Posts Tagged ‘fine dining’

Victor’s Gourmet-Restaurant Schloss Berg
Event: Dinner at  Victor’s Gourmet-Restaurant Schloss Berg
When: Friday September 16th 2011,  7PM
Michelin stars: 3
Addr: Schloßstraße 27-29, D-66706 Perl-Nennig/Mosel
Chef Bau’s web site:
Phone: 49 (0) 68 66/79-458
Type of cuisine:  Modern French/Cosmopolitan

Overall food rating (by 3 star Michelin standards)10/10 Chef  Bau is a  magician with the exceptional ability of those few who will always set the bar (the precision and depth of  his cooking skills is of prime mention), for others to follow. He is to food what  a virtuoso is to music. An exceptional virtuoso.

Service:   10 /10 They are mostly young, open minded and hard working. Their hard work shows.
Overall Dining experience: 10/10 This is different from the grand Parisian 3 Michelin stars, and yet
it provided, on this dinner, an overall dining experience that is as exciting as the best ones found in France.
Food rating:  Exceptional (10), Excellent (9), Very good (8), Good (7)


I measure the genius of a Chef  in his  ability to showcase  a  substantial depth of skills  that his peers can’t accomplish as succesfully.    For those in the know, Chef Christian Bau has the skills for others to follow, especially his exceptional precise work of shapes, colors and flavors. I have no clue if he is there all the time behind his kitchen, but when he is cooking, which was the case on that evening, there is no doubt in my mind that he is among the few truely  gifted Chefs of the globe.

Before going ahead, a quick declaration of respect  to one of the   the world’s most exciting Chefs of our time, El Bulli’s Adria . As we all know, El Bulli has closed its doors (as a restaurant) in July.  I am buying all your books, Chef, and shall practice all your tricks! So that the amazing artist that I saw in you remains present in my mind, the mind of a classic-cuisine gourmand, btw! Proof that even the most traditionalists among us have embraced your cult! Hasta siempre, Jefe! As for those who are looking after the next clone of Adria:  forget clones, folks! Your best souvenirs are ..your best souvenirs.  They perfume your memories till you lose it, and that is it.

Wow, this has been  the shortest but most intense constructive trip I ever had in Europe:  four little days  of culinary congress, meetings, exchanges.  Only a few knows this, but aside from  Sciences, Litterature, Economics and Politics, one of my long time passion has been the research of enhancing flavor combinations in classic food.  Basically, what Jefe Ferran Adria does with progressive cooking at El Bulli , I do the same with classic cuisine. Where the latest cook who has just completed his culinary degree tells you that he is excited to test progressive cuisine because there’s not much  to discover with a simple classic filet mignon, I spend timeless moments in  my kitchen finding the ingredients or best cooking technique to ‘rejuvenate’  that  classic filet mignon.  This is why you won’t fail  to realize that my favourite Chefs mostly happen  —- whether they’ve chosen to partake in the progressive cooking trend or not — to   have a great depth of mastery  in classic cooking.  As soon as I have some time,  I will try to write about those congresses I’ve just talked about (truly interesting for us, gourmands from all around the world).  Then I had to end this European mini tour with —of course —  a bit of self-pampering:  I had either El Celler de Can Roca (Girona) or one of Germany’s top 3 star Michelin tables on my short list of tables I’d be interested to visit since a long time.  Spain is my type of  country. It’s a place where I’ll go back oftently anyways,  it’s even a place where there are big chances that I spend the rest of my life.   So I went  for Germany this time. Destination: Perl.  Perl-Nennig.   My final choice: Victor’s Gourmet-Restaurant Schloss Berg.

The city of  Perl-Nennig, where Victor’s Gourmet-Restaurant Schloss Berg  is located,  is  in a geographical area that is famous for its vineyards, castles (the restaurant Victor’s Gourmet-Restaurant Schloss Berg happens to be is in a renaissance castle)  and scenic surroundings that I unfortunately did not take time to explore on this visit, but if this is of interest for you, I’d recommend you have a look at Rick Steve‘s article on that region. This trip there was the conclusion of months of been puzzled between Chef Bau‘s restaurant where it is located, and another German 3-star Michelin:  Waldhotel Sonnora‘s restaurant.  Waldhotel Sonnora  was actually my very 1st choice for its more classical cooking,  but since it sounded too remote and way too complicated to get there by train (my only mean of transport during this trip),  I ended opting for Victor Gourmet-Restaurant  Schloss Berg. The thing that attracted me to  both 3-star Michelin restaurants is their  reputation for consistency.  I have rarely sat at a 3-star Michelin with food consistently good from the 1st amuse bouche to the last mignardise, one of the few exceptions being the last meal at L’Ambroisie in Paris, or the last meals at Joel Robuchon’s Hotel du Parc and Fredy Girardet in 1995 (both are now closed, since) where each dish lived up to what I do expect at this level of dining. A suggestion: if you are in Perl Nennig and have hired a car, head to the tiny Luxembourg town of Remich for refuel (it’s at approx 3,4 kms from Nennig). It will be less expensive to refuel there. And Remich is a little town I’d recommend that you visit, especially in summer (it’s lively!).

My take on Chef Bau’s  Victor’s Gourmet-Restaurant Schloss Berg:  Known as one of the most brilliant 3-star Michelin Chefs around the globe, Christian Bau has chosen not to create a restaurant empire like many of his peers. Instead, he prefers perfecting his cooking in the kitchen of his triple-starred Michelin stronghold of Perl-Nennig. An aspect that I  value a lot in a Chef’s philosophy (reminder: on top of being completely independent from anything  related to the restaurant world, I do also insist on mostly dining  at restaurants where you have the actual Chef behind his stoves instead of running after popularity contests and leaving his customers to name bearers). He first earned an initial Michelin star in 1998, followed by a second one in 1999, and was awarded his third in 2005. A third Michelin star that he retains since then.

Many, among some of the connoisseurs of world’s finest tables, argue that the only reason Chef Bau’s restaurant is not a worldwide attraction has got to do with its secluded location (the restaurant is located in the remote German’s Saarland  state, a territory bordering France and Luxembourg). In my opinion, the location  is far from being an issue: it is situated at 30 mins drive from the major urban area of Luxembourg-city.  Those connoisseurs did  also express their dissatisfaction over the fact that Chef Bau’s talent  is not recognized by worldwide restaurant listings like the S Pellegrino’s Top 100 world best dining ventures, an observation to which I’ll append my personal  opinion:

If you play attention at that list, you quickly realize that most of the featuring restaurants are ones that did set  themselves apart by their persistent adoption  of a given culinary trend:  for ie, the molecular movement (Fat Duck, El Bulli, Alinea etc), the ‘rise’ of  bosky cuisine (Noma, for ie), the unique progressive touches of Mugaritz or Quique Da Costa,  the unorthodox style of Iñaki Aizpitarte’s Le Chateaubriand, etc.  But of course, being unique in a daring way does not necessarily mean  being among the best (or does it? I’ll leave this to your discretion), which brings us back to our featuring restaurant review:  Chef Bau is currently not making the headlines of world’s gastronomy perhaps because he is not trying to follow trends for the sake of popularity nor trying to reinvent the wheel, and that did not stop him from being, in facts,  at the very top.  Bau has spent years alongside legendary German Chef Harald Wohlfahrt (perhaps one of the few Chefs that I admire the most, for his amazing food, naturally, but also for one of the most fabulous Chef quotes ‘’Don’t cook out of ambition because this is what your food will taste like’’), prior to his appointment as Chef of Victor’s Gourmet-restaurant Schloss Berg in 1997.

NO PHOTO RESTRICTIONAs/per the house, photo taking is normally forbidden to everyone, normal diners or not. I was fine with that rule, because my point is to experience things the way a normal diner would experience it (this blog sole intent is to share just with close friends and relatives. In the process, I am sharing it with the rest of the web, for just knowledge sharing as the sole motivation). But they told me that on that evening, a bunch of food bloggers and food journalists were paying a visit to them and were allowed to take pics, therefore that restriction was loosened and I could thereore feel free to seize the occasion and take pics of my meal, which I did. I am taking the time to write this because I believe in  ‘honesty” as the first mandatory step of anything we shall aim at.

The  menu:  it is a tasting menu, at the discretion of the Chef,  that they call ‘voyage culinaire” for its international influences.  You can be served   4,  6, 8 or 10 courses , but whatever set of courses you are opting for, they will also offer 8,9 free extra nibbles +  an array of mignardises. And those are outstanding nibbles! This is one of the most affordable 3 Star Michelin tables.

Decor:  Omnipresence of  light warm  tones in an overall decor that is nicely balanced between elements of victorian and contemporary design .  Having myself spent  time studying the influence of colors on a diner’s appetite, that specific aspect naturally caught my attention at this restaurant: whether it  was their intent or not, color psychology is better mastered here than at any other restaurant that comes to mind. A beautiful and smart use of appetizing colors; for ie the light brown  of their wooden floors or the discrete sparse  touches of red  (mini flower pots of gorgeous red roses on the table, on this evening) follow the principle of  the ‘appetizing color’ theme.


I led off with a parade of  bite-size savoury  appetizers that showcased  ingenuity:

As an ie, cornet with   tenderloin, Räucheraalcreme (smoked eel cream ) & chives – finely hand-cut meat to a consistency that’s ideal for tartares, accurate seasoning and mix-ins;  at the art of intensifying taste and flavor, you can’t go wrong when you pair a perfectly conceived beef tartare with the addictive richness of a well composed smoked eel cream. Not to forget  the  elegant and ideal aromatic substitute to onion: the chives. That was naturally eventful and it deserves its full 10/10 marks

-Parmesan crust with yuzu confiture had a  terrific crunchy cheesy appeal marrying perfectly with the yuzu flavor 10/10

The array of  impressive nibbles went on with

– Jabugo Bellota ‘Puro’ (I’m a big fan of this ‘crème de la crème’ well praised ham; the bellota type is truly sublime – As I’ve learned with time, the Spaniards always back buzz with effective accomplishments. Not just blabla and wind just to cash in mileages of advertising non deserved visibility;) atop a flawless and delicious creative risotto-inspired mini ball of rice. 10/10

-Majorcan gamba  with lardo and caviar had an addictive multi-dimensional parade of marine fresh  flavors 10/10

– Crab cracker with hamachi, fennel & apple, green tea biscuit with lobster and kimizu was a show-stopper for its surprising balance of complex  tastes and textures. It showed in terms of “culinary prouesse” the humongous depth of technical mastery of Chef Christian Bau. That depth kept shining throughout the entire meal, a rare occurence at any level of dining. 10/10

-Bio carrot  with yogurt and coriander (the left side photo) was simply startling: I’d not be surprised to learn that  it would be hard  to find a better veloute of carrot than this. The kick of coriander  adding an extra dimension of remarkable tastes. This came along a refined veggie sushi and phenomenal moussy take on carrots 10/10

There was also a plate of 5 creations based on bluefin tuna with Miso, soja and cucumber. It will be hard to put in words the level of impressive successful complexity at play on each of those 5 morsels. Startling! 10/10

Not one single flaw throughout that exposition of superb  mini culinary concoctions. Nine mini courses  before the main dishes arrive, imagine! Generosity is the motto.

The first main course arrived:

A construction around oyster. A succulent lucious and juicy poached oyster was paired with oyster-flavored refined chips, pearl-looking creations  oozing of amazing fresh oysteriness, combava as the citrus enhancer and algae (passe-pierre) for a concerto of pure  palatable amazement . Complex, exciting and so thoughtful 10/10

Sea spider took me by surprise. I expected some kind of tempura sea-spider. The sea spider came as a meaty roll, this was actually reminescent of crab meat imho  but it was sea spider. Part of the appeal of this dish is its clever conceptualization:  you can see   that each item was diligently thought and carefully selected  in relation to the next (I have rarely seen a Chef pairing so flawlessly and excitingly veggies with seafood. It sounds like an easy thing and most of the time it’s a common affair, but the way Chef Bau marries veggies and seafood make them pass as items of the same  species).  The flavour of  the seafood  is maintained in its pure form, its taste as delicate as it should.  He adds lots of  extra textural and taste dimensions to all his dishes (I could count at least 8 different components on that dish) and what turns usually as a big risk in most talented hands  is like a piece of cake for him. To epitomize what I’ve just asserted, a creamy velouté of green veggies poured over this dish tasted like a tantalizing seafood enhancer to the sea spider rather than tasting of some futile veggie cream thrown against seafood. 10/10

The next offering (which I forgot to take a picture of ) was goose liver  from the Landes (au torchon) wrapped by top quality seaweed. I have to admit that I was lucky to have sampled some stunning quality foie gras (duck and sometimes goose as well) in the past (in Quebec, France and in some other countries), but this one has a phenomenal taste that I won’t forget as long as my memory serves me. A modern take on a ragout of mushrooms with a citrusy hint of sudachi (a citrus fruit) complemented the dish. This course  had great finesse with a mouthfeel worthy of superlatives. 10/10

A serving of artichoke from France’s region of Bretagne rose as the epitomy of the perfect artichoke-centric dish: it had jabugo bellota ham , parmesan foam and artichoke root sauce imparting an impressive depth of  enticing flavours to this dish. The care, composition and  cooking mastery  behind this dish were herculean in scope, the presentation immaculate. As with each menu item  that I was served all along this tasting, accurate cooking times were skilfully surveyed and the technique, impeccable. The taste, a pure bliss with each mouthful insisting on the next. 10/10

The next course  exalted by a delicious meaty piece of irreproachable fresh prawn (the Gamberoni was cooked à la plancha and kept its genuine marine flavor). The small green “globes” you see on the picture are made of peas and were packed with unusual exquisite taste.  A cream of Kombuseaweed had impressive taste sensation that stood out in a very distinct way and lightened the dish. Another item that was mingling so well in this successful concerto of tastes and textures was Jasmin rice broth with coconut infusion: it  was a fun and creative take on what looks like rice crispy  but  would then give rice crispy a newly discovered refined state. Here’s a dish that attracts me  towards its creativity.  10/10

A plate of  Atlantic turbot was next.  The fish on its own had perfect flasky consistency and the flesh,  translucent. The exquisite moistness of the fish was superb. It was combined with sweet potato dots, the brilliant addition of a mouth watering gingery sauce, the crunchy nutty dimension of the hazelnuts that was topping the fish.   A sensational culinary creation with ingredients which sourcing is exemplary and perhaps one of my lifetime favourite cosmopolitan dish (there was, once all items were mixed together, a middle Eastern feel to this dish that propulsed me in heaven – literally). Chef Bau count among the exceptional few who can offer some of the most creative and exciting cosmopolitan dishes of our era.  10/10

Bresse-Pigeon from Mieral – This  preparation perfectly accented the natural flavors of the fowl. The pigeon’s meat  retaining its natural ideal dark texture and a meaty juicy  mouthfeel. Delicious pigeon that kept its enjoyable gamey taste vibrant. Another take on this bird also featured on this dish: a perfect pigeon-goose liver flan (you don’t see it on the picture because I ate it way before I thought of taking the picture..Rfaol..) which conception was simply stellar. On the right side of the pic, the little nutty-covered sphere you see was also pigeon’s meat surrounded by hazelnuts (well done). The dots are made of carrot cream (particularly delicious). There was also a jus of smoked tea and spices that — to my surprise — tasted like  the best  match to the meaty fowl. A bit as if I was telling you that a reduction made of smoked tea & spices  &  the meat’s sauce was far tastier and made more sense (in mouth)  than just the meat’s sauce alone. That was the case, here. 10/10

Nebraska beef – This serving  had  lots of flavors imparted into the beef  with the meat  having a  smooth melting texture, cooked equally thoughout,  fully meaty and shining  through pretty well due to non inclusion of  extraneous  ingredients and a judiciousness of the seasoning  that is right on. The sauce is rich and deep, a square of back and short rib (you don’t see it clearly on the picture) was tasty, the Japanese egg plant puree well done, the dots of black garlic adding a nice kick, the overall clever and highly satisfying. 9/10

Champagner Bellini was a collection of sweet creations around peach and  raspberry in various renditions:  sorbet, mousse, a ragout (of peach).  Champagne was additionally poured in the center of the plate. A ravishing dish (really beautiful to espy with its visually pleasant carefully constructed decorative features). Technically, not one single flaw. 9/10

This was the modern and refined take of the kitchen on the theme of a   banana split. The chocolate elements  had the accurate ratio of cream/chocolate and ideal texture (as firm as it should, with a rich  chocolate colour).  The chip of banana was packed with addictive fruity flavor. As with all creations of this kitchen: a lot of work is put in the details, the refinement and the delicious taste. A joyous inspired dessert 9/10

An array of top quality petits fours brought an end to this startling dinner experience. This was  really stunning  food after stunning food and the meal  joins my 1995 dinners at JR and Girardet, 2009 dinner at Pierre Gagnaire (Paris) + 2011 meal at L’Ambroisie in my all time favourite 3 star Michelin dining occurrences


Service: It’s amazing to see such a young staff excelling in professionalism and showing such a genuine desire to please their hosts.

Pros: A table of exception where everything is pure exciting perfection. It’s one of those few tables around the world, where I would be tempted to go back again and again. I’ll never be in a position to humanly eat at all existing restaurants in the world, but deep inside of me, if such survey could make sense, this table would get  my vote in the top 5 best restaurants of the globe.  And it’s not even expensive!

Cons: Nothing wrong.

Conclusion: That  was pure genius food. Sure, I love French food and International  cuisine (the cooking, here, is mainly high end Franco-Japanese but you can expect touches from other parts of the world as well) as well so I was seduced, but the real reason I felt for this restaurant lies in Chef Chistian Bau exceptional skills. Many Chefs are scared to go beyond the common boundaries. Or when they do it, it’s usually with inconsistencies. But Chef Bau goes ages ahead, blending an impressive quantity of ingredients with astonishing efficiency.  Bau is a Genius with a big G!

WHAT I THINK MONTHS LATER:  I gathered, from various   emails  received following this review, that some other  restaurants do offer equal cooking performance. When asked what they were, I was in for a surprise: most were tables I  was already familiar with and although offering Modern International cuisine,  the skills of those kitchen brigades never came close to half  of the skills showcased by Chef  Bau.   It was interesting to observe that the Chefs at the restaurants that are supposedly at the same level of  VGSB would do great with 3 to 5  ingredients,  but would perform poorly as soon as they would get to the count of  6 or  7  ingredients on the plate.  In contrast,  Chef Bau could align 8 to 15  elements with stunning precision and harmony as proven on this reported meal.  A reminder   that  what could look similar at first glance do not necessarily have the same depth of mastery behind them.


Click here for a recap of  my picks of all Montreal’s top fine dining & best Montreal’s bistrots.
Also: My  3 and 2 Star Michelin restaurant review web site

Dinner at L’Eau à La Bouche, Sat Febr 27th 2010, 18:00PM
3003 Boulevard Sainte-Adèle
Sainte-Adèle  (Québec)
Phone: 450 229 2991
Particularity: A Relais & Chateaux restaurant
Type of dining: Upscale market cuisine / French Fine dining
READ: My report about the 1st dinner here (Febr 13th 2009).

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(2) Second visit at Restaurant L’eau à la bouche, Sainte-Adele in the Laurentides (in between Montreal and Tremblant). As most already know, this is the restaurant of star chef Anne Desjardins and one of the very few  Relais & Chateaux tables of Eastern Canada/Quebec. L’Eau à la Bouche is one of QC’s very top best fine dining tables along with Hotel Saint-James XO Le Restaurant, Toque! / Nuances in Montréal, Initiale in Quebec City, Quintessence in Tremblant. Last time we dined there, that was on February 13th 2009 (ref: click here for my review of that dinner) and that tasting menu we had back then was simply stunning. We were excited to see if this magic would perpertuate and went this time again with their tasting menu.

Kicked off with an Ok Rhum coco/blood orange/grapefruit:
RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - RHUM COCO, ORANGE SANGUINE, PAMPLEMOUSSE Rhum coco/blood orange/grapefruit: Ok, satisfying cocktail (7/10). A second cocktail of gin/tonic (10/10) was more memorable.

Next came a mise en bouche of:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - WILD MUSHROOMS, CHIVES, CREME FRAICHE Wild mushroom/chives/creme fraiche potage: evenly seasoned, not too creamy not too light, enjoyably slightly peppery with the chives adding a nice touch to the earthiness of the whole potage. Welcoming refreshing touch from the crème fraiche. Good. 8/10

Followed by:
RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - SMOKED TROUT, CREME FRAICHE, HORSE RADISH Smoked trout from Sainte-Agathe crème fraiche, horseradish, wakamé, roasted sesame seeds – The cold smoked fish’s flesh sported an ideal pink texture. The trout was oozing with it’s enjoyable natural strong flavour. The sweet, smoky flavor of the fish was delightfully enhanced by the mix of the creme fraiche and horseradish that provided an excellent kick to the smoked trout (although common — horseradish/creme fraiche acompanying smoked fish is common affair— this was more importantlyl very tasty). 10/10 for the match Smoked Trout/Horseradish/Creme Fraiche.
Wakame: Crunchy, fresh  and tasty. Drizzling it with the sesame seeds was a great touch and turned out to be a convincing great work of taste. On it’s own, it was excellent, but not a convincing accompaniment to the smoky trout.
Precision of the cooking: 5/5 (The trout ont it’s own was nicely smoked)
Tastyness: 5/5  for the taste of the trout, same for each other element on their own
Complexity: Medium
Overall Value: 4/5
wine Pairing wine: Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Reserva Selection Limitée , Montes – Vallée de Leyda, Chile
It is a wine unknown to me, which is exactly what I seek for since I love discovering wines. And it turned out as a welcoming surprise to my tastebuds: nice medium-bodied mineral wine, aromatic with a nose of grass and enjoyably fruity aromas too (my tastebuds sensed aromas of litchi and cantaloup). I love this white wine: it’s aromatic, intense. To my tastebuds, this balanced so well with the smoky aspect of the trout. Great wine pairing.

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - DUCK FOIE GRAS AU TORCHON, CELERY, HONEY CARAMEL Fresh duck foie gras from “la Canardière” “au torchon”, celery, honey caramel  – To be honest, although “au torchon” preparations keep most part of the taste/flavors of the foie, I am more a fan of pan-seared foie (especially the ones concocted by Toque!, Bistro Cocagne and APDC. I have always said that Laprise-Loiseau-Picard have among the best techniques of pan-seared foie gras concoctions. L’Eau à la Bouche’s pan-seared foie on my 1st dinner there in Febr 2009 was also a blast, sharing actually the position of best pan-seared I ever had on a fine dining table — here & abroad’s included — with the item #3 of the last dinner at Toque!). It just blows my tastebuds way more than the “au torchon” version. To make matter worst, I really had average experiences in Mtl & surroundings with most preparations of the “au torchon” version (even at upscale restaurants, with only the one I had last summer at M Sur Masson being a highlight  (it was tiny in portion, but oh so intense and of high quality) along with the one at Toque!, too.
As to this one, the pate consistency was ideal: beautifully velvety, not too firm, not mushy  and enjoyably meaty, like I expect my au torchon foie gras to be. The La Canardière foie gras is a truely top quality foie produced in QC’s region of L’Estrie.
Tastyness: Excellent freshness + superior quality of the foie  reflected in this lovable tasty au torchon foie gras in it’s simplest splendour. The honey caramel was delicious and complemented so well the foie.
Overall Value: for the top quality foie gras, this is definitely of nice value. As for the accompaniment, I’d skip only the celery (not to be seen as a reproach here: the celery –you can see it at the bottom of the picture— adds actually a cute textural visual balance to the overall dish, was good and fresh on it’s own but not quite complementing the foie, to my tastebuds opinion) but the honey caramel was simply divine!
My only suggestion: put more complexity into the 3 pieces of toasts, for ie offer 1 honey-flavored baked toast, another one could be spice bread..etc. 8/10

See how they cook one stands to me as the best pan-seared foie I ever tasted on any upscale fine dining table, here and abroad included.

2670-0w0h0_Domaine_Croix_Saint_Salvy_Gaillac_Doux_Croix_Saint_Salvy Pairing wine: Gaillac Doux 2006, Grain de Folie Douce, Causses Marines – although I know so well this wine (one favourite of mine), I do also appreciate seeing it served on a restaurant table. It’s a great wine full of intensity, dense, with  aromatic nose of   prune, honey, currant, and an enjoyable long finish. Solid value. As for the pairing, it tuned out, in mouth, as  nice match to the foie (Undoubtly even better with some pan-seared foie gras).

Served in a tajine:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Roasted squab, risotto, wild and cultivated mushroom Roasted squab, risotto, wild and cultivated mushrooms, cooking jus, tonka bean and mint –

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Roasted squab, risotto, wild and cultivated mushroom Roasted squab – There are some few meats that are victims of severe judgements from my tastebuds  like Squabs and Quails, courtesy — perhaps— to the fact that I seldomly get to eat them and many cooks managed to somehow serve it either bland or try to my table. The rewarding aspect of this stands in the fact that whenever  it impresses me, the squab or quail had to be an exceptional exercice of cooking mastery and tastebud wonder (well, to my tastebuds of course!).
This simple preparation of theirs perfectly accented the natural flavors of the fowl, the pigeon’s meat had the ideal texture, slight smoky-ness and tasty meaty juicy-ness. Delicious tender squab taht kept it’s gamey taste intact. The squab was roasted to perfection. 10/10 for the roasted squab.
I feel a bit uncomfortable when judging risottos: I have been perfectionning this at home for years, at least once a month, so needless to stress that in such circumstances you are afraid to be harsh on judging others risottos. Fortunately, I can be completely detached from that aspect and fully focus on someone else’s risotto as my tastebuds sense it. This  risotto was delicious and delicate on it’s own, not mushy but at ideal al-dente consistency, sporting a nice texture, ideal creaminess, delicious taste and enhanced by a subtle enjoyable citrus aroma. 8.5/10 for this risotto. The risotto I had last year at Restaurant Primo & Secondo in Montreal  is still KING, but the Desjardins are doing a really good job at this, too.
The mushrooms brought the right level of earthiness to balance with the earthy-tone of the squab meat.
Complexity: Honestly, High. Think about how time-consuming and fussy a risotto can be. I know, this is a big league restaurant and surely a simple affair for them, but it is still not as simple as 1,2,3 + it takes a considerable level of focus, patience and skills to make a delicious risotto. This was definitely not our so called easy easy home made risottos. Add to this, the master cooking behind that flawless roasted pigeon + the righful balance of flavors in there.8/10
Niagara Escarpment VQA 2006, Gamay Pairing wine: Niagara Escarpment VQA 2006, Gamay, Malivoire Wine. Being profoundly attached to  France’s terroir wines, I mistakenly left canadian wine sleeping a bit under my radars, and this was a nice reminder to look also this side of the world since some solid nice wines have made their way for a while, now. Unfortunately, this very specific 2006 Malivoire made of Gamay grapes was disappointing to my tastebud: it lacked body (way too light-bodied for me) and character. Slight nose of rosemary, tannic, just not as delicate and aromatic as I wished.

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Wild Boar,  roasted contre-filet, braised shoulder, Wild Boar,  roasted contre-filet, braised shoulder, rutabaga and butternut squash, cranberry and green pepper corn sauce – The best Boar dish I ever had since a long time was the braised Boar I devoured at LCCP on Nov 13th 2009 (It’s the Braised Boar / See course #4 of that dinner): that was pure cooking genius and a stunning concerto of decadent flavors/textures/tastes. Since then, I had my share of satisfying, but not memorable, boar dishes at many restaurants this side of the border. So I was looking forward to taste  L’Eau à la Bouche’s take on the Boar: the meat came in two ways: roasted (tender and flavorful) + braised (even more enjoyable to my tastebuds since it was packed with deeper flavors and tasted great. In both versions, the meat was nicely tenderized, and they manage to skillfully avoid the easy dry-ness this meat can easily indulge into. Nice work too on keeping the natural gamey taste of the meat.  8/10
Pairing wine: Palacio de Ibor Reserva Valdepeñas 2004.  It’s a wine from the Spaniard’s region of Castilla de la Mancha. Appelation Valdepenas. This affordable tempranillo (made from a small portion of Cabernet Sauvignon, too) wine (off side note: if you are seeking for nice value wines, this one is a great value red wine for the $$$, btw ) is packed with a nice tannic presence, has low acidity, a nice structure and remarquable enjoyably fruity (cherry) notes + aromas of coffee. Nice complexity. Liked it, especially with the Boar meat ( found it to pair nicely with this meat).

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Heirloom beet salad, creamy goat cheese, ham salt, r “Heirloom” beet salad, creamy goat cheese, ham salt, roasted nuts  – The quality of the beet is remarquable here. Nicely boiled, the various types of beets tasted great and the work of textures at display on this dish is appealing to the eyes. The creamy goat cheese was tasty. Roasted nuts adding an enjoyable nutty touch to the overall. A simple dish, with a homey feel.
ARBOIS 2005 Pairing wine: Arbois 2005, Béthanie, Fruitière Vinicole d’Arbois. It’s a France’s region of Jura (Sub region of Arbois) Chardonnay that I know very well. Very affordable rich fruity wine, with fine minerality, citrus aromas. Paired naturally well with the beets salad dish.

Before I conclude with the dessert, try this  highly recommendable 1986 Château-Chalon Yellow wine if you get a chance:

1986 Château-Chalon

The dessert:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC - Mango and litchi, coconut  macaron, mango jelly  Mango and litchi, coconut “macaron”, mango jelly  – I have a huge weak spot for tropical fruits. Mango and litchis are among those I like the most. Last year, L’eau à la bouche won my heart with an amazing…roasted pineapple marvel (hi..hi..I told you: those tropical fruits drive me nuts! Rfaol!). This time, it sounded as interesting too with such thing like mango jelly and coconut macaron and I was looking for my tastebuds to interpret this all: although enjoyably flavorful , the macaron (6/10) was too dry and too crunchy. In the middle, a sorbet of litchi (delicious, rich and memorable 10/10) and on the far right a mango brunoise (6/10 Just ok).

SO, Voilà! My last year’s tasting menu at L’Eau à la Bouche (ranked #1ex aequo personal top dinner at all Mtl and surroundings restaurants of my 2009-2010 exercise) was more on the ‘upscale fine-dining’ range whereas this year’s (ranked #15  personal top dinner at all Mtl and surroundings restaurants of my 2009-2010 exercise)  pertains to the ‘upscale bistro-esque’ repertoire. Either way, L’Eau à la Bouche can deliver some of the top finest dining experiences of this province (on this dinner, most patrons at neighboring tables who picked some of the à la carte menu items had experienced the full potential of the huge fine dining talent of this table, so do not rely solely on the bistro-esque trend of my latest tasting menu).

What a charming wait staff: sociable, extremely accomodating and professional. Exactly what I do expect from a Relais & Chateaux (Remarquable High standard of customer service). And charming they are: At some point, our sommelier of the evening, Valerie (who does, by the way, an awesome work at patiently describing and elaborating on each wine), learned from my part that I was charmed one year earlier by the poetic presentation of wines made by Mr Pierre, who has been one star of the restaurant for almost 22 years. She made sure that Mr Pierre appeared at my table towards the end of the dinner. Awesome charming touch!

As you already know from the Febr 13th 2009 report, the interior decor is simple, small, with low ceilings and above all, in perfect harmony with the basics of French countryside interiors  that it naturally has to relate to. Although simple looking, it has a charming elegance to it. Let’s go through a little visual tour of it all:

RESTAURANT L'EAU A LA BOUCHE, SAINTE-ADELE,QC(3) As soon we got in, we faceda small little bar where a welcoming staff (smiley, sociable) welcomed us:

As I wrote earlier on, the dining room has a cute countryside interior type of decor:








PROS: This is indeed in the top 3 finest tables of Quebec Province. All the top tables supposedly as great or greater than this one have failed to prove me otherwise. I am not talking about value for my bucks here, but the ‘gourmet’ aspect in itself. So, the 1st meal (Febr 13th 2009) there was simply stunning. We had at our neighbouring table a couple who was familiar with this globe’s finest tables and they agreed that that meal (they were having the same tasting menu we have chosen) was of top 2 star Michelin standard even right at the heart of Michelin stardom: France. But…

CONS: But…the 2nd meal was inferior to the 1st (and this has nothing to do with the fact that the 1st occurence is always more ‘magical’). Talking about the 2nd meal, I do expect such top level dining venture to not miss a simple macaron. It is a forgivable slip given what they have proven on the 1st meal, but this should not happen. And when  you opt for something slighlty less ‘gourmet’ and more ‘bistro’ ( as it was the case with the tasting menu on the 2nd meal), I become less of a fan. Lastly, The ‘smoke trout’ and the ‘foie gras au torchon’ dishes would have benefited from a more elaborate  ‘gourmet’ concept/construction (they were too straightforwardly conceived for this level of dining). What justifies an outstanding gourmet level of dining is its complexity, done superbly well. I did not get such depth of successful complexity on this 2nd meal ..which I should expect at at such high $$$!

Interview with: Chef Corey Lee,
Three Michelin star *** Chef
Ex Chef @ The French Laundry, Yountville, Napa Valley, California

Needless to introduce this monument of World fine dining, but for starters, Chef Corey Lee is a Three Michelin Star Chef who was — till recently — at the head of The French Laundry’s cuisine.
The French Laundry is at the Very top of the Elite best fine dining cuisines of the World:
-Awarded best  restaurant  in the world in 2003, 2004
-Was awarded it’s 3 Star Michelin in 2006
-No 12 Best restaurant of the world (2009)
This past August 2009, Chef Lee stepped out of his position of Chef at the French Laundry with the intent to open (very soon) his own new restaurant, named Benu that will open in San Francisco’s SOMA.

Chef Lee kindly accepted an interview via email (very kind from his part, considering how busy he is currently with the upcoming opening of his restaurant):

from    Corey Lee
date    Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 11:31 AM
subject    answers
Dear M,

Thank you for your interest.  The answers are below.

Best Regards,
Corey Lee


Question #1: Chef Corey Lee, your latest approach of cooking at the French Laundry was undeniably moving, daring and mostly different from what we commonly see at most upscale fine dining restaurants. It was daringly modern and fun. Unarguably, I believe that it would make no sense to reproduce the exact same trend at your new restaurant — Chef Keller would surely not appreciate that — but still: do you think that it is possible to push the French Laundry trend/spirit to newer unseen levels?

I think it’s more about a natural and inspired evolution than pushing a trend. I certainly directed that evolution during my time as the chef, but I felt it was important to make sure it was still a style that reflected Thomas Keller and French Laundry.  Part of my decision to open a new restaurant was because my personal development and evolution was getting to a point that I felt I was holding back.
Question #2: As you might suspect, hordes of foodies around the world are curious about what will be cooked at your upcoming restaurant. Naturally, I won’t go there (I love surprises ;p) … But I perceive you as one of those very unique Chefs who are well placed to cover a huge repertoire of ecclectic gastronomic trends: your oriental origins, your ease with modern and classic fares, your familiarity with occidental cooking fares, your enthusiasm for oriental cuisine…all of that make me think of this -> what about the next American version of Oud Sluis (as you know, Chef Sergio Herman is about daring modern ecclectic fusion fares)? Of course, we are not talking about mimicking Oud Sluis, but as an inspiration? I know that in an article of SFGate in 2006 you stated that you were not into fusion, but that was in 2006. So who knows, you may have changed your mind by now. And also: the type of fusion at Oud Sluis might be one you would perhaps perceive as acceptable, subtle enough.
I don’t know too much about Oud Sluis. I’ve never eaten there or met Sergio.  I’ve only looked through his book.  And I think we have very little in common. Being Asian is a big part of who I am.  And doing a blend of eastern and western food does not always have to be fusion. Fusion is a name that belongs to science.  In cooking it is a relative term.  But for me, fusion is a conscious act of taking heat to break things down and bring them together.  So when applied to food, it’s a process that’s too contrived or unnatural, or doing something just to fit the label/genre.  That I’m not into. But being inspired to put an Asian touch or using flavors you grew up on are different things altogether.
Question #3: Naturally, Keller has inspired you a lot. But what other great Chefs have inspired you in becoming a Chef? Were you, once, inspired by more classical approaches of haute cuisine like Ducasse? Robuchon? Savoy?
Absolutely. My background is almost all classical.  I’ve attached a bio.
Question #4: At the French Laundry, you were a 3 Michelin star Chef. Some Chefs could see this as a huge pressure, fearing to one day losing those stars.  Was that an additional pressure to you? Are you the type who would have taken the loss of a Michelin Star badly? Is this one reason among other that could explain your departure from the French Laundry?
It is an enormous amount of pressure.  I think the pressure is even more because I don’t own the French Laundry.  When someone like Thomas Keller entrusts his restaurant to you, you take that responsibility and trust more seriously than if it were your own. I would have taken the loss very badly, and would have stayed there to get it back. But my decision to leave had nothing to do with the pressure or fear of losing a star.  Have you ever been part of a restaurant opening?  It’s not something you do because you were afraid of a guide.
Question #5: You have South Korean origins and my last question goes naturally to your roots. Do you keep yourself informed about what is happening on the South Korean gastronomic scene? If Yes, is Seoul on the right track on becoming a gastronomic destination like Tokyo for ie? Any form of South Korean haute fine dining emerging?
Yes. I’ve been visiting regularly and we’ve done a few events there. Actually, I’m a goodwill ambassador to Seoul City for cuisine. Seoul has definitely taken the right first step which is identifying gastronomy as an important and viable thing.  The interest in food and cooking in Korea right now is very high.  I think the foundation is there already for a great culinary destination. Korea has some of the best products in the world, an economy to sustain restaurants, and a captive audience. Now, it’s about building upon that and fostering young chefs and restaurateurs. But we’re still not at the Tokyo or HK level in terms of having a restaurant scene that is easily navigable to foreigners. There are some forms of haute cuisine emerging and it’s exciting to see, but there’s still a lot work to be done.
Thanks so much,
Food, restaurant reporter

Here is the attached Bio he sent to me (mentionned in his reply to Question #3):

Corey Lee was born in Seoul, Korea in 1977. The son of an engineer, he moved to the
U.S. in 1983 when his father’s work relocated him to New York City.
Being an immigrant, the food his mother cooked became the most important and tangible link to
Corey’s native culture. And so at an early age, he realized that food occupied an
important role in society, one more significant than just sustenance, and he became
acutely interested in the different kinds of cuisine he encountered.
At age 17, in need of a job and at the random suggestion of a friend, he applied for work
at the Bromberg brothers’ popular restaurant, Blue Ribbon Sushi in New York’s SOHO
area. He was hired for the dining room but immediately became fascinated by the unique
world of the professional kitchen, an environment he found to challenge and gratify both
the mind and body on many different levels. He quickly started working in the kitchen
and soon realized that cooking would be his profession.
Since that almost accidental beginning to Corey’s career, he has gone on to work for
some of the most acclaimed restaurants and chefs in the world. In 1997, he moved to
London where he spent time working and staging in the kitchens of Interlude, Pied à
Terre, Savoy Grill, Pierre Koffman’s La Tante Claire, and Marco Pierre White’s Oak
Room. He later went on to work with many other venerable chefs including Christian
Delouvrier at Lespinasse, Daniel Boulud, Montreal based chef Normand Laprise, and
Parisian 3 star Michelin chefs Guy Savoy and Alain Senderens.

In 2001, Corey started what would be his 8 year working relationship with Thomas
Keller at his restaurant, The French Laundry, in Yountville, California. He also spent a
year opening per se, Thomas’ acclaimed restaurant in New York City. The latter half of
Corey’s time with Thomas was spent as the head chef of The French Laundry. During his
tenure, the restaurant was recognized as the “Best Restaurant in America” by Restaurant
Magazine and received the highest rating from both the San Francisco Chronicle and
Mobil Guide. In 2006, French Laundry was the only restaurant recognized with 3 stars in
the launch of the prestigious Guide Michelin for California. In that same year, Corey was
the recipient of the “Rising Star Chef” award from the James Beard Foundation. In 2008,
Corey co-authored Under Pressure which was released to critical acclaim and
documented many of the techniques and recipes Corey developed during his time at
French Landry and per se.
Corey left The French Laundry in the summer of 2009 to prepare for the opening of
Benu, his highly anticipated restaurant in San Francisco. Most recently, he has been
honored by being appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for Seoul, Korea. He has also
collaborated with iconic Korean porcelain manufacturer, KwangJuYo, to design and
produce a custom line of porcelain that will be used at Benu. The restaurant is slated to
be open in the summer of 2010