfully scattered around the plate and there were sauce smears here too. The pasta shell held the mushrooms with a loose foam covering. Every mouthful was a thought provoking sensual pleasure. It raised my pleasure levels so much I suspected the chef had sprinkled MDMA powder over the food. What a shame to see this dish end.
Les fromages fermiers, frais & affines
A great cheese board, local and national representation. I had five samples. Not sure about names here.
Tartelette veloutee au topinambour et basilic
A jerusalem artichoke and basil tart. Soft veloute mix, perfect pastry sort of semi-savoury dessert and acting as another palate cleanser. Delicious.
Passion au chocolat blanc et a l'endive
A white chocolate ice cream, a mango(?) and passion fruit sorbet with some passion fruit seeds underneath and caramelised endive leaves adding bitterness and fibrous texture.
Creme de marron, cassis et gingembre meringue
Chestnut cream, piped out on top of a layer of cassis and then dark choc sheets with gold leaf. The highlight of the desserts.
With the desserts a cup of thin baked sheet things was brought out, including a dark choc slab with silver leaf. The best of these was a wonderful gingerbread man - melt in the mouth delicacy and delicious rainbow icing. Amazing.
Laurent Perrier Brut
Demi Puligny Referts 2000 JM Boillot
Gevrey-Chambertin Lavaux St Jacques 1996 Armand Rousseau et Fils
Darroze Armagnac 1966
Next day we needed something simple, so we opted for a specialist meat restaurant called 'Bouchon des Carnivores'. A wonderful, packed, dining room, filled with eager diners, models of cows and authoritative though friendly staff. I was looking forward to my Pave de Boeuf Charollais. I have to say though, it didn't really compare well to some recent steaks I've had in London (Hawksmoor and Santa Maria Buen Ayre). Maybe I was just jaded after the magnificence of Troisgros.