Event : Lunch at Pierre Gagnaire, Paris
When: Wednesday November 11th 2015, 12:00
Michelin stars: 3
Addr: 6,rue Balzac, 75008 Paris
Phone: +33 1 58 36 12 50
Type of cuisine: French (classically French at its core, mostly contemporary in its presentation, at times cosmopolitan in its work of the flavors, using many exotical ingredients , though, as it is generally the case with most 3 star Michelin restaurants in Paris, the kitchen at PG puts the finest produce from France in the forefront of their cooking).
Rating: Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7)
Food rating: 9.5/10 Creative French cooking of the highest level. Perhaps the cooking of ex Chefs like Jacques Maximin/Olivier Roellinger, or (more recently) Bernard Pacaud / Alain Passard do fit a bit more with what I’d feel comfortable to rate with a 10/10 at this level of French cuisine as I think that Roellinger, Maximin, Pacaud or Passard would have delivered far more exciting versions of the brunoise of vegetables as well as the cucumber soup —– , and although the “ghocchi” and “Cèpes confits, noix, blette paquet” were excellent at what the kitchen was trying to convey (see their respective reviews below), my gut feeling is that the aforementioned Chefs would have replaced them by food items of assertive flavors pertaining to traditional French cuisine – especially Pacaud and Maximin – which, for my taste, is the only way that this meal at PG could have been bettered .
Regardless, that is just a personal impression. What you need to know is that PG kitchen brigade’s is one of world class quality. There were certainly many exceptional dishes as you’ll see in the account below.
Overall Dining experience: 9/10 Excellent –
I am seizing the opportunity of a short trip to Paris to eat at a 3 star Michelin table that I haven’t tried for over a decade, Pierre Gagnaire.
There is a considerable number of food items served at Pierre Gagnaire. For example, my starter (untitled AUTOMNE) will come in a series of starters. The same applies to the main course and dessert.
I did opt for the A La Carte menu).
The meal started with two series of nibbles (calamari of superb quality marinated in soya, a brunoise of vegetables in a cold soup of cucumber, the brunoise as well as the cold soup were Ok…but I was disappointed that a kitchen brigade of this quality could not deliver a better version of that amuse bouche – , some cuttlefish ink’s gelée of spectacular maritime fragrance and a texture designed by the Greek goddess of beauty, Aphrodite, because it was so pretty to espy, a superlative lemon paste, an excellent bisque of crab, and many more items – all of great standard at the exception of the brunoise of vegetables in a cold soup of cucumber). The lemon paste, in particular, had a dazzling taste which exciting mouthfeel is hard to imagine even at this dining level. All in all, 8/10 for the nibbles. Serious stuff.
My starter was:
Cocotte d’aromatiques dans laquelle on fume quelques instants un gros gnocchi au Laguiole – velouté Vert d’automne, graines et pousses de moutarde – Gnocchi on a bed of vegetables. the gnocchi having the texture of tofu…but in this case, that is not a bad thing at all. Rather a beautiful touch of creativity. I suspect that it is with items like this that some may perceive such meal as uneven (made of ups and downs) since this is certainly not an item designed to wow, but then that would be a complete misunderstanding of what should be expected here: this is a perfectly well conceived twist on a piece of gnocchi served with some steamed vegetables underneath and it was not of the boring kind (both the vegetables and the special sort of gnocchi had vibrant textures and tasted of what they should). 8/10
Noix de ris de veau laquée d’un suc de carotte à l’argouse, pulpe de reine-claude au tamarin – Caramelized sweetbreads that were a world away from their tired looking versions, the meaty consistency successful (just the right moist consistency, not mushy) , the overall taken to an even higher level of amazement due to the addition of the tamarind. A dish that could turn into a flop in the hands of many kitchen brigades (from the perspective of someone who has cooked with exotical ingredients while understanding the fundamentals of French cuisine, this is actually a combination that is logical , but it is also very easy to misjudge the proper quantity of tamarind needed to make such combination exciting) even at this level, but here it was a demonstration of what a benchmark example of tamarind mixed with sweetbreads can look, smell and taste like. An excellent way of updating a French classic dish. 10/10
Terrine d’anguille au pavot bleu, céleri. Gelée de pain de seigle – Quality eel was succesfully paired with celery and a jelly of rye bread. One of those items which intent is not to dazzle. The intent behind this dish is to combine ingredients that most people would not think successful as a whole (eel, celeri, rye bread). I have no problem with this philosophy but in the hands of the majority of cooks it is either a recipe for disaster or an annoying assembly of ingredients. Here, you taste that dish and realize that what you just had is a set of matching elements that simply work really well against all odds.
Infusion de navet daïkon au vin jaune du Jura, écrevisses pattes rouges, oxalis et feuilles de capucine – Crawfish(boiled), daikon radish, white wine, oxalis, nasturtium leaves. Dazzling contrast of flavors (sweet/sour/salty) that is technically hard to get this right even at this level. 10/10
Cèpes confits, noix, blette paquet – I have oftently read that PG takes risks that do sometimes not pay off. This is one of those dishes that could easily be perceived as unsuccessful. Well, as mentioned elsewhere, I do not agree with the suggestion that PG’s cooking is sometimes off. It may not be to one’s taste, but it is certainly not what I would categorize as occasionally faulty. Take this dish: its effect is basically similar to what you’ll get with a juxtaposition of a layer of custard, mushrooms and nuts. All of great quality, for sure, but potentially boring too…?? Now, what about this being a take on the Japanese Chawanmushi? Not that boring anymore,hein? lol. There are different versions of the Chawanmushi and this one was extremely subtle flavor-wise (some people may even find it bland, but is is not bland…just full of very subtle umami flavors) – a take on a perfectly legit example of the the Chawanmushi.
The main course I chose was AGNEAU (the lamb):
Carré d’agneau de l’Aveyron frotté d’origan – the lamb from Aveyron is known for its quality, and this Carré d’agneau did justice to its reputation. Excellent on all fronts: taste, texture, seasoning. A flawless Carré d’agneau. 9/10
Papillons Noirs, datte medjoul, kinjiso – pasta made of black pudding was shaped as butterflies and was served with a mixture similar to chilli paste but without the distracting piquancy. Date palm was added to the dish. This, for my taste, was sensational (complex middle eastern flavors, the date palm blending excitingly well with the aforementioned chilli paste-alike mixture). It takes a Chef with an incredible palate to create dishes of this sort. 10/10
Selle en crépine, carpaccio de betterave rouge, betterave blanche au Roquefort. – The exceptional lamb from Aveyron made a second appearance. It was paired with a carpaccio of superlative beets. 10/10
Crumble vert, ails roses sablés, chorizo, cébette – sauteed cabbage, garlic, chorizo was a classic dish but not of the tired sort,- extremely flavorful. Another exciting dish. 9/10
Soufflé à la vanille de Tahiti, crème glacée – Finished my meal with a benchmark vanilla soufflé which depth of flavor can only come from eggs and milk of exceptional quality. 10/10
I was less impressed with the Soufflé of chocolate – , which although generously portioned and tasting of top quality chocolate was not as exciting as other Soufflé of chocolate I had at lesser restaurants. 7/10
The mignardises at Pierre Gagnaire were also of great standard.
PROS: They master the fundamentals of French cooking in a way that few can pretend to, even by the finest 3 star Michelin French cooking standards. Exciting flavors when they cook or reinterpret French classics (Soufflé à la vanille, Crumble Vert/ails roses sablés/chorizo/cébette, Selle en crépine/carpaccio de betterave rouge/betterave blanche au Roquefort). Then, at times, it is possible that you’ll travel to places where the flavors are subtle (the case of Japan, during this meal), but that does not mean the cooking is off. The journey around the globe took me to the Middle East, too and it was a stopover not to forget (Papillons Noirs, datte medjoul, kinjiso).
CONS: The brunoise of vegetables / soup of cucumber was ordinary –the quality of the produce was great, for sure, but a brunoise of vegetables should dazzle at this level, a cold soup of cucumber too — and that surprised me given the overall fabulous journey.
Bottom line: The kitchen here is helmed by Chef Michel Nave, a 2004 MOF. As most MOFs from the 1990s/2000s, Chef Nave cooking is deeply rooted in Classic French cuisine (meaning the flavors are generally intense/rich, the meal marked by the expected consommé/veloutés/mousseline/meringue/marmelade), with, of course, its own twists (twists that obviously make their French food look and feel contemporary) . Here at PG, the creativity they are talking about covers non conventional ingredient combination (by French cooking standards, although, in France, nowadays, this is is not as unusual as it used to be ), executed with a very high level of technique, top notch ingredients and an exceptional sense of combining unlikely textures/flavors/ingredients (many kitchen brigades do try to blend unlikely textures/flavors…but they are generally just basically assembling ingredients with little interraction between each other).
What I think days later: A true world class food destination with superb French gourmet food to match. As with plenty of high end French restaurants, nowadays, PG also explores non French flavors, so ensure you are familiar and do appreciate such flavors too.