Posts Tagged ‘alain passard’


***In June, the  most popular (among the readers of this blog) reviews  have been the ones on Le Louis XV,  the one on the city of Nice, L’ Ambroisie, L’Arpège, Le Serpent , Kam Fung as well   as my humble article on Montreal steakhouses (folks, it’s summer, enjoy a good steak in your backyard…far more fun, lol!).

***Shinji’s report, already the most popular among the readers of this blog –  I have just updated this current post on July 17th and shall observe that I was surprised by the popularity of the recent post on Shinji (which can be found here). Published on July 3rd, so only couple of  days prior, that post topped the charts on each day, since then. It’s rare that I see a restaurant’s review  attracting that much attention on this blog as soon as it was posted — the sign that the web is googling Shinji a lot, these days  (last time this happened, it was following the first review on Le Serpent — interestingly, the second report, which was more detailed and covered more meals, never got to enjoy the popularity of the first one. Even months later, the initial report on Le Serpent is the one that you have mostly perused and are still perusing).  Great then for Shinji, which managed to pull off benchmark sushis (by Montreal standards).



***Glad to hear that one of my all time favourite bistrots  in Italy is still doing great: A cantina de Mananan is still as excellent as ever as/per the report of a very picky foodie friend who went there in early  June 2014.  I did recommend Cinque Terre to him, a place that’s simply a ‘ gift from the above ‘as far as its visually stunning scenery goes. While there, he also tried A cantina de Mananan upon hearing great things from my part about this little jewel. He was floored and ranked A cantina de Mananan as his favourite discovery in a trip where there was no shortage of great restaurants:  he tried Osteria Francescana, Pipero al Rex , Piazza Duomo,   . He stressed that  A cantina does not compare, in terms of culinary sophistication, to all those places, but that  in hindsight,  the great  cooking of A Cantina de Mananan is what blew away his palate because it was the most delicious food of them all. Well, I haven’t visited OF, PR and PD, but I certainly can  understand such conclusion as I myself found the finest bistrots in Italy to be quite stellar.  So, A Cantina, I hope you will be as great as my first date with you, next time I’ll go back to Cinque Terre, lol. My humble quick notes on my trip in Cinque Terre in summer 2012, here.

***Everyone should go and peruse the twitter account of L’Arpège: Once you do that, keep in mind that all the beauty your eyes will have the priviledge to espy  is most likely backed by an exceptional work of flavors and a spectacular sense of creativity. Alain Passard, you are a Chef like we do not see anymore!

***La Queue de Cheval, Montreal finest steakhouse will open soon. Very soon. Check their facebook account for any update. For now, you can enjoy their burgers at QDC Burger (check that out here). The folks at QDC are also planning the opening of the Angry lobster bar (check all of that on this link).

***You remember Thursdays, Montreal iconic bar/bistro/club  on Crescent?  It is now reopened. The bistrot‘s  Chef is Jean-François Vachon. I first discovered Chef Vachon’s cooking when he was at the helm of Club des Pins (now closed), then at restaurant  M sur Masson, many  years ago and at both restaurants, it was an instant success back then:   food was delicious, cooking skills really sharp and both restaurants  reigned supreme on my list of favourite tables of Montreal during Vachon’s tenure. Then he went opening restaurant Projet soixante-sept (now closed), which I tried but that I found less  impressive compared to what he managed to pull off in his prime at Club des pins, then at M sur Masson.  I have not tried Bistrot Thursdays yet but I hope I’ll find the Jean-François Vachon of the great old days. I’ve perused their  online menu and found it appealing with items such as ‘guinea fowl cooked in hay’ (an old fashioned cooking technique that’s  common in Europe and that I favor but it’s rare to see a restaurant doing this in Montreal) , ‘rack of lamb à la provencale’, ‘spinach malfatti”, etc. Thoughtful bistrot menu for Montreal as it seems to take seriously the concept of a true French bisrot (for eg, on their menu, I can see that they have days where they offer the bouillabaise, or the coq au vin, all French bistrot staples that few French bistrots in Montreal do mind offering – you’ll see this in the ‘promotions ‘ section of their menu)  . In his prime, Jean-François Vachon is certainly one of Quebec’s most talented Chefs, so I’ll surely try his bistrot hopefully in a near future.

***Tapas 24 MTL will open to the public on July 19th 2014. It is a restaurant that is owned by Barcelona’s highly regarded Chef Carles Abellan as well as two other local Business partners (Journalist  Sébastien Benoit and restaurateur Jorge Da Silva), so a sister of Barcelona’s Tapas 24. According to the facebook page, the Chefs are  Haissam Souki Tamayo as well as another Chef who goes by the  name Ildemar, both names sound  unfamiliar to me, so this will be opportunity to discover their craft.  I saw couple of Public relationship write ups on their pre-opening activities and have decided to not try it on its official opening first weeks. It would have been tempting to dine there while Chef Abellan is still around (he’s there, these days, according to the reports I’ve perused) , but I’ll wait couple of months and see how it will fare while Chef Tamayo and Ildemar will be in full control of the house. When I’ll head there, I’ll do it with realistic expectations, though:  I still have fond memories  of my foodie trip in San Sebastian. A year later, I had the good fortune to repeat the feature in Madrid and the tapas adventure was also memorable (low cost, spectacular  flavors).  I do not expect those dazzling tapas of Spain to be replicated the other side of the globe as the produce of the Mediterranea is hard to compete with, the value simply not something that can be matched this side of the world (especially those of the Pais Vasco where I remember having two divinely-tasting  servings of tapas with a glass of txacoli for less than 5 euros (around $7). In comparison, a similar serving of tapas in Montreal would cost at least $16, and the glass of wine would range in between  $12 to $15 on average, so my $7 tapas serving in San Sebastian (with the glass of txacoli included) would cost me around $31 in Montreal, and I am being generous here. Restaurants are there to make Business and I do understand that, but it’s tough to justify bite-size food of such price tag.  I do not know the prices/menu at Montreal’s Tapas 24 since it’s not online yet, but hopefully, they will offer enjoyable food of great value (the point of tapas, in the first place). As for the flavors, I am confident that they can’t go wrong:  the tapas currently served in Montreal are decent  but nowhere close to the quality of the tapas of Spain.

***Abroad, one of France’s most brilliant Chefs of the recent decade, Chef Nicolas Lebec has resurfaced in Shanghai, China. Nicolas is incredibly talented, think world class skills, and it’s great to see him around after years of absence. Villa Le Bec –  Xinhua Lu, near Dingxi Lu – Shanghai




On a non foodie subject, the world cup was full of surprises (Costa Rica and Colombia have impressed, Spain’s early exit)  , but in the end it was a finale between  two giants of the game, Argentina and Germany. I think Germany largely deserved it, but the title of best player of the tournament (Messi won it) was a big joke akin to believing in Santa ;p  // The Dutch –by now, eliminated  — had to attend a penalty shootout session in their semi finals against Costa Rica and their coach, Louis Van Gaal chose a substitute goaltender (Tim Krul) just for the shootout , which is a rare move for those in the know.  As an analogy to the world of food, this reminds of what they have been doing for so long in Japan: you have a specialist of this, another specialist of that, etc. Just to master the slicing of a piece of fish, you spend an entire year or years focusing on that sole task. Then the same to master the art of cooking some rice. It gave what you’d have expected:  artisan Chefs, and not just generic cooks, pulling off perfected crafts to be enjoyed and not just generic food to be washed down. So, Louis Van Gaal is obviously of that same mold, only he is transposing the theme into soccer. Simply amazing. //Brazil suffered an unbelievable defeat to Germany (7-1!), but that came as no surprise as their two main leaders, Neymar and Thiago Silva  were not playing. I do not understand their coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari: I know he is  a great coach and has won a world cup in the past,  but it was hard to be appreciative of his decisions this time around -> the spectacular (and best replacement for Neymar) Willian coming on around the 69th minute (what the heck??) , Hulk as a winger rather than as a striker, position that suits him better (??).  ///   Last but not least, the now famous Luis Suarez bite has earned  him national hero status in his country, Uruguay (check that out here).  The jokes about the bite are funny, though.









Wishing an amazing summer to all of us!

ImageDisons qu’il sait passer du beau geste (son ‘message fétiche’ à qui veut bien l’entendre)   à de la belle cuisine, le Chef Passard. Je viens de faire, en Septembre,  un autre repas mémorable à L’Arpège (et ce, malgré que je n’y avais pas posé  les pieds depuis belle lurette). Au départ, ce fut mitigé :  des tartelettes de légumes  ridiculement miniatures. Mais comment font-ils, ceux qui ne cessent de louanger ces tartelettes … c’est comme si que je vous servais une goutte d’eau et que vous en ressortiez ébahi. Ébahi par quoi? Ces tartelettes, du moins celles que j’avais à ma table, sont trop petites pour etre proprement appréciées. Puis, ce Coquetier liqueur d’érable dont l’apport vinaigré  fit carrément voler toute  notion de goût en éclats. La pédale tonale continua à manquer d’aplomb sur  L’Arlequin de légumes (amer!) et des ravioles au bouillon sans interet (dommage, car la créativité et le sens du détail furent du rendez vous) .  Ah, j’oubliais…la langouste..le homard..appelez cela comme vous voudrez, mais de grace… là je m’adresse à toutes les grandes tables…oubliez ca, svp!  Ca n’arrive presque jamais à la cheville d’une simple langouste grillée!!! Et je sais que ceci va faire chier à mes compatriotes…mais Oui, malgré que j’ai moi aussi le bleu, blanc et rouge gravé sur le coeur….j’ose et je dénonce: nos langoustes , ouais, ca passe.  Mais on est loin du gout  marin et mémorable des langoustes des Caraibes ou de l’Océan Indien. De ceux là, peux entrevoir l’effet surprise et mémorable en bouche.  Mais là…on est loin du compte!  Peu  importe,  tout cela fut vite oublié lorsque le grand Passard se mit au piano (à prendre dans son sens figuré car j’imagine que c’est plutot un travail de brigade comme dans tous les grands restaurants, surtout avec les deux salles complètement pleines): T-bone d’agneau au gout remarquable, Pigeon roti rappelant que le talent de rotissier du Chef n’est pas un vain coup ‘marketing’, risotto de mais et gazpacho à longuement faire émoustiller les papilles …et j’en passe. Impression finale: de nos jours, on a  tendance à louanger le tape à l’œil, à tel point qu’ils se font de plus en plus rares, meme à ce niveau, à comprendre que manger c’est d’abord faire plaisir aux papilles (papilles..mot que je répète volontiers…car  malheureusement …elles sont  souvent oubliées…) . Le reste n’est qu’accessoire, pour moi. Ce repas à L’Arpège a rempli sa mission primaire de renouer le client avec la notion du pur plaisir gourmand. À ne pas oublier la fantastique jeune sommelière Tchèque, aux accords inspirés .  Lorsque  L’Arpège se livre comme il l’a si bien fait lors de ce repas (je m’en contrefiche, lol, des moins bons coups tel que l’Arlequin de légumes..pour moi, un grand repas réside dans sa capacité à laisser comme impression finale…un souvenir impérissable de plaisir profond) , il ne s’agit pas que d’étoiles…mais presque du firmament. Voilà une brigade qui a compris que la cuisine sans brin de folie, ca ne vaut  rien! C’est cher, c’est sur…mais alors qu’on se munisse d’un sens du détail (je parle d’un VRAI sens du détail..pas de la petite ‘jugeotte’ approximative…) et qu’on me réponde à cette question si simple:  combien sont-ils à faire si bien, avec si peu? À bon entendeur, salut!

Ma petite ‘épopée’ (lol) sur ce repas en photos et textes (en Anglais):

Restaurant L’Arpège
Type of Cuisine: French (Alain Passard’s own interpreted classic French cuisine)
Michelin Stars: 3
Event: Lunch on Tuesday September 17th 2013, 12:30
Addr:  84 Rue de Varenne  75007 Paris, France
Phone: 01 47 05 09 06


This meal at L’Arpège could be perceived as a crash or a triumph depending on who you are as a diner. A crash if you think of a restaurant as that robot that’s supposed to read in your mind and feed you with the exact bites you want, which I think would be a naïve approach to dining. A triumph if you understand that a meal needs to be judged on the back of the heights it can reach, not in terms of this is good, that is less good and that is a bit better. Then, there’s also this important observation to make: there’s a reason some restaurants deserve their rank as a 3 star Michelin   (needless to stress that   this is a strong 3 star when it ‘’touches the sky’’’ as it did on that meal. Thinking otherwise would reveal a deep lack in the understanding of what  cooking should  really be about). And that reason is the same that makes a Porsche, a Lamborghini or a Ferrari all well praised cars: the details! You can love or hate them, but it does not matter, as  at the end of the day …they are effortlessly capable of heights, here and there,  that  their peers can only  dream of !

Before getting to the point, just a quick overview of some of the latest main changes in France’s restaurant scene:  as most know, Yannick Alléno has left Le Meurice (this was not a surprise since it was no secret that Chef Alléno was  looking for some new challenge).  It will be interesting to see if  Le Meurice will keep its 3 stars when next year’s Michelin stars will be published (though, according to Gilles Pudlowski, Le Meurice will benefit from Alain Ducasse’s association — click here for that article) . Not that I will miss Yannick Alléno (I am not a big fan of Chef Yannick Alléno), but he at least has proven to be capable of  pulling off   proper French haute 3 star Michelin standards . The legendary Marc Veyrat, a chef that I never had the chance to get to know, made a comeback (See Gilles Pudlowski’s article on the return of Chef Veyrat).

In an article of  Le Figaro about the 2013 Michelin stars of France, the article can be found here, my attention went to a comment from Cath98.  She writes about the elitism of most of those Michelin star Chefs, which is actually not the reason I mention her comment here (people  always think that what others do wrong is  elitism/bad/etc,  then when they  get to replace the wrong ones,  they inevitably end up doing the same thing… but done…one elite is always replaced by another..elite,…if you have hard time getting this, think of Fidel Castro –he was reproaching Battista to stick to power..humm….. ). What I found interesting though is her comment about the militant-less attitude of most of those big Chefs.  She is absolutely right: how on earth, do you rise to such heights and have just the average BS speech about terroir/local produce  to content yourself with? I am all for the terroir, have fought for it since my tender age, but we all got this one  by now! In the UK, a chef like  Gordon Ramsay fights for wise fishing (ref: his actions against abusive shark consumption).  So, Michelin star Chefs, especially in France:  ” au violon,  il est temps de jouer  d’autres airs …svp“”!

One last note in the “off-record’ section of this post:  I need to drop a few lines  on one of the best interviews a Chef ever offered:  it is one that Chef Guy Savoy had with Agents d’entretien. You can find that interview here. Guy Savoy has always been a first rate human being, the Mahatma Ghandi of the stoves, a monument of positive vibes  and that review will inspire many, not only those interested in food.

Paris remains one of world’s REAL finest gourmand destinations, indeed – With the incredible exciting gourmand destinations like San Sebastian, Barcelona, San Francisco,  Madrid, Rome, Tokyo, London, Hong Kong,  stunning non upscale food that can be found in Ecuador, Taiwan, Malaysia,  I was starting to fear that my dear Paris just could not handle a candle anymore to its world gourmand competitors.  But the 4 recent visits here is re-assuring:  for sure, if you do no search at all and simply push open the door of whatever eatery you find on your way, you will inevitably be disappointed. Do not forget: this is one of the most visited cities of the globe, so fake cooks abound to grab their  share of the cake.  On the other hand, Paris finest eateries  easily justify  the position of Paris as still a REAL world gourmet destination, and I’ll name a few that have absolutely seduced me recently, on my 2,3 recent visits to Paris:  La Table D’Aki (Chef Aki was the fish cook at 3 star Michelin L’Ambroisie for the past 20 years. He now has his own fish-centric bistrot where the technique remains 3 stars for anyone seriously familiar with the matter, the setting is of the bistrot type and I find the price reasonable given both the quality of the produce and skills . This, for me, along with Bistrot La Marine in Cagnes sur Mer,  is currently the idea of what I have of a #1  seafood French classic bistrot anywhere around the globe), Officina Schenatti (one of the finest Italian bistrots outside of Italy. No surprise here: Chef Ivan Schenatti has been, for a long time, the mastermind behind Emporio Armani’s haute dining. He now has has his own little bistrot with bona fide skills oozing where it should: in the plates. To continue with  the theme of the great Chefs who are enoughly humble and respect their  customers (they are the few remaining GREAT ones who are found where they are expected: in their kitchen  instead of showing off  huge ego by delegating their incapacity to work seriously to name bearers),  I’ll drop a word on the very popular  L’Ami Jean: there is nothing like this anyhwhere else around the globe. YES, it is full of tourists, barely no locals. But who cares?? It is the food, ….! Rfaol! I love Chef Stéphane Jégo rustic food, because when his rustic rich French basque-inspire food is in its prime (not always, based on my experiences there) , it is divinely delicious. That is all that counts for me. The hordes of tourists have obviously got it. And locals do not flock here because it is a bit too $$$ for most French.  I am no exception: it is $$  for  me too, but I’d rather wait and spare a bit of money, eat a great rustic bistrot  meal here, once in a long while,  rather than attending  several  laughable attempts at what a bistrot might be.   L’Ami Jean has its drawbacks and they need to be repeated to anyone that does not know this: it is cramped, it is noisy, it is not the best place for a romantic meal. But I love it!   Another keepers: Restaurant Kei as well as Le Sergent recruteur .   I should not hijack this article on L’Arpège to those findings, but to be brief, other findings that make of Paris one of world’s very best:  Sola (A 1 star Michelin that would be 2 or 3 anywhere else; needless to add more. But what a gem of world class Japanese/French cooking and there is more to this place), the Pithivier of Eric Briffard at Le Cinq (Le Cinq is a real 3 star Michelin that has officially just 2 stars) , the Lièvre à la royale of Pierre Gagnaire/Senderens  (remember:  the best of French classic food being rich by nature, it shines in its full glory during game season).  Nah, you won’t find anything close to those anywhere else.  Last but not least, one of world’s current most talent Chefs, David Toutain, seem to be interested by a return on the food scene.

ARPEGE, PARIS (1)Back to my homeland (France) re-visiting L’Arpège (4th visit only in 15 years),  as well as another 3 star Michelin place that was reviewed later, le Louis XV.

The importance of the ‘gesture’ (IOTG) in cooking has long been pioneered by Chef Alain Passard (no need to introduce Chef Passard, which second grand passions are music and arts/  just google his name and you’ll have plenty of infos on one of France’s most celebrated Chef, whose restaurant L’Arpège – named after the musical technique called arpeggio — has kept its 3 Michelin stars since 1996). What passes as pure BS for plenty of lesser cooks, oftently because they just can’t bother understanding its deep meaning,  is actually one of the most important concepts in cooking: like it or not, the eye, the touch, the feel, the smell  set apart the better Chefs from the lesser ones. Many will tell you that they know all of that, alas few do really have the right eye/feel/smell and touch (which obviously explains why most restaurants have average cooks) and it’s easy, given that you are interested in such details (which I hope you do if you decided to take a chance on such pricey meals) , to perceive a developed sense of those matters:  the end result will always end up as inspired (or not)  as the care and deep ability of its creator to feel/touch/smell her/his produce. Fan or not of Alain Passard, there’s one thing you can’t reproach him:  he is one of the few who genuinely walked the walk when it comes to the subject of the ‘importance of the gesture’ (The IOTG).



Chef Passard,  with whom my interractions have always been limited to a simply ‘hello Chef’ when he tours the dining room, is a Chef that I have read a lot about.  But if I was a journalist,  I would have some interesting material to cover with him. His genuine passion for vegetables is not just another refrain recited by yet another Chef.  But it’s his views on the IOTG that has always caught my attention.  Of course,  parts of his views on the IOTG can be better understood by himself only:   as an example, the way he moves his hands, the importance of the notion of distance in his movements, those are elements no one else than  himself can really apply. But the IOTG is behind everything you want to do properly: take a tennis player for example. The way he/she moves his/her legs, the way he/she moves her/his arms, therefore the gesture,  plays a significant role in his/her attitude, therefore his/her  game.  Same logic applies to food: the way you cut your meat, carefully or nervously, the way you pick that carrot, carefully or carelessly, the way you cook your food, patiently or hastily, will of course always affect the end result. There is a reason,  in spite of nowadays need for speed, that I still insist on spending time with long hours of carefully slow cooking.

The IOTG goes beyond the ability of  feeling/smelling and having a great eye (essential for a real Chef) for your produce. You need, of course, to also understand the interaction between nature and the produce, you need to deeply understand how one specific ingredient reacts to an array of cooking techniques and temperatures. You need to understand the steps of the evolution of each single vegetable and fruit. You need to do the samething with meats, poultry, fish, etc. You need, and that is essential, to have memory of the flavors that were created before you. Or else, what are you really carrying on? What are you really improving upon? What can you be proud of if there’s nothing you can  refer to ? All things that everyone seems to take for granted, but how many have REALLY proven to be capable of mastering those. How many  cooks have bothered spending their time understanding and mastering the tastes of yesterday? How many really know, master and can reproduce the various traditional versions of a  Lièvre à la Royale?  How many are actually..real CHEFS, present for real in their kitchen? REAL great Chefs are  rare nowadays and we obviously see why.

The reason of the  previous paragraphs is to explain why I keep going back to L’Arpège. Alain Passard is there in his restaurant, away from the syndrome of the fake cooks parading on TV. And he did and still do something simply amazing (again, my admiration for Chef passard has nothing to do with my appreciation of my meals here. I had great as well as less impressive meals here, as anyone can have great and less impressive ones at their favourite restaurants) : applying himself to transmit the real taste of yesterday to his brigade, then building  — on that memory of taste – the creations of today. And they are doing it in an unusual way, their own way. Passard calling it his ‘cuisine légumière’ (they focus more on their work of the veggies than the average restaurants, with the veggies oftently the star, veggies that come directly from his own farms, the poultry or the seafood their equal, in contrast of the big majority of tables where the veggie is usually an afterthought, its presence serving as an accoutrement . Others have called it peasant food (for its mostly bold presentations and pure unfussy flavors) . Call it the way you want, but it is a ‘cuisine  d’auteur’ in which the brigade tries its best to interpret Alain Passard’s soulful vision of classic French cuisine. My admiration for Chef Passard has of course nothing to do with the appreciation of his food (Passard or not, if I value a food item as great or bad, I’ll point it out regardless of who cooked it), it has more to do with the fact that he is among those very few Chefs who are excelling at bridging the past with the present. They have that incredible ability to communicate the ‘uncommunicable”: memory of taste. Last summer, in Milan, I stumble upon another great Chef of this standing: Chef Aimo Moroni. I was impressed to see how Chef Moroni managed to embark his younger Chefs in a genuine mastery of the flavors of ‘yestergenerations’. Which inevitably allows a cuisine that transcends time.  There are less and less of them, those real great Chefs, and they are the last chance for the next generation of cooks to become REAL great Chefs.


Before the usual vegetable tartlets, the kitchen served a feuilleté of vegetables. A feuilleté with superb airy texture and sublime buttery taste. Carrots,thyme and peppers were the star veggies of that feuilleté.


Then sushi legumier (sushi of beet ). If you are going to make sushi crumbles  easily like this, better do something else.


The serving of amuse bouches continued: Coquetier  liqueur d’érable  (a tiny egg shell filled with a creamy  mix of Xérès vinegar, egg yolk, maple liquor)   sounds way more interesting than what it tasted since  It was dominated  by a  vinegary taste that  overpowered  the best component of  that amuse, the egg yolk. Fresh egg yolk of stunning quality does not need the distraction of superfluous strong vinegar taste. Maple liquor..why not? but the kitchen took no advantage of that component neither, the liquor adding nothing  discernible here. My wife commented that ‘any Oeuf en coque that is this tiny …boots with a visual disadvantage…a sizeable egg opens the appetite ‘. Indeed, it was a tiny egg


Seems like the amuse-bouches had no intent to amuse on this lunch: the celebrated vegetable tartlets (filling of mousses of various seasonal vegetables) looking big on photos, but disappointingly minuscule in reality (I appreciate delicate creations…but not to the point of not being able to discern anything) , so tiny (about the size of our Canadian penny, no more than 20mm in diameter) that it was hard to properly enjoy their taste and make an opinion about them.  Even upon deploying tremendous efforts to focus on whatever discernible flavor that was  left, they tasted nothing special as far  as I am concerned. The level of those  amuse-bouches we were sampling on this lunch was weak ( 4/10 for the amuse-bouches)


Then carpaccio of tomato/ huile de sureau.  Finally a dish showcasing  Passard’s cooking philosophy, the one that appealed to me for its  ability to extract the most out of the least. This dish did just that: stellar tomato taste with exciting seasoning (huile de sureau).  9/10


Gazpacho de tomate, creme glacée moutarde is an example of creativity (rework of the gazpacho) paired with amazing deliciousness. Not many great kitchens can extract this much excitement from a gazpacho. The mustard ice cream adding incredible depth of flavour, but what amazed me with this dish is that many can copy it, but I doubt that the perfected textures and work of the taste can be reproduced even by the most skilled brigades.  For what it is (a creative gazpacho), this dish is of benchmark material. 10/10


Then, their legendary fines ravioles potageres. I read about comparisons with Chinese wonton soups, but  If you cook  both versions (Passard’s recipe is easy to find online) you will quickly realize that they have nothing in common apart the fact that they are boiled pastas. The ultra refined al dente pasta (another thing that you’ll realize when trying to replicate  this recipe is the amount of patience and long practice that is needed, even by professional cooks, to get to this level of precise refinement of both the stock and the texture of the pasta ) is a work of world class precision, and again that is what I call fabulous creativity (not many kitchen brigades would think about proposing ravioles the way they are doing it). The pastas were stuffed with seasonal vegetables, the one with beets tasting really of beets…but the others we were trying could have been whatever vegetable we would want them to be and it would not matter because they had no distinct taste. Furthermore, the taste of the broth (parfum de Melisse, on this instance) was one of such aggressive minerality (like a tisane high on mineral aromas, which means not a pleasant tisane) that I found this dish hard to enjoy. 5/10 (Still, keep in mind that this broth and the content of the ravioles varies a lot depending on the seasons, so there are chances you’ll stumble upon far more enjoyable ones).


Aiguillette de homard bleu nuit acidulé au miel nouveau, transparence de navet globe au romarin –  For my taste, most boiled lobsters (this one was boiled), as great as they might be,  can’t hold a candle to the finest grilled ones (for palatable impact) and sweetness (the lobster was slightly honey-flavored) to seafood dish is just another road block on my way to enjoy the marine freshness of the lobster. It was cooked right, as evidenced by the tender flesh of the lobster, but exciting this was not  6/10


Sole poached in vin jaune was delicious and its cooking without reproach, the accompanying pieces of octopus not startling, but properly tenderized. 7/10 for the fish (it came with nicely smoked potatoes, chives and cabbage)


Corn risotto/parsley emulsion is the kind of dish that many ambitious tables will take for granted because it looks simple  and sounds easy to create, but the reality might tell a different story: the stunning corn flavor was enhanced by a balanced and addictive creamy-ness that you can’t just provoke by adding cream to corn. I love this kind of dish since it  lures  into believing that you can replicate it. Yes, anyone can re-create this recipe, but few will be able to replicate the exact depth of eventful flavors of this dish.  Inspired!  10/10

ARPEGE, PARIS - Robe des champs Arlequin a l'huile d'argan

Robe des champs Arlequin à l’huile d’argan, merguez légumière, aubergine d’autrefois, courgette ronde de Nice, carotte white satin is a creatively constructed dish of  semolina, vegetables (beets, tomatoes,carrots), vegetable sausage….  but I was disappointed by a dry vegetable sausage that was oddly sweet and salty in a non appetizing way. The bitterness of the rest of that dish was the other major problem. Not a pleasant dish at all, for me and my wife was even more critical of that dish . 0/10


Things then took the direction of the finer dishes of this meal: my wife’s T-bone d’agneau de Lozère aux feuilles de figuier, aubergine à la flamme (roasted T-bone of lamb — the image on the left or above, depending on your web browser’s display settings) would be a crowd pleaser at a world class steakhouse (fabulous taste) and my piece of pigeon/cardamom was a benchmark beautifully rosy (ideal doneness) bird with exciting taste. 8/10 for the lamb, 10/10 for the pigeon, but scores will never be high enough to convey the real great pleasure that my wife and I were having with both the lamb and pigeon. Exciting. Also, ppl talk a lot about the beautiful  dishes at l’Arpege, and we were eyeing at an example of just that: the way my wife’s dish was constructed was of unusual  supreme visual appeal  (hard to tell  when looking at that pic, but definitely easy on the eyes in reality).


The pigeon came with white beans that had such an amazing  mid eastern flavour profile.


Red pepper velouté was another benchmark offering of its kind, with superb creamy texture, joyous mouthfeel, the feast went on with the exciting combination of an addictive speck cream. A lesson in the art of taking a familiar dish and turn it into something profoundly inspiring. 10/10


To end the meal, a well kept aged Comte from Maitre affineur Bernard Anthony and a superb piece of moelleux du revard.


Then their millefeuille (blackberry ,thyme) which is indeed light and an enjoyable alternative to its classic version (7/10), and a rework of the classic ile flottante that showcased a creative mind but which, for me, suffered from strong coffee flavour (6/10). My wife observed that the classic ile flottante fared better. I personally do not mind this creative take, but it was just difficult to cope with the strong coffee taste.


A plate of mignardises comprised of vegetable-flavoured macarons (not as bad as I had anticipated), the nougat truely delicious, the apple tart shaped like a rose having nice buttery pastry with joyous apple flavour (8/10)

Prosthe young and dynamic sommeliere from the Czech republic.  Her wine suggestions by the glass were  so inspired (2)The superlative delicious pigeon/lamb/corn risotto, benchmark creative takes on the gazpacho/red pepper velouté. All items that many will pretend to be able to easily deliver, but few will really reach  out to the depth and deliciousness of those. Usually, when there are lesser impressive items in a meal, my overall impression is affected, but not in this case. Here my overall impression had just the finest dishes in mind (3)the very approachable and genuine Maitre D’ Helene Cousin. 

Consthe Arlequin robe des champs, lobster, ravioles potageres, vegetable tartlets (though, for the sake of accuracy, it is important to remind  that they do offer different versions of those, so you may be luckier than I was). Also, the gentleman who served most of our meal needs to explain the dishes a bit more, exactly like what Maitre D’ Helène Cousin did when she served the red pepper velouté

MEURSAULT LES TESSONS CLOS DE MON PLAISIRThe wine service:  A section that I add to my reviews when I am very  impressed by the wine service at a restaurant. The behaviour of the sommeliere from the Czech republic  was admirable in all possible aspects: being able to listen, share, never contradicting while making her point whenever necessary, etc. But all of that was done way better than  what passes as the norm for great hospitality standards (Helene Cousin also excels at that, but in the different role of the Maitre D’).  Right upon perusing the wine menu I knew I’d pick the  2008 Meursault  ”Tessons, Clos de Mon Plaisir”  from the domaine Roulot. She had other choices in mind for me as she pointed to amazing little gems that were less expensive and indeed of great quality. But I went with what I had in mind for the most part of this meal, and she never interfered. A first great classy act from her part. This Meursault is a type of  Bourgogne blanc wine that I highly  enjoy for its  balanced acidity/minerality, enticing  nose of ripe fruits, great level of  intensity/complexity. It will continue to age well, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s already a top flight flacon). Me chosing that Meursault was also a trap:  was my sommelière going to be passive and not flag wine/dish pairings that made no sense (it is surprising how many sommelier/e/s even at highly regarded restaurants do fall into that trap)? NO she never fell into that trap! She is a very present/focused/competent  sommelière as she  tactfully intervened whenever necessary.  The way she did that and the suggestions she had is about the difference between a great sommelière (which she is) Vs a standard  sommelier-e. For me, a great wine pairing has nothing to do with showing off pricey wines. It should be about  finding, even among the more affordable ones, the wines that turn into true gems because their pairing to a specific dish is flawless.  It’s exactly what she did.  A world class sommeliere.

Service/Ambience:  Professional.  The younger waiters and waitresses looking very serious, though their youth and energy makes the whole effect not heavy (as in way too serious).  Maitre D’ Helene Cousin truely embodying the concept of L’Arpège — which is the theme  of  a ‘maison de cuisine’, a house imagined by   Alain Passard where he receives his guests in a cosy environment (which explains why you do not have the huge space between the tables / grand luxury, etc…of most of the grand restaurants of Paris) — with cordial and yet professional demeanour. I like this approach of being genuine/approachable (The sommelière from the Czech Republic also followed  this approach faithfully) since it reminds us that, after all, the most important is that the customer is there to have fun.  The only suggestion I would have is  that the gentleman who served most of our meal needs to be a tad more chatty in his description of his dishes. All in all, they are French, I am French, so communication was naturally flawless.

Decor:  The interior decor is oftently described as understated.  But this place is all about details, so the idea, as Chef Passard has  widely explained to numerous medias, is to  replicate the ambience of a house. Thus, no grand formal luxury,  but the apparent understated warmth of the art-deco inspired  home that Passard has imagined for his guests: pear tree wood panels (designed by Jean-Christophe Plantrou) sparsely adorned with  few of his paintings,  some glass etching works, some retro style chrome-armed chairs, ebene de macassar material (this material is elementary in classifying L’Arpège interior deco as Art deco). Passard replacing the usual flowers on the tables, by vegetables.



Overall food rating (by the highest Classic French 3 star Michelin standards): 8/10**  I was immensely impressed with  the best dishes of this meal which were so inspired  and had such high impact (on my palate) that the lesser items were long forgiven (though, not forgotten…which is the sole reason I am not giving a 10/10 to this meal. Trust me, I am tempted to give that 10, Lol.. but have opted to remain rational)! There are always restaurant meals which finest dishes are  impressive, but this one was  something else.  The heights of this meal, for their  benchmark joyous flavors and superb creativity, will rarely be paralleled. As with any restaurant meal that impresses, I do not know if  L’Arpège can do this all the time. All I know is that the best dishes of this meal I just had, are …. true benchmarks, by any top dining standards and will be remembered as long as my memory serves me right. It is rare that an 8/10 meal delivers dishes far superior to a 10/10 meal (for eg, a flawless high level meal but with no particular heights) and this was one of those rare cases. Soul satisfaction    ***Two months after this meal, I raised the score of my lunch at L’Arpège to a 10/10. It might sound  controversial to assign a perfect score to a meal where many items triggered indifference from my part (the amuse bouches, the ravioles potagères, just to name a few), but at the end of the round, and with hindsight, I was left with a much more important reflection:  even among world’s very best, few Chefs have the  exceptional palate found behind the finest dishes of that meal (referring to the incredible heights of deliciousness of the better dishes that they’ve cooked. And where many would reproduce those simple looking food presentations only to end up with  items of ordinary effect (which happens a lot because many kitchen brigades/cooks simply can’t make the difference between EASY vs SIMPLE), L’Arpège offers plenty of inspired touches to admire  for those with an eye for details.  If such heights would have been the norm I’d play it rough (referring to the lesser dishes), but is is not. It is not the norm. It is NOT! What I like the most with L’Arpège is that they have opted to be different (from the conventional fla fla of luxury dining), NOT  for the sake of just being different because it’s trendy, BUT because they truly are.

ARPEGE, PARISConclusion: I prefer a table that does not rests on its laurels like this one, rather than places where everything is uniformly done well but without soul/inspiration.  The better dishes of this meal were true moments of  divine ‘gourmand’ enjoyment. I’ll also  add this: for me, being creative is doing things the way few are thinking about doing them. The way they have thought their ravioles  (that level of finesse in creating those ravioles  and the thought they did put in working its taste – the fact that I did not like it substracts nothing from the true creativity of that dish — ) has nothing to do with what most ambitious kitchen brigades  would think about doing with a bowl/some pasta/some vegetable and water in their hands. The gazpacho, the corn risotto, the red pepper etc..same thing: easy sounding creations  that tons of kitchen brigades can do, BUT rarely with this level of utter refinement, attention to details, and superlative work of the taste.

For something safe all the way, which is not my thang, this meal (I judge meals, not restaurants) was obviously not perfect. But if for you, the higher highs can potentially …potentially, I wrote…rise to benchmark  levels (the case of  this lunch), then this would be a standard bearing one. My wife argued that despite the benchmark lamb/pigeon and the fact that she highly regards this place as one of world’s finest (especially for its refreshing and successful different approach of French/Cosmopolitan cooking), an 8 over 10 will be an accurate score for  the overall food performance of this lunch.  I think that when your higher highs are far better than restaurants of your rank (which was the case on this lunch), then you deserve a 10/10….but way too many items left me wanting for more on this lunch (lobster, ravioles potageres, arlequin Robe des Champs), which in the end leaves me with the 8/10 as a fair overall score (update November 2013: a score that  has NOT stood the test of time – SEE my addendum, written in red, to the overall score section ) . More importantly, L’Arpège  continues to rank among  the stronger  3 star Michelin destinations around the globe, one of my few favourite.

Added in October 2013 – What I think a month later :   I purposely add this section to all my reviews because there’s of course different stages of the appreciation of a meal.  There is the  ‘right-off the bat’ stage  which is obviously the freshest impressions you have, then of course what you think about it later on. Some people think that you should always wait before  unveiling your thoughts about a meal, which to me is akin to  manipulating reality. It’s one thing to think for a while before making an important decision, but if  talking about the appreciation  of your meal does  require some second thoughts, then I am afraid you are just sharing a portion of the reality. What you’ve read before was my fresh impressions. What you’ll read next is where I stand a month  later: that meal at L’Arpège could be perceived as  a crash or a triumph depending on who you are as a diner. A crash if you think of a restaurant as that robot who’s supposed to  read in your mind and  feed you with the exact bites you want, which I think would be a naïve approach to dining. A triumph if you understand that a meal needs to be judged on the back of the heights it can reach, not in terms of this is good, that is less good and that is a bit better. Then, there’s also this important observation to make: there’s a reason some restaurants deserve their  3 star Michelin rank (needless to stress that for me, this is a strong 3 star when it ‘’touches the sky’’’ as it did on that meal). And that reason is the same that makes  a Porsche, a Lamborghini or a Ferrari  all well praised cars: the details!  If for you a Porsche is simply an assemblage or metal, nothing more, then do not bother with it! You are losing your time. Same thing for this meal at L’Arpège: if for you  that Arlequin of legumes is just a take on the couscous, or those ravioles are just interpretations of wonton soups, please do yourself a favor:  stick to the numerous canteens you won’t fail to find on your way.  Leave those to people who can appreciate the details / thoughts that were invested in those dishes. I do not mean to sound  rude by saying so, just pragmatic as you’d want to constructively tell to anyone who can’t properly appreciate a great song in its full nuances to simply stay away from it. Despite how easy as it sounds (upon reading many reports about their cooking), what I was sampling  takes, in facts,  a lot of training, efforts and skills (it’s one thing you not like a dish, it is another thing to trim it down to what it is not) . When this brigade at L’Arpège performs like  it did on this meal (referring to the finest dishes of this meal, obviously), the analogy I’ll consider is one related to sports, the 100 metres race: this brigade powered through the finish line when many of its peers are still at the starting blocks.

FAQ + Learn to know your food reviewer

Posted: December 26, 2010 in food critic
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My  reviews are written in a style that is not sellable / media or buzz-friendly. In other words, you will rarely find my reviews advertised on restaurant web sites or promoted in the foodie blogosphere. This is exactly what I want since the purpose of my reviews is to be as indepent as possible from the restaurant industry.

***My food rating system is explained here.

Also my background as a gourmand ->

I realized that most people do not take time to learn a bit more about the writer of the food review they are reading. It makes no sense to me.  That writer, being human, has naturally his/her  preferences as you, I, or anyone else  writing  about restaurant and food.

If, as an example, that writer does not like bistro food, I presume you understand that you might need to consider this when you need or read his advices on bistro food.

I personally am more into traditional fares (French, African, Asian, Carribean), therefore I will naturally tend to favor rich savourish dishes over simplistic display of raw ingredients on my plate. Of course, I love contemporary fares too:
I am fond of the modern bistro fares as much as I like their traditional versions. I do appreciate Modern French cuisine a lot, perhaps as much as I like traditional French.

I was born in a fishermen village, which explains my sacred fascination for seafood and why I am particularly demanding/strict when I evaluate seafood dishes. But I am as much picky with meats too: few years ago, curious about the buzz on Japanese seafood and beef, I sacrificed three months in just that -> enjoying what Japan was offering as its best beef and seafood. That was a fascinating experience that I will never forget, and also a reminder of  how the best of what others might have enjoyed  could be completely different from what you have liked the most. Japan has indeed amazing products and their top quality beef deserve the hype, but the best seafood I enjoyed was in Africa and the Carribean.
The best beef? hard to say.  Japan top graded beef are truly one thing you need to experience at least once in your life (it will be way too long for me to explain all the different types of top graded Japanese beef here. We’ll leave that for a later post on top Japanese beef, but their beef, at the upper echelon, is one experience you will not enjoy elsewhere), but I preferred the Australian beef. The top graded Argentinian beef, to my surprise, did not impress me up to now, but I need to spend more time in Argentina in order to have a more extended experience with their beef. I need to experience the Galician beef, of which I heard rave opinions. Chicken fared better to me in Africa (some chicken I tried there were far better than another chicken that I love so dearly and that is highly praised, for good reasons because it is indeed a great chicken: France’s poulette de Bresse).

The best meat I ever ate: a roasted tailless tenrec  over 15 yrs ago, in the Indian Ocean. No meat at a 3* Michelin restaurant, none of the widly praised meats, not one dining venture ever came close to that one.

I am very curious and want to submit my palate to as much tastes as possible, thus  I tend to try all sort of food. There are many remote places I’d like to go just to taste their food: I dream of spending years with remote saharian, amazonian tribes and discover their cuisine, their cooking techniques.


Let’s conclude on a straightforward Q&A’s in order for you to better read/interpret/understand my restaurant evaluations:

You have cooked and have been passionate about food trends since the latest 1980s. What are the main differences between what you have experienced in the latest 1980s Vs now?  In the latest 80s, on the mainstream, you had access to  ingredients that were of far superior quality to what is considered as “exceptional” nowadays. Stellar  tuna, eggs,  poultry,  meat,  fish, all of that were just part of your normal life. You had honey made by bees, meat and milk with no chemical manipulation to the contrary of what is  “fashion” these days. You really had the taste of what things were. The era in which we live right now, the 2000s, that  is an era that I call the BIG FRAUD: for a long time, in that period,  honey made of flowers was sold as honey made by bees. Of course, the newer generations could not tell the difference and the fraudsters got away with it. Right now, they are more careful about the scam of the honey and  the honey that is sold to the mass is  now generally labeled as it is (anything but not made by bees!). And people are getting a bit smarter about it: honey sold at $10 cannot come from bees…Lol!. That said, it remains a period of disgusting fraud: they now call pretty much everything ‘Bio” to cash in. But the ‘Bio’ they are talking about was just ‘normal’, ‘natural’ in the context of the 1980s. The other day I  did invite my Mom at a 3 star Michelin so that she can appreciate what is considered as ‘exceptional produce’ at the present time  —because the fraudulent system within which we live today ensures that you have to pay a leg and an arm to get access to what is considered ‘exceptional’ — and we had the laugh of our life: all produce that could not hold a candle to what was just “normal produce” in the late 1980s.

Why a food blog..when there is certainly no shortage of food blogs out there??  Is your food blog different from most food blogs?  Why a food blog? Mainly because I wanted to share my foodie adventures with foodies who help me find great places where I can dine at across the globe. Therefore, instead of sharing my adventures by email, it was easier to put them in writing on a blog. But it is true…I shall concede…. that I did not content myself with yet another food blog. I went several steps further:  let us not forget that the big majority of food blogs —- not ALL of them, but the big majority —  are promotional tools for the food industry. Therefore, right there, I was going to be very different from the ‘mass’. Most food blogs have a section called ‘preferred links’. You look at them and you quickly realize that they are links of the food blogs of their friends or links of food blogs that offer the same type of content (for example: all links of food bloggers covering their foodie adventures of the same areas of the globe, all links to food blogs of people writing in the same fashion, etc) . There are food bloggers who use that space with much more genuine creativity. They are  rare, but they do exist. I am one of those rare ones who seize that opportunity to include in my  ‘preferred links’ the food blogs that I found the most educative in African cuisine, the most practical for Asian cooking.  I have preferred links covering breads, oysters, etc. I do not do that because I want ‘to be different’, NO…it is just natural in me: I believe that if you are really passionate about something,  it will show. I am genuinely  passionate about food? Then I do not limit myself with the quality of the writings of a food blog. I do not limit myself to trends. When I go to a country, I do not limit myself to Michelin star restaurants. That is like saying that you like architectures but you turn around and talk only about castles and luxurious buildings.  Have a look at the ‘best meals of the year’ of most food bloggers. It is just another opportunity for them to do the list of every single Michelin star restaurant that they ate at. Nothing more. Take a look at mine and you will see that there are non Michelin star restaurants which meals deserve much more praises that the ones of their Michelin starred counterparts. Many food bloggers brag about their passion for food, but it is pure BS! They are more interested about their image, the nice pics they have to submit on instagram, the trends, their  friends of the industry  than being really passionate about food.

Why anonymous? Because guess what…a normal diner has always been anonymous, not a fame-seeker, not a celebrity. I am interested by the dining experience that any normal diner has a chance to partake in, not one where the normal cooking and experience is adjusted because you are recognized….good for those taking advantage of such situations, but it is irrelevant for someone like me who wants to know how things are happening in normal conditions.

In a world where most would not shy away from a moment of fame and freebies, why are you taking the opposite route? Indeed, most would prefer fame and freebies and I wish I was like that as it would make my life certainly easier in the relevant aspects (less money to spend, better food as I’d essentially attend PR related meals with all the bells and whistles that come along, etc).  But then, that would not be me. Things like those do boil down to who you are as a person, how you view life, how you were brought up. I take no pleasure in benefitting from privileges and attention, I am a giver, not a taker so right there it’s easy to understand how freebies and fame are useless notions for me. At best, I can appreciate that they are useful to others.

It is widely known that most food bloggers and food journalists are, in facts, promoters of the food industry and tourism authorities. Therefore not credible. What is your take on that? I am not concerned by that. Whether someone doubts of the credibility of my blog or not, I could not care less. I am here to document my foodie adventures. If it pleases you, good for you. If Not, then your loss. Not mine.

Your blog does not focus on beautiful write-ups. And you tend to use profusely words such as ‘competent’.  I am NOT sorry about the overuse of the word ‘competent’ in this blog. There are plenty of blogs, online, who are paid to be careful with the quality of their text as their role is to promote the food industry. Good for them, but I could not care less about that. My role is to tell you what is COMPETENT or not on the back of my years spent enjoying food not just the way it has been for the last 5 years, Lol, but the way it was done  3 to 4 decades ago, which means the way it has always been rather than the way it should be … so if you are more interested by the BS of beautiful reviews, you are on the wrong blog. But If you have a genuine interest in  what food should be really about, you are on the right blog. I am not writing this to sound rude, but to be pragmatic and  to avoid misplaced expectations

In order to find a restaurant where to go to eat, do you rely on the crowd-sourced review forum, online reviews of critics? That is the  first step  of anyone who  finds a restaurant. So, years ago, that is what I used to do: looking at the reviews on  the crowd-sourced review forums, reading the reviews of critics. In those days, there was a reasonable proportion  of honest reviewers, meaning people who are not there to promote the agenda of the food industry but doing their honest / anonymous / normal  duty of sharing their views as any honest / anonymous / normal Joe or Jane would. But now, it is very different: the web is infested by business competitors who try to put down each other by overwhelming those  crowd-sourced review forums with  a plethora of profiles of their own creation and paying the food critics to play, Tourism authorities flooding the web with plenty of friendly food blogs, etc.  It is exactly as you would expect it to be: a multi-billion industry who ensures that its  flaws are  silenced, its fake  glory marketed as real, etc. So, normal stuff, nothing out of the ordinary, here. Consequently, it is also normal that I cannot rely on these widely known  unrealiable sources of info to find a restaurant.

Marco Pierre White once decried the fact that he was assessed by people who knew less than him
Marco could afford saying that kind of stupid thing because he was a true great Chef. I say stupid because it is always stupid to try to shutdown the voice of others when you are living in a democracy full of grown men and women … NOT  in a banana republic. I say stupid because how can he know that those who are assessing his food are not better than him. It is not because you think you are right, that others are not! I say stupid because there is obviously a difference between doing the work of a critic and doing the work a cook. When Marco reads the critic of a movie, does he expect the critic to be as good as the actors in the movie? I know people try all sorts of tactics to discourage views that are not favorable to themselves, but that logic of criticizing the assessment of a critic is infantile at best. That said 90% of the restaurants of this globe do have kitchen brigades that cooks average food that is inferior to what most can cook at home.


Any problem with those seeking fame? Nope. It is their rights. If you want to use food blogging to make a name in the food industry and build your career, or make friends, or standing as the cool kid of the block, why not? It is your right. But obviously, I am not going to get the ‘right time’ with  what you are communicating .


In regards to your blog, what achievement are you the most proud of? Many, not all, but most …have hard time distancing themselves from emotional aspects. For eg, if the restaurant is very famous, they look forward to put it down at the first opportunity. If it’s pricey, same thing. If they have been to a fancy modern restaurant that have impressed them, the next classic restaurant they will visit will pass as subpar, not because it is subpar but because they are mixing up emotions with rationality. One of the very first reasons that brought me into food blogging was to keep that  in check, to control it. So, I work hard in focusing on what is on my plate regardless of trends, buzz, opinions,etc. This is the kind of thing that will never be apparent to the most, but what matters is that I am proud to have achieved the impossible: when a meal is bad, it is bad and I will say it but I know deep inside of me that it is bad because I found it bad, not because of superfluous reasons. When it is great, same thing. My blog makes you realize that the big majority of the food bloggers and food journalists know nothing about food. They just follow trends. They will praise  whatever the food industry wants them to praise. As an example, they know how to rate western and japanese food. But when it comes to anything that is not japanese or western, they will rate it lower. I have never seen one single major food blogger or food journalist who is  capable to identify a benchmark (10/10) non western or japanese dish. It speaks volume about how clueless and ignorant and anything you want but true connoisseurs of food they are!

What’s the thinking behind this blog? All my personal initiatives (meaning initiatives on which I have full control) follow this attern -> I look at what already exist, observe what I (subjectively) perceive as missing  and start building upon such observation. It’s not meant to purposely play the role of the “outsider” for the pleasure of it, that is not the intent. The intent is to broaden my horizon  with varied perspectives. If most foodies are writing diairies or simply posting pics of their meals, I respect that, but I find interesting, for me at least, to bring more. So I rate my meal, I try my best to either be  concise or, to the contrary, to enrich my opinion with more than what is usually found. I see most people making friends and I say “oh, let’s see how things will fare, in the restaurant world, without…“. I go to some restaurants where there are restrictions to normal diners, but that is not mentioned anywhere else, so I mention them because I want normal diners to know what awaits. I see people writing about what’s basically a private restaurant and I think “this does not cater to the normal diner that I am, so NO, I won’t write about such place”. I see people writing in their mother tongue and I say “omg, good for them, I respect that, but that is too comfort zone for me”.   It might not be perfect as it’s the nature of virtually everything, but it’s the way I view things.

-Your blog is designed to remain an “underground” foodie souce. Aren’t you afraid that it remains “anonymous”?

It will be popular, at some point. I do not not know when, but it will be. Because people are “never  satisfied” by nature. They like what is popular, indeed, but at some point they get used to that and want the opposite of … just that, lol! And a real Chef with a head on his shoulders, do you really think he is naive enough to believe that he can thrive on the back of opinions about how great things are?? Lol.  It would be naive to think that it is the case. He won’t reveal it to the world, for sure, but he will, secretely, look for opinions like the ones you find on “underground” blogs like mine.

-There is an educational dimension to your blog? Why is that?
I think it is important. I see many people going to restaurants with unrealistic expectations and that is because of the lack of information on what to expect when dining out. Even myself, I sometimes forget that restaurants are manned by human beings. The other day, a friend had to remind me that it was naive from my part to expect some restaurateurs to maintain a high level of cooking performance if there is no incentive. So true. What peep would be motivated to cook well on a consistently basis with no incentive?
I know, the incentive is supposed to be the money you are paying for your meal, but the average biped does not “walk” that way. You paying for your meal…that, they take it for granted.

-In some of you reviews, you criticize those who have a beef against restaurants frequented by tourists. Which comes as a surprise considering that you invest lots of time finding genuine food. The sight of tourists in a restaurant should normally be an alarming sign to someone like you. When you do not know your food, you tend to be distracted by things that have nothing to do with food. The tourist which presence  you are futilely distracted by … is probably a well travelled foodie who is more passionate and knowledgeable than  you about food. Touristy or not, if you know your food, you will know if your food is  good or not. That’s all that matters. The BS about tourists is the usual crap coming from clueless people who think that food is great or not depending on who is in the dining room.

-How difficult was that, for you, to decide sharing about your foodie adventures?  For someone who comes from very humble backgrounds like me, the hardest part was to learn to respect the other foodies out there. When you were born in a fishermen village and have spent your childhood extracting the most out of a simple piece of fresh fish, you tend to lack respect to ppl who seem to run without having learned to walk. In the beginning, reading things like ‘the squid was excellent because it was tender’ or the ‘abalone was the finest because it was melt in your mouth tender’…and that ‘this squid or that abalone was bad because I’ve eaten more tender versions of it’ ..reading that kind of crap was really frustrating for me. I kept saying to myself “how come they pretend they like something and they do not even bother  finding out, at the source, about how a fresh piece of abalone or squid looks/smells/feels   in its ””just-snatched from floor of the-sea” condition.  And those folks kept feeding my sarcasm: some having half of the vegetables and meats featuring among ” things they do not like”, others rushing to restaurants with no clue of how the restaurant operates (you know, the famous ”the portions are too small”….at a gourmet restaurant..c’mon!!!!!!!!!!), some expecting bistrot ambience at gourmet restaurants, others comparing low level cooking skills to top level ones only because they have no clue of the efforts and true technical depth that sets apart the great from the just ok, a nutshell, a collection  of complete mess. Naturally,  the cooking skills  of  of those  critics is limited to boiling some  egg, making an omelette.  So with time I learned to tolerate such individuals, I learned  to accept the idea that they are   entitled to their opinion eventhough they have zero  knowledge of what they are talking about.


What do you think about cooks who suggest that they could not care about critics and opinions? That they work only for their customers? I doubt those cooks would like the opposite scenario of no one talking/caring about their work. And what’s a critic? Guess what..he’s a customer. He is just sharing his opinion about what he has enjoyed. Exactly as any other customer would do, unless those cooks consider ‘customers’ as those who are not entitled to an opinion.  Spitting on a ‘sea of free advertisement’ (that’s basically what we, food bloggers, are; that is basically what food journalism is, too) provided by  people paying with their hard earned money, that is everything you want except brilliance.  Clearly,  suggesting that you could not care about critics is a plain stupid declaration.

Is that true that the restaurant world manipulates the food blogging scene? Life is a manipulation. Virtually everything is a manipulation.  Take my own  blog:  I believe in what I do, which means assessing my food from the perspective of a normal diner paying for his food and rejecting  ‘ fame through food blogging’ as any normal diner should, but at the end of the count it is still manipulation as in the concerned situation, I am manipulated by my belief that this is the right thing to do.  So, I do not care about manipulation. All I am asking the restaurant world is to remember that normal diners (which count  for the majority of their clientele)  are paying to enjoy  good food, and they (the restaurateurs) are paid to deliver it.

-What do you say to people who finds reviews of food to be exxagerated? By nature, an opinion is an exxageration because it is a perception. You are basically saying what you think of what you’ve  perceived as facts. An opinion about someone else’s opinion is a double exxageration because you are not even talking about your perception of facts, you are talking about what others have perceived.

Why do you rarely state that  this or that restaurant deserves this or that X award/rating, etc? There’s a huge difference between people who have cooked for a long time (like me) Vs those who are judging the restaurant world with no experience in a kitchen. A huge one, and that is not a reproach, that is not to elect one opinion as better as another, not at all, that is  just an observation. People who have cooked since a long time tend to be very careful about comparisons. They wait and wait and wait until they gather lots of evidence / material before risking comparisons, because they know that what most are basically doing is judging tastes/opinions of others but that beyond that, there are so many factors that only them have experienced with (mood of the cook, produce that is one day great, another day impossible to get, etc). Those who are not sensibilized to those realities judge hastily as you and I would judge anything we are not that knowledgeable about. At the end of the day, everybody is entitled to an opinion and it’s up to their respective audience to do the rest.

The problem with most diners, nowadays? They should consider dining  out only upon ensuring that  they are  really familiar with the type of cooking offered at the restaurant where they are heading, as well as the true purpose of that restaurant.  You hurt both your wallet and your intelligence when you dine out with ignorance at the core of your actions/judgements and you can’t hide that:  if you go to a bistrot expecting fine dining, if you are eating a properly well executed classic dish but you were expecting, without knowing it, sparks of modern cooking, you really sound as stupid as those who go to the sea and can’t stand water. Ask  aunts, uncles,  grandmas/grandpas, people familiar with textures and tastes of past generations cooking  to cook /show you/educate your palate  about the classic dishes you are interested to try at the restaurant, then your opinions will have better substance. But do not go to a restaurant simply because it is highly regarded by others. Before expecting something to be great, you should first know what you like, if what you like is really something you are familiar with/have understood/appreciated to greater extent.  I love food, have familiarized my palate with food from all around the globe, from various generations, and yet there are food of which I give no opinion (for eg Russian, Romania cuisines), food that I do not assess because they have either flavors that are acquired taste for my palate or simply because I am not fully familiar with all its nuances. I can’t judge that because I have no real reference, no real experience, no real knowledge with that sort of food.   Once you know, you’ll really know what is bad and what is really good, or else you are making a fool of your ownself.

Did you experience with restaurants that you suspect of offering fake dining experiences? Fortunately, they do not abound but YES, I know of some restaurants that can’t be serious at what they do. I always give them 2 to 3 tries, just to make sure that it’s not my mind playing tricks, but you feel that kind of things right from the 1st visit…you feel it  when a restaurant has nothing to do with what you’ve read in the  reviews…they tend to  keep  having nothing to do with what is reported online even after a 2nd, even a 3rd visit…you know right away that is a fake restaurant, dispatching its better cooking staff when a food journalist is dining in the house but not capable to deliver consistently.

Is it true that they segregate diners at most restaurants, for eg the better looking ppl are provided with the best seats, etc – Many restaurants do that. But that does not bother me at all as it’s the food that matters to me.  If your food is bad and you segregate diners on top of that, then you  are a dump!

Do you care about criticisms over food bloggers? No, I can’t care about that.  I”ll politely listen, of course as I have always believed in freedom of thought. My own kid, my relatives, they are actually my harshest critics. Kids have ‘no filter’, they say the truth and my kid’s criticism would make a grown man cry, lol. But here’s the thing: for me, there are times for caring about criticisms. Again, if you want to be a celebrity food blogger, if you want to find a window of  opportunity in this industry, of course you need to care about what people think. But not every people are  interested to approach the foodie world as an opportunity to make a buck and I am genuinely one of those. Listen, when I first decided to launch my food blog, a foodie friend urged me to first read  couple of  very popular food blogs. Indeed, they had all it takes to be very popular: all well written as their  authors are writing in their mother tongue, using a very ‘magazine-like” writing style,  so clearly operating in their comfort zone and caring about the image/packaging of their craft.  Most showing no restraint in the use of the usual  bells and whistles: stunning pics, amazing web page layout, etc. But three observations jumped to my attention:  (1)I found that many of those had a ‘static palate” or take their palates ‘for granted’.  Exempli gratia, they do not like something in X period of time, and would still not like it 3,5 years later.  I can understand that there can be 1 or two flavors that are acquired tastes and if you do not like it, well you don’t and it’s correct that it reflects on your assessment   BUT it’s a   problem when no effort is made to better understand food we did not like in the first place. When I do not like something, I am still curious: I go back to the people who know that taste  and I try to understand what it is about. What appeals to them? I have no clue if that will make the food better next time I’ll try it, but as someone who pretends to like food, I do at least try to understand what does not seem to be to my liking. I suspect most do not do that…which is nonsensical  if you say you like food. (2) most had authors who have many ingredients they did not like. It’s Ok not to like couple of ingredients, but when your list of undesirable  ingredients covers almost 30% of what nature is delivering, well…I am sorry but you can’t call yourself ‘someone who loves food’.  (3)They seemed to find certain sort of cuisine superior to others. For eg, they were capable of identifying the lows and the benchmark in X type of cuisine, but just lows and just the good, never the benchmarks, in others. That I cannot  understand: how on earth, do you pretend to like food and yet you show some restraint in your assessment of certain types of food. How on earth do you pretend loving food, are able to identify a benchmark dish in French cooking, to take an example,  but you can’t do the same in African or Haitian or Thai cuisine? How? This is actually a classic problem: many people can’t judge food in its context. They have to judge it in relation to irrelevant aspects: for eg, they judge Thai food on the basis of  the realities of french cooking. They do even worst than that: they judge a Pizza in X place in relation to a Pizza in Y place, obviously ignoring plenty of important elements: water is not the same, flour not the same, the clientele (so the palate of the people eating the pizzas) not the same at all at  both locations.  That’s beyond comprehension, for me. Of course this whole thing is subjective, but you should still be able to identify what’s a benchmark, in your own subjective opinion,  if you are confident about identifying the lows. I went back to my foodie friend who was in shock that I’d decide to not write in my mother tongue (French), ditch the popular stuff and just stick to what I deemed necessary to focus on:  appreciating food as a normal diner, without the need to perceive it as a trend, and with as much effort I can deploy in assessing it the most accurate way possible within its glorious subjectiveness. Again, it’s imperfect as anything operated by human beings, certainly utterly boring to some, obviously not the cool/right way if you want to make friends in the foodie world, but it has at least the merit to be what it is, whick means sticking to its own identity/purpose  rather than ‘morphing’ into  what others want it to be.

What are the funniest things you heard about food blogging?
Many things, but one that is laughable is when ppl tell you that you are copying someone else’s writing style. Give me a break: writing and talking is not the private property of anyone in particular. You can tell me that I am copying X, and trust me that if I focus on the matter, it won’t take be long to prove you that X is copying Y, Lol. And we can go and on, endlessly, at  that game.    I mean, there are more than 6 billions of bipeds on this planet, and planet earth was not discovered few days ago, Lol…so I am not naïve enough to start believing that there are ppl out there who are inventing anything new in this time and age? Bottom line, I write the way I want and if some are not happy with it, that is their problem.

What to look for, primarily,  in my reviews:  the NUMBER rating! Two dishes can be well conceived, flawless and the words I’ll write on both cases will naturally reflect the relevant situation. No need to put down one great dish because another one is better.  So  how will you know that one is still  superior to the other? The number will talk for it! 10/10 – Exceptional (level of daring deliciousness that is rarely fullfilled, a benchmark in terms of taste), 9/10 – Excellent (flawless, delicious, daring but not a benchmark), 8/10 (Very good), 7/10 (Good … but at a 2 or 3 star dining level, this is not enough to me and means “not recommendable”). Anything below 7/10 is bad.

What do I value primarily in the evaluation of a dish? The TASTE! All my life I have focused rigorously on taste enjoyment via my own personal research for richer/more vibrant flavors and  with personal routine of  dining practices such as (1) never sampling anything that could alter taste perception within the 5 hrs prior to a meal…so no coffee, no tea, nothing acidic..etc  (2) closing my eyes and totally freeing my mind from any apprehension on the first bites of sampled dish. There are many other little practical techniques (that I use) in order to try to enjoy the dish with the closest neutral perception  possible, but you get the idea.

-You grew up in a small seaside town of the Indian ocean, relying on the sea for food. That seemed to have shaped your particularly hard assessment of   seafood dishes in general. You can live by the side of the sea and do have no interest in what comes from it. It just happened that I was fortunate enough to have no allergy to seafood and a decent palate as well as a profound passion for quality seafood because dazzling seafood kept coming from that sea. Nowadays, in the West, you have all that  buzz about the great tuna of this place, the superb oysters from that other place, and all the bla bla bla that comes with it. But it is mostly seafood that they had to freeze at some point, then thaw it to feed you.  So nowhere near the dazzling freshly caught seafood that never ‘saw a freezer’  of my chilhood in the Indian Ocean. Therefore, when I stumble upon great seafood, you will feel it in my review. Seafood is the most ‘sacred’ food, for me, which means that I tend to be more impressed by a Chef cooking great seafood. But of course, great food is great food, so if you cook great meats and vegetables, I will be as impressed, naturally.

Will the gimmicky looking food items automatically suffer from poor ratings since I prefer elaborate, refined and rich classic fares?   I do not care about the looks. The food needs to taste great, that is all I am  looking  for.

Will the food evaluation suffer from its price? Absolutely not! I am rating the delicousness level of the food (10 is exceptional, 9 is excellent, 8 is very good,  7 is good,   anything below is bad), not its value.

Should we expect French fares to be better rated that others? That would be a mistake. Food is tasty or not, regardless of its origins. The African food item that my palate identifies as the tastier that it ever sampled, deserves a 10 as much as its Japanese, Chinese,Quebecois, French, Thai, Burmese, Haitian, Latin American counterparts.

Will  classic fares benefit from more reviews  than the latest experimental cutting edge food? I am big on classical French/African/Oriental/Caribbean fares,  classic French bistro,  modern haute French, bistro Moderne. But sometimes I get bored and love trying out molecular / experimental cuisine too. So Yes, this blog will rarely  focus   on the latest.

What to avoid as a food critic? Do not try to cheat (for eg, trying friendly critiques,  seeking for exchange of favors, etc).  That will show up:  people eat out a lot nowadays,  so they will quickly find out about your little games. For eg,  I once trusted a food columnist who raved a lot about a specific Chef. My friends kept  telling me that there was a huge gap between what she was raving about Vs reality. I wanted to see for myself. I went eating at the restaurant of that Chef .  He was the only one cooking on that day. And I discovered that indeed, that  food columnist was just promoting that Chef since the latest was not even capable of cooking very basic fares. Also:  if you are allowed privileges that others won’t get … people will quickly realize that they can’t trust you.  For all those reasons, I prefer staying anonymous, avoiding close relationship with the restaurant world,  so that my experience reflects the reality of the most.

Common misconceptions? Thinking that someone who rates a dish as excellent, or who raves about a Chef … is suspicious. That’s a big mistake that the most  tend to do. Although understandable (I am the first one who find that ‘hard to believe’ sometimes ;p), we must be honest:  when a dish is excellent to our standards, it should be said. If 10 dishes out of 10 were flawless, you should say it.  Thinking that others might find it ‘fishy’ is right there a manipulation of our own experienced reality.

How do you react when something you found great is perceived as not that great by someone else? There’s no reaction to have. Just means you have different tastes.

Is it easy to write reviews? About anything is easy when it is done without rigor.  If writing about restaurant was just a matter of sitting at a table and contenting myself with describing my food,  then I’d not do this. What attracted me into writing about dining is all the discipline that is involved:  how far can I control my human emotions and judge my food as accurately as possible? How far can I  detach mysefl from  the surrounding  distractions around my meal? How far can I resist to popular perceptions and freely express what’s on my mind (see previous question)? How far do I know myself to provide  opinions on a given type of food:  for eg, I  sometimes see people judging food that  they just don’t like  in the first place.  That is easy to spot:  the person, whatever he or she eats,  is never capable of appreciating one single dish of that given type of cuisine. That is absolutely normal:  I, too, have some types of food that I just can’t appreciate. What is not normal though is to judge a type of food you can’t like since your perception of it is already biased. I only review cuisines that I understand and appreciate because I can then accurately tell you which dish I found good or bad. The cuisines that I do not like,  I simply describe them and also wait to be enoughly familiar, knowledgeable about them before providing my readers with opinions on them.  I also follow very strict practices that I believe are essential for your judgement about food to be accurate such as never eating anything and drinking only flat water within the 4,5 hours leading to a meal that I want to review. It is a nonsense to review a dinner without any ethic, method.

What to look for in a food critic? Just one thing:  his dining history / experience and pray that(1) he/she is honest about it and (2) she/ he has a good palate!  That is like having a lot of money…it does not mean that you will have good taste ;p  Any critic should expose her/his pedigree so that her/his readers have an idea of how to interpret her/his views.  I’m exposing mine here:  extensive experience with French haute fine dining at both classic and modern level in France and abroad (Taillevent, Senderens,  Bocuse, Guerrard, Le Gavroche, Gagnaire, Passard’s Arpège,  Bernard Loiseau, Michel Bras, French Laundry, Guy Savoy, Lumière, etc),  same with Classic and Modern French Bistros throughout France and abroad,  African fares (Especially Western fares like those from Togo, Senegal + Central Africa with focus on Congolese food, Indian Ocean,  Eastern as in Ethiopian fares, Northern as in Morrocan, Libyan, Egyptian) Oriental fares (Indian, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese but on the classic level only. So zero experience of Modern Oriental fares unless you count Oriental/French fusioned fares like those at Tetsuya),  African classic fares, Caribbean classic fares.  Have I covered everything to be the perfect food critic? ABSOLUTELY NOT! NO ONE WILL! I know nothing about the upscale Japanese fine dining (their top 2, 3 star Michelin), I know nothing about most of the Latin American  (Chile, Equador, etc), Russian, East European cuisines. So, as you can see no one will ever be knowledgeable enough about food.  What this tells you though is that that in French fine dining, French Bistro fares, African food, most of the common Oriental fares, you know what to expect from my opinions.  My reviews of seafood dishes are also ones you should play attention to since I have a life time obsessive admiration for great seafood and have educated my palate accordingly. So needless to stress that bad seafood is subject of rough reports, chefs not capable of offering great seafood dishes are perceived as poor skilled cooks.  Proof that no one, absolutely no one  will ever stand as  perfect! At least,  you know what to expect and how to read my reports, Rfaol! Also: I tend to prefer skilled artisan Chefs (you know, those who are in their kitchen for real..) over cooks who are in the comfort of their leaving room or parading on TV whilst I am dining at their table….

What about the preconception that food bloggers do this to get freebies? It’s like with anything in life:  there are fake chefs and there are true Chefs as well. There are corrupted renumerated food critics, there are honest ones too. There are lowlife  opportunistic  food bloggers, and there are those with ethics as well.

Should restaurateurs be afraid of food critics? A dishonest and not capable restaurateur should because he/she knows deep inside inside of him/herself that there are reasons not to be at peace with her/his work. I came to realize that most chefs who can’t deliver (for eg:  not capable of getting the job done because they can’t be present behind their stove)  tend to not appreciate food critics. Of course there are unfortunately some stupid critics who are mixing up personal vendettas with the seriousness of accurately reviewing a dinner, but that is easy cheap shot to spot. That should not be an excuse for restaurateurs to refuse to live in peace with the notion of freedom of speech.

What about restaurants playing the ‘checklist’. Are they penalized in my review? Life is a checklist! Whatever you do, however rebellious or original you feel, you are filling out a checklist! A while back, a  trend  arose:  let’s put an end to the stuffy haute fine dining theme! Guess what:  now, that trend is criticized to play the game of the new checklist: trying to be too cool, trying to be too simple at all cost!  It ”does not seem natural anymore””, in the eyes of some! Rfaol!  Now, we all know what the checklist might look like in the type of restaurants that I am reviewing through the current web site: a spoon of caviar over here, an endless  array of nibbles over there, theatricality over here and so on. All of that is nice, but they do not count in the  evaluation of my dinner! You will rarely see me writing a lot about that aspect of my dinner, at best couple of words on it because it is always a good thing to know that this table is a bit more generous  than another.  But with me, you won’t run from the essential:  whatever caviar or edible gold  leaf you are adding to my dish…it’s the dish that needs to be stellar! It’s the dish that needs to impress me. It’s the technical conception, the level of enjoyment, the sense of worth of that dish that will prevail in my judgement! So, play the checklist, I do not mind…I’ll focus on the essential list, anyway!

Do opinions of others matter in my evaluations? Opinions should be always encouraged. We need to talk, exchange, find ideas  in order to step forward. But when you review  your own dinner, you have  to say what you think, not what others want you to think…right? Or else, what is the point? You may as well rename your work ‘the opinion of others!””..Rfaol!  Your opinion counts because mine counts, too. This web site is about my opinion: what you have experienced at those restaurants is what you have experienced.  What I’ve experienced is what I’ve experienced.  There’s nothing I can’t  say about yours since it’s not my experience and vice versa. Of course, there are little things we need to know: for eg, I keep reminding to people that two dinners can’t exactly happen the same way because many things can differ: the presence or not of the same chef? his / her state of mind, who’s cooking your food?…etc The restaurant world is a tough affair: as tough for a Chef who gives his 100% but has humanly no control over what may happen as it is for a reviewer.  A reviewer has people he/she likes a lot and who trust his/her  reviews. Imagine when those people who you truely do not want to disappoint may face a disappointing reality you have no clue it may have happened! Alas, such is the reality of things.

-A good Chef? One who has a good palate and who won’t serve you a dish he would not pay for.

-A bad Chef? The opposite of my definition of a good Chef ;p

-The best Chefs of all times?  Of all times, that …no one knows. But based on pure technical skills and exceptional ability to deliver food for what it should, which means ultimate pleasure,  I have my top 5: Jacques Maximin, Gerard Besson, Christian Constant, Joel Robuchon, Frédy Girardet  when they were behind the stoves. In 2011, I discovered another exceptional Chef who deserves a seat  among my personal all times favourite, and it is Bernard Pacaud of L’Ambroisie (unfortunately, I discovered him when he was close to retirement, but what an exceptional palate this great among the greatest man has!).  I really miss Chef Besson and it is true that JF Piège when he was at Les Ambassadeurs, that was something.  I will also never forget Chef Alain Passard: he treats his  produce with a passion that you could sense miles away!  It is almost as if he talks to them, tell them how they should express themselves, and they do listen to him with equal enthusiasm. Sadly, this is the kind of things you can’t transmit to others (a brigade, in this case), so sometimes people go to L’Arpège and ask what all the fuss about Passard is about. Make no mistake: when Passard cooks for you, it can be epic in emotions.  On the human aspect, my favourite Chef has to be Guy Savoy. He is the Mahatma Ghandi of the restaurant world, a force tranquille, a universe of positive vibration, a first class human being. Everyone should always have a copy of his interview with Agents  d’Entretiens.FR. Perhaps the most brilliant and inspiring interview that a Chef has ever delivered.

Montreal is the city which restaurants you know the most. To you, how does Montreal fare on the International restaurant  scene? Montreal is an amazing city, full of great things such as a cultural and artisitic scene of world class standard.  BUT the food at its restaurants, though  generally not bad, remains  a world away from  this globe’s finest food cities. There are, currently in Montreal, only 5 to 6 Chefs of whom I can safely say that they have the proper skills and discipline to really shine in any of this globe’s best dining cities. But that’s out of  6000 cooks and more! So, for now, Montreal is clearly an overrated dining city.  Montreal restaurant scene will never compete with the finest food scenes abroad as long as they overlook true skills, which is essentially what  has been the problem up to now:  the rare times I stumbled upon a world class Chef, in Montreal, he/she either had to leave the city or lower his/her standards. There have been some few of those exceptional  Chefs who did insist on maintaining  their standards high, but their dining room is oftently empty. So most inevitably opt for the easy way around, cooking what sells most (simple bistrot fares, etc) and they are not to be blamed. They have mouths to feed as anyone else.

-Your biggest disappointment about the Montreal restaurant scene? The usual problem  you see everywhere else: some  brilliant Chefs  who lost the passion of the craft, lacked discipline, got the big head, fooled themselves into believing that they are stars,  and are now performing the role of restaurateurs who can’t seriously deliver. That is the problem when you can’t bother learning to walk and are already busy running. Those folks   think they are Alain Ducasse / Joel Robuchon / Gordon Ramsey, but they are nowhere near. Ducasse, Robuchon and Ramsey are nowadays restaurateurs, it is a fact, but they went through long years of rigorous learning, and mastery of what they wanted to offer to their customers, they know exactly what they are doing. Consequently, People working for Ducasse, Robuchon and Ramsey are very serious, very talented, highly reliable. Which is rarely the case of most of those ex-brilliant Montreal Chefs who were lured into turning hastily into restaurateurs (most  have poorly skilled cooks / brigades working for them ). The other major problem of the Montreal restaurant scene are the prices (in relation to what’s offered):  in Montreal, a starter of  pan sear foie gras will cost you, in general, in between $15 to $25 (which means in between eur 10 to eur 17). In comparison, a piece of foie gras of that same size would cost you less that 5 euros in San Sebastian. In that 5 euros, do not be surprise if a free glass of wine (Txakoli) is included. In Montreal, your glass of wine may vary in between $10 to $15 on average.To make matters worst, during my stay of 2 weeks in San Sebastian, I have eaten foie gras at least a dozen of time and 99% of what I was eating was always perfectly cooked and featured dazzling livery flavour. In comparison, if I take the 15 years of dining in Montreal, I’d be generous if I’d tell you that 50% of all foie gras dishes I had in town matched what I had in San Sebastian. We are talking about something as very basic as pan sear foie gras here. I know some people are busy selling Montreal as a great food city on par with this world’s best food cities, but I think that is a huge mistake as this simple comparison between Montreal and a true food city like San Sebastian demonstrates . Again, the food is generally not bad at all, in Montreal, and there are indeed couple of world class Chefs and restaurants, but we need to be rational:  the reality is that we are a world away from this globe’s finest food cities where world class Chefs can’t just be counted on the fingers on one hand (the case of Montreal’s current food scene).

-When you know the restaurant scene of a city, Montreal in your case, is is tempting to mock those who are lured to believe that they’ve tried the best of your city while you know well that they are delusional? No, that would be a mistake. When you do not know a place, you tend to follow what’s best sold to you. Since  what’s best sold does not always mean that it’s what’s best done, most people will somewhat be inaccurate in their assessment. We all are victims of that situation. Even when you use caution: for eg, when I visit a new city, I pick 2 tables recommended by the usual  advertisements for tourists, 2 tables from the network of local foodies that I’d approach, then 2 based on online reviews I believe to be trustworthy. And yet, it is not a perfect process at all. The only thing that I avoid is to listen to celebrities: they seem to uniformly appreciate everything. Which is fine, and I wish things were like that, I too would love to believe that everything is positive, but that is unfortunately far from being realistic. Mind you, it is rare that a restaurant would treat a normal diner the same way they would treat a celebrity, so right there it’s useless for me to know what a celebrity thinks about a restaurant.

Nowadays, you go to NYC to enjoy great food as Montreal’s food scene  appears to you as not great enough. Was that always the case? And what can make Montreal a great food city again?

No, it has not always been the case. In between 2001 and 2010, Montreal was a true world class dining destination. In those days, a very charismatic and highly skilled local Chef, Martin Picard, made the local food scene exciting. He came with APDC, did put it as well as Montreal on the the map of the culinary world and Montreal happened to have world class Chefs pivoting around that, such as Chefs Olivier de Montigny/Marc De Canck of La Chronique, Claude Pelletier of Club Chasse et Peche, Benoit Lenglet of Au 5e péché, Jean-Paul Giroux of Cuisine et dépendance, Martin Juneau of Restaurant La Montée De Lait.  You also had Bronte (now closed since a long time) of Joe Mercuri, Michele, his brother, who was “on fire” in his heyday at XO Le Restaurant (he is not there anymore) or Chef Chef Jean-Francois Belair  who has worked wonders at Le Marly (a restaurant that is now closed).  After 2010, it went downhill. La Chronique continues to be great,  but APDC and  all the rest are  not as great as they used to be. Certainly not the world class food city that Montreal was in between 2001 and 2010. Not even a shadow of that. To make Montreal a great food city again, you cannot count on luck. Montreal was lucky to have an exciting Chef like Picard who was able to lead other talented Chefs in their quest for excellence. But that was pure  luck and just circumstance. The local tourism authorities will need to find other creative ways than just paying plenty of food bloggers and food journalists  to chant what is basically  a glory pertaining to the past.

Your blog’s name refer to your meals at Michelin star restaurants and yet you also have posts not related to your Michelin star’s experiences. Also, the blog name does  not sound ‘trendy’ at all.
It is my way of saying that when I have control over something, then my modus operandi is to  say ”enough of trends’!  Enough  with the preformatted / linear thinking! If the title of a blog bothers you, then all you care about is the shape and looks of the container, nothing more.

Talking about trends, do you understand the voices of those who argue that haute dining is generally intimidating, too stuffy to be enjoyable. It depends on what you expect from a restaurant. The only expectation that I have over haute dining is a certain level of cooking brilliance, meaning a touch/ a depth of flavor/technique/craftmanship that is not ordinary. Therefore, when I go to a haute dining venture and the cooking has no depth, that it stands as  ordinary as everyone else would have cooked at lesser restaurant levels, then I am frustrated and I will perceive the  relevant haute dining experience as worthless. Sadly,that happens a lot at plenty of haute dining ventures because many restaurants are busy selling concepts rather than delivering great food: for example, it is sometimes trendy to try to impress the diners with concepts like ‘cuisine à quatre mains’ (four-handed cooking). For someone, like me, for whom the finest cooking should be about a highly skilled Chef expressing his personal touch, four-handed cooking is a laughable concept. But many people buy into that, so you get the sort of ‘impersonal’ cooking (meaning food that 100 of other cooks could have delivered) that is generally found at most fine dining restaurants. Unless there is a personal touch on display (for eg, the Santini family at Dal Pescatore, Bernard Pacaud when he was still active behind his stoves at L’Ambroisie), haute dining remains,  for me,  generally worthless. Affordable  food that tastes great and that is enjoyed in lively  environments will always be a safer bet (compared to haute dining).

The reaction of the readers of a blog can surprise, sometimes. Some examples in your case? True, there’s no way, oftently,  to take people’s reactions for granted. The reaction to my review on Montreal steaks and steakhouses have surprised me. It’s a post that I did not expect to be that popular. There’s nothing special about that post and reviewing steak is like reviewing colors. There’s rarely a bad steak. There are just  ones we prefer. And there’s nothing special, neither, about making a steak.  My reviews are meant primarily for friends, relatives (one reason I want to enjoy the experience as any normal diner), and in the process, I am just sharing them with the rest. So, when I saw the popularity of that post, I was lost. I did my best to remind th ereaders of that post  that this is subjective as they should know better, that it’s virtually  not about  bad or good steaks, but steaks that get close or distance themselves from what we perceive as our favourite steaks.  On the other hand, there are stellar Chefs giving their 100% and that I enthusiastically wrote about but most readers  did not bother.  Such is life, lol.

If you had the means, would you visit all existing widly known restaurants around the world?
No. I don’t believe in quantity as a decisive factor. If you do have a good palate, a sense for details, that is all that count. 25 yrs of dining or one second  of it won’t make any difference if you are close minded, see no difference between what is good, great or excellent, and have no palate.

Why do you refuse to dine with other food bloggers, or anyone related to the hobby? Because I want to be alone and make up my own opinion. It’s the purpose of my web site: my opinion of my experience.  When  I review a restaurant, I dine with people who have no interest in the matter. Because I want my companion to just enjoy his/her meal and me to just focus on what I think of what I am eating. I want to avoid any corruption of my own opinion of my own experience. When people start sharing opinions on the food at a table, it is fine. But most of the times, your own opinion is lost in others.

When did you realize that cooking was made for you? It is not for me, I am too impatient, too demanding with myself.  For example, I will never serve a dish if I am not satisfied with it.  I remember a tasting menu I once served at  Christmas.  My mum, an exceptional cook gifted with an equally exceptionally palate,  tasted a specific item and told me that it was top. Ready to serve. I served it only 1 hour later, not satisfied with the results, only because it was not hitting the exact mouthfeel I wanted from it. The guests found me crazy. But that is me:  it has to taste exactly the way I want it to taste. Whether you like the result or not, I do not care. But Iknow how I want it to taste, Lol. You can’t open a  restaurant or cook with pleasure with such state of mind. But Yes, there once was a defining moment when I realized that I could please others too: it was years ago in France, in a very demanding countryside area. The cook was a friend but he was sick for 1 week. And he was sad that he could not serve his clientele for that long. So, I offered him to cook for that week with only one condition:  serving just what I felt like serving. So, for one week there was that sign in front of the restaurant “pour toute la semaine, menu du jour selon l’inspiration du Chef”. Lol. And since I value only classic fares as worthy of the efforts I would put in my cooking, I did classic fares he usually had  few time to do:  slowly cooked ragouts, mijotés, etc. The kind of food I value as really top because virtually no one with decent cooking skills can miss them, but few can do outstanding ones, even at very high cooking levels. When I left, he phoned me and told me that now he was in big trouble: his customers wanted those fares i was cooking to feature on his menu. Lol.  This is not to brag, just to make a point that it was a pleasure to see that all those efforts in trying to do things well paid of, especially in a corner of France that was that demanding.

What is, to you, the current  world’s best restaurant dish?
Subjectively, of course: I am a huge fan of French classic cooking, so I’ll go with  Chef Eric Briffard’s Pithiviers (Le Cinq, Paris) .  I wish I could go there everytime  it’s available (they serve it in Oct/Nov? You need to verify with them). It is heaven, for me. But remember: it is not a light dish, naturally.

Your current world’s top restaurant?
Again, subjectively and relatively to what I value as the ideal #1 world class  restaurant: Dal Pescatore. It is a reminder that the designation  ‘Best restaurant in the world’ is, at the end of the round, just an exercise of self reflection. Nothing more, nothing less. You are like this, you like that, you do not like this, you prefer that…. and the best restaurant in the world is that one that connects all those dots together under your  roof, only it is serving you food. Best of indeed just personal. If you believe in someone else’s claim about a  ‘ best restaurant in the world’, then you are utterly naive…

Your last meal?
It just never happens the way  we want it, Lol. Anyways, it is, in my hopes,  any of the following: a stunningly grilled-spiny lobster, a mouthwatering steak. Or if it is at a restaurant table, then I’d go with Eric Briffard’s Pithiviers or a stand out ‘lièvre à la royale’ in Antonin Carême-style. Anyways, only the lord decides over those things. So let him feed me with whatever he deems necessary ;p

Do you have a style?
I hope not since one of the reasons that led me to write about some of my dining experiences is just that: whenever I needed infos about where to go dining, I kept stumbling upon many reviews spending more time on style rather than pulling off what I needed.. So, my reviews, as imperfect as they stand, are at least what I want them to be: a correction of what I did not like in many other reviews. It is imperfect, but I do not care and I am happy with them since it is exactly what I wanted. But when people write to me, complaining that I have no style, what that tells me is that I have one, whether I like it or not, Lol. Because..sadly for me… that’s the definition of a style: it appears as unidentifiable..because it is like no other…thefore guess is your own style. Regardless, I am not enthused at the idea of having a style and I do not want to have one. I did everything to have no style: I chose to not write in my mother tongue in which I have a literature degree, I’ve opted for a non-sellable / media-friendly format, I deliberately  make no effort to embellish anything, so there is no reason to expect style where the  purpose is obviously anti-style .

You are a big fan of Perico Legasse, the food journalist of France’s magazine Marianne. Where do you part ways with him?
The question of food journalism is one piece of my long time aversion to food reviewing in general. Many  food journalists think they are the hot stuff, based on sole restaurant write ups or books of recipes or making friends with cooks. The reality is that they are paid to create nothing, write about whatever most non remunerated individuals could have expressed,  they are saving no life, and  worst: they bring absolutely nothing! Ludicrous. So, when I found that Mr Légasse went beyond the usual ‘self-adulation through heavy  penchant for stylish writing and other megalom symptoms ” of some of them, my eyes opened. I was impressed by his way of genuinely defending the notion of ‘terroir’. Many talk about those things such as ‘terroir’, but it’s usually wind. They talk about it a bit, here and there just to capt media attention whenever that serves them. But I have never seen someone so engaged, so tenacious about it. His battle against the EU’s protected designation of origin is epic. He is among the few  fighting against the danger of loss of authenticity. He is not just a food journalist, he is a genuine activist and I can’t think of anyone else as involved as him in whatever he defends. Many are afraid of associating themselves with him as you will rarely see him referred on a food blog or other restaurant related web sites. That tells you a lot about the agenda of those people. It is the generic agenda, the agenda of the sameness, the ‘safe mode’s applause’. That said, I do not always agree with Perico, which is normal. For example, he is strongly against molecular cooking style. For me,   all styles should  co-exist next to each other. I am not a big fan of cooking that heavily relies on spectacular scientific experimentations neither, which does not mean that I can’t appreciate it, but it deserves to exist and be encouraged as cubism, fauvism, mannerism, baroque…all deserve to exist as eclectic forms of arts  to be respected in their own ways.

The most entertaining  food writer of all time ? It is utterly boring and useless to talk about food. Useless because taste is subjective. Useless, because what I ate today, cooked by Chef Joe, at restaurant XX might be totally different from what Chef Joe will cook tomorrow at that same restaurant for many reasons that will vary from the mood of the Chef,  etc. I still do it for the sake of sharing with those who do help me to find nice eateries. That said, one food writer got it.  He got the fact that writing about food  is useless and boring and he took that opportunity to entertain people. He did it way better than anyone else. The late AA Gill!