Monday, June 24, 2019

L'Astrance Pascal Barbot

In the beginning of 21st century, with the big wave of Spanish cuisine and several years later, Nordic cooking ... some so-called pundits thought that French gastronomy food might be 'dead' soon. In the France itself, more and more chefs would rather open bistro / brasserie / simpler restaurant than fine dining places. However, the most famous alumni of L'Arpege and Alain Passard's protege named Pascal Barbot believed otherwise. Without much buzz, after having worked for the master of rotisserie and vegetable then traveling elsewhere for a couple of years, Chef Barbot quietly opened L'Astrance in 2000 in partnership with Christophe Rohat, who used to be Arpege's maitre d'hotel. Astrance is the name of the flower indigenous to Pascal's native Auvergne. It is probably the smallest among Parisian dining institutions but well-appointed and served around 25 clients per service. The charming restaurant with simple and modern decor was located in the quiet side street, not too far from the Eiffel tower. Solid yellow banquettes and chairs with white linens and 'grayish' textured walls were the most eye-catching things from the interiors. The focus was on the food. Within 2-3 years, L'Astrance became the hottest table in town. The phone never stopped ringing and a daily waiting list was normal. 7 years since the opening, L'Astrance was awarded the 3-star Michelin (Pascal Barbot was only 34 years young at that time), an honor the restaurant kept until early this year when it was demoted into 2-star again. Having been here twice prior to this lunch, I was cautiously optimistic that the kitchen would still be able to deliver top meal ...       

Unlike many other multiple star restaurants in France / Paris, L'Astrance does not serve any a la carte menu. There were a few options depending on the price level, but the cooking was always spontaneous. It was normal that sometimes different tables would be served different dishes although they both ordered the same menu. This method was risky with high pressure but this could be done because Pascal Barbot is a master in his craft with excellent technical skills and possesses a profound understanding of how to prepare any ingredients. Thanks to his creativity and imagination, the menu sometimes even changes on the weekly basis. Astrance is also unique since Chef Barbot often created dishes influenced or inspired by Asian flair (the chef used to work and often travel around that region). Despite that, the most frequent used products and technique applied were still (modern) French, executed at a high level. The evolution of the cuisine here constantly happening albeit slowly. Another strength of the restaurant was its wine pairing program. The wine was carefully selected and generally matched well with the food. My "half" surprise wine pairing was really satisfying. Many of the chosen wines need not be from big produces or expensive ones. Clients admired and appreciated this kind of Sommelier's ability. Alexandre Ceret was the current head wine waiter at Astrance.

My lunch began with small bites of Tartelette of black truffle and parmesan cheese - earthy and a little heavy; and Almond biscuit with apple and hazelnut - a little zesty and sweet. Like my past meals here, I opted for the most comprehensive menu and here is my food journey.

Menu Astrance

Foie gras mariné au verjus, millefeuille de champignon de Paris, pâte de citron confit (The "Napoleon" of white Button mushrooms (dusted with porcini powder), slices of green apple and Foie gras marinated in verjus served with Hazelnut oil and preserved Lemon) - The millefeuille was generally light and delicate having great texture and taste variations. The duck liver's warm rich taste was balanced fresh sharp apple, lemon acidity and woody mushroom. The interplay of crunchy champignon and creamy foie gras was clear and pleasant. The natural flavor of each ingredient could still be easily recognized. No doubt, it was the most famous and photographed dish at this restaurant. Similar to L'Arpege's egg, everybody has to have and savor this delicacy at L'Astrance. Given its portion, I don't think I would ever be bored with Pascal Barbot's signature appetizer.

Accompanied by wine: Vouette et Sorbée fidele Blanc de noirs Champagne (intense nose, rather complex taste with fruit and flower, little acidity, good aroma).

Bisque de crustacés, safran et raviole de Carabineros (Red Shrimp ravioli served in Shellfish bisque with saffron) - While the prawn was tasty, I found the ravioli's skin was slightly too thick. The flavorful emulsion had Asian touch, containing coconut milk. To tamper any rich taste and add some layers of textures, Chef Barbot put in cabbage, carrot and spinach underneath the bisque - in light of the rest of the dishes, this one was alright. 

Saint-Pierre, riz Japonais “Koshihikari”, beurre blanc la sauce soja (John Dory served with Koshihikari rice and 'white butter' emulsion) - If the previous dish had Thai influence, this one was inspired by Japanese cuisine. The perfectly steamed John Dory was mild with flaky texture. It went along with refined Japanese short-grain rice (fluffy and a bit sticky) seasoned by vinegar and a little citrus. The delicious "brown sauce" enhanced both the fish and the rice altogether; essentially it was a mixture of beurre blanc and soy sauce. I liked this sophisticated dish ... at the same time, I felt a few people might not enjoy it - not so French or too Asian perhaps?

Accompanied by wine: 2016 Domaine Jousset Montlouis-sur-Loire Premier Rendez-Vous (some minerality and acidity with smooth finish - good pairing with the fish and creamy cheese).

Velouté de céleri, coulis de Truffe noires, et Parmesan fondu (Celeriac cream soup served with melted Parmesan, Perigord truffle shavings and puree) - It was one of L'Astrance specialties in the Winter; the combination of these produce generated rich and robust flavors (buttery, creamy and ... slightly sinful), fragrant aroma as well as velvety texture. I tasted each element separately before mixing them to appreciate the dish even more. The wine pairing (with Chenin blanc-based wine from Loire Valley) was wonderful.

Croque Monsieur au Saint Nectaire et à la truffe noire (Toasted sandwich of St.-Nectaire cheese and Black truffle) - Another Pascal Barbot's signature dish in the Winter. Crispy and buttery toasted bread was filled by melting & soft cheese (tangy, sweet, mildly bitter) as well as cooked truffle (pungent, earthy, delicious) ... every byte was ethereal. Hands down it was the world's best croque monsieur and much better than Rostang's black truffle sandwich.

Accompanied by wine: Bartoli Vecchio Samperi Perpetuo Marsala 5 years (fresh, discreet, fine acidity, some orange aroma, a little nutty - beautiful pairing with the sandwich above).

Tourte Colvert et Foie Gras, salade à la Truffe noire (The pie of wild Mallard and duck liver, served with Black truffle salad) - Pieces of mainly duck breast and foie gras with some other parts of the duck were neatly encased inside relatively thin puff pastry. The meat was meticulously cooked with the right texture and taste; it was dense & rich yet not heavy and flavorful & deep yet not cloying. It was rightfully accompanied by sauce containing duck jus and some black truffle. The salad with light dressing + generous Perigord truffle shavings would add some complexity as well as tamper any intense flavor. It was nearly as perfect as L'Ambroisie's version. Nowadays, it was quite a rare feat for any top restaurants to create such dish and I was very pleased to have savored it in L'Astrance. 

Accompanied by wine: 2011 Domaine Combier Crozes-Hermitage Clos des Grives (fragrant, round taste, medium body, good density on the palate - excellent pairing for the gamey meat, here as well as with the pigeon).

Roasted Pigeon served with Salsify and Cherry condiment & almond - The breast's quality was superb and juicy; its flavor was nicely derived by the deep sauce (concentrated pigeon's jus with some black truffle). The versatile & savory root vegetable, crisp almond and tart cherry paste would balance any gamey / intense taste from this Loire valley bird. Pascal's slow cooked meat dishes rarely disappointed. The kitchen also prepared the Pigeon's leg and liver, which were more flavorful. There were also Juniper berries with distinct taste in this small bowl.

Sorbet piment, Gingembre et Citronnelle (A sorbet of Chili pepper, Ginger and Lemon grass) - The combination might not be usual, but it was a very good palate cleanser.
Chocolate souffle tart (melting, bitter, a bit sour) accompanied by salted caramel - intense but very pleasant. This was the main dessert for this lunch

Purée de pomme de terre, glace vanilla (Potato mousseline served with Vanilla ice cream, Thyme and Fromage blanc) - This 'mashed' potato was complex (though the picture looked simple) and tasty - a mixture of smooth potato, a bit sour cheese, and sweet & good quality ice cream. The temperature (hot and cold) and texture contrast were enjoyable. Many elements worked well together.

Madeleines au miel de châtaignier / Lait de poule au jasmin / Fruits frais
Honey chestnut Madeleine: crispy, fragrant and sweet.
Jasmine eggnog: aromatic and sweet.
Seasonal and fresh fruits: good but not exceptional.
Most of the sweets part at L'Astrance might be repetitive, but they're not overwhelming - kinda easy to eat and digest. 

The casual dining room was accompanied by a relaxed service. L'Astrance did not employ that many staffs in both kitchen and dining room. Therefore, most of the waiters including the Sommelier and Manager Rohat focused more on preparing the utensils, bring dishes to the tables and clearing the food. They tried their best to entertain or made a quick joke but I understood that until the end of the meal, it was quite challenging for the staffs to have a long conversation with clients. Chris Rohat made conscious effort to talk to me and a few other repeated guests when not busy. If one stays more than 2 hours during lunch or longer than 3 hours for dinner, one has a good chance to meet and talk with Pascal Barbot. He was gracious and amiable; when talking with him, Chef Barbot made sure to have an eye contact and usually was interested in listening to the customer's feedback. Pascal was quite well-known to be the nicest chef among the high-end restaurant suppliers. He trusted these artisanal producers to send the freshest and best ingredients to his restaurants although sometimes he's not sure whether the clients would like them. In short, on the day to day basis, it's normal that Pascal might not have the full picture of what to cook until the morning he arrived to Astrance. This was when his experience, creativity and spontaneous cuisine came to the rescue. 

There was a rumor about how kind Pascal Barbot was towards his alumni. He was very supportive when cooks that used to work with him wanted to open his / her own restaurants. I heard that Chef Barbot was even willing to assist / invest financially. Some of the current famous chefs that used to grace L'Astrance's kitchen were Shuzo Kishida (Quintessence) and Magnus Nilsson (Faviken). Pascal Barbot received the full support of Alain Passard when the Arpege's owner shared hundreds of his regulars to him upon opening Astrance and now he's doing something similar towards his "students". A beautiful cycle of generosity! L'Astrance may not be among my top 5 favorite restaurants in France, but it has been consistently performed at high levels (at 2.5* "Michelin" standard in my notes) based on my 3 meals here. At the moment, it's a 2-star restaurant but I like and value this restaurant more than my meals at Guy Savoy Paris or Le Pre Catelan. For a reference, here is my previous meal at Astrance - Astrance (early) Spring 2016. Whereas the pictures of the dishes above, can be found: L'Astrance Jan '19
Food (and Wine): 96 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 95/100

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Lung King Heen Chan Yan Tak

Lung King Heen (LKH), located on the 4th floor of luxurious Four Seasons Hotel, is arguably the most famous Chinese restaurant in the world. It was all because of the unprecedented 3-star Michelin award given to this place more than a decade ago as the first recipient coming from a dining place serving Cantonese cuisine to be more precise. I've been to this place about 2-3 times prior to this meal for both lunch and dinner; eating dim sum and dishes to share as well as savoring the seasonal tasting menu. The "best" thing about LKH is probably its consistency to deliver tasty and good quality dishes. It might not be among my top 10 dining institutions around the globe, but I could not recall I had a bad meal here. It's definitely not an easy feature given Lung King-heen serving more than 100 different items regularly, varying from dim sum to siu mei (Hong Kong-style barbecue), braising and stir-frying as well as dishes prepared with a few others cooking techniques. This could only happen because the kitchen, led by the master chef Chan Yan Tak, has nearly 50 members working daily for 7 days a week.

Chef Chan Yan-tak did not enter to this trade because of its glory like now, but more due to the difficult economy situation when his father passed away. He already worked in the kitchen when he's 12 starting in the mid 60's. During that time until the early 90's, cooking was often recognized as the job for those who could not make it at school or elsewhere in Hong Kong. His patient and tenacity finally paid off; slowly but surely he rose in the rank and position. Chef Chan had become the head chef of Lai Ching Heen (at the Regent hotel) for more than 15 years before he called it a day. However, Four Seasons HK somehow managed to persuade him out of retirement in the early 2000's and the rests as we know now were history.

Lung King Heen was a huge restaurant (maybe the biggest one with 3-star award?) with understated decoration. There was a water feature as guests entered the restaurant. As they're escorted to the tables, diners should notice plenty of woods and glasses. The tables, with fresh flowers on top, were large with generous spaces among them. This made the ambiance warm and relaxed - a big contrast to the more opulent interiors at Caprice, LKH's sister restaurant - so, it's common to notice that some patrons would prefer to dress informally. Perhaps, the most striking aspect about the dining room was the Victoria harbor panorama. Given the stature and importance of Lung King Heen, I felt I owed this place a full review and this time I would highlight my latest meal here taking place in the Autumn of 2018.      

A Taste of Traditional Canton

Crispy Suckling Pig with Chinese Pancake - Crunchy & crackling skin with rather thick but tender meat as well as the right amount of sauce, delicious

Deep-Fried Crab Shell Stuffed with Onions and Fresh Crab Meat - Another classic dish one would often find in HK top Cantonese restaurant. The breadcrumbs coating crust was prepared until golden and crunchy. Inside the shell was filled with generous and fresh crab meat and not so rich but creamy sauce. I took advantage of the light yet umami worcestershire sauce; this and the onion balanced any intense crab's taste
Accompanied by wine: Muscat Puchang Vineyard | China 2015

Superior Pottage with Shredded Chicken and Fish Maw - Not usually a fan of Chinese soup, but this one was better than expected. Unlike more "normal" Asian soup, this one was relatively thick, fragrant and rich (having quite high viscosity). In addition of the chicken and small amount of fish maw, there were shredded carrot, fungus, bamboo and scallions provided some extra layers of textures. The first few bytes might be intense, but it felt more enjoyable and easier to consume afterwards; complex but tasty

Sautéed Superior Australian Wagyu Beef with Fresh Lily Bulbs and Lotus Seeds - The Wagyu beef was first seared, then stir-fried together with the red & yellow bell peppers, asparagus, onions etc.The beef was kinda salty, tender but not too marbling. Hence a bit "beefy" nevertheless a good & 'simple' dish; not oily
Accompanied by wine: Château de Fonbel | France 2009

Braised 30 Heads Oma Abalone with Sea Cucumber and Chinese Mushrooms - A very fine quality of dried abalone; it had distinct aroma, complex taste and tender yet springy texture. Whereas the sea cucumber was soft and mild in which the flavor was derived by absorbing the 'supreme' brown sauce. The stock / sauce was intense and deep but not too thick. The mushroom was intoxicating in aroma with firm texture. Traditional Cantonese food prepared with superior ingredients by talented kitchen
Accompanied by wine: Sherry Old Harvest Medium Dry Ximénez- Spínola | Spain

Braised Seasonal Vegetables with Bamboo Piths and Maitake Mushrooms - After the last 2 heavy dishes, it was a relieve to have this delicate course. The versatile Australian spinach was intensely green with mild taste and soft texture; it was combined with tender & fragrant bamboo mushroom. On the contrary to these produce, the maitake was more crunchy. The clear and clean stock nicely tied these elements altogether
Accompanied by wine: Chardonnay Mineral Weingut Friedrich Becker | Germany 2015

Lung King Heen Fried Rice with Assorted Seafood - Similar to Japanese kaiseki, prior to the dessert ... the Chinese tasting menu would serve a rice dish (sometimes noodle). LKH is famous for its seafood fried rice and it was very tasty indeed. The rice grains were distinct and also cooked with shrimp head's oil. The seafood was a mixture of lobster, fish, crab, conpoy etc. Feel free to add the provided chili or XO sauce. If you order a la carte, this fried rice was also worth for sharing

Sweetened Almond Cream with Glutinous Rice Dumplings - The almond cream was not that sweet actually. While the glutinous rice had lovely texture, the number of "dumplings" was too few and the filing (sesame) was too little. Therefore, the overall taste was a bit plain ... not bad, but could've been better. Anyway, sweets were usually not the forte of any Chinese restaurant
Accompanied by wine: Moscato d’Asti Sant llario Ca'd'Gal | Italy 2016

While it has become more common for Chinese restaurants using Western / Japanese ingredients, the cooking and technique applied at Lung King Heen was unmistakably Cantonese. Although they did not go as well as the ones done at French cuisine, the wine pairings that night were interesting and offered at quite reasonable price. Generally, I still preferred to consume the food with hot Chinese tea. Like the kitchen team, the front of the house delivered top notch service. Staffs were friendly, attentive, polite and warm. They handled clienteles from different background with ease. The operational integration from both ends of the house at LKH went smoothly. Chan Yan Tak, the Executive Chinese chef of the hotel, was not only a brilliant chef, but also a good leader. Readers could see the pictures of the dinner here: Lung King Heen Oct '18. If any of you are interested in seeing my old meal here for comparison (with more contemporary and seasonal dishes), please check - LKH Spring 2015    

Food (and Wine) : 94 pts

Service (and Ambiance) : 93 pts

Overall : 93.5 / 100

Friday, May 3, 2019

Pierre Gagnaire Paris - 6th visit

As a foodie, ideally, I should go and visit as many new restaurants as possible. Probably either I often choose the easy way out or I simply love Paris. As it has always been, at least half of my top 10 favorite restaurants in the world are located in the city of lights. The yellow vest acts did not deter me to return to Paris in January this year - in fact, I was blessed as somehow my short stay there excluded the weekend. I have never been to Pierre Gagnaire au hotel Balzac in Winter, so it was a no-brainer that I would re-visit this place especially after a spectacular meal I ate in the early Autumn of 2017 (Gagnaire Paris 5th meal). Unlike my previous visit, the Picasso of cuisine was not present during my dinner. Instead, his most trusted man - chef Michel Nave, who has been working with him for more than 30 years, was leading the kitchen. I knew I was in good hands.

Having a meal at Pierre Gagnaire restaurants could be overwhelmed for some people. Not long was I seated at my favorite spot, I was already 'bombarded' with welcome canapes consisting of more than half-dozen of different nibbles. For instance,  Tomatillo pulp with tarragon; Large crab nolpi; Sardine rilettes with oyster leaf; Smoked haddock bouchee etc. They were good, fun and rather unique. Except for my maiden visit in 2007, I never ordered any tasting menu anymore at this place. The a la carte dishes were too good to resist. However, this time I decided to sample numerous Gagnaire seasonal creations focusing on the prized ingredients of French black truffle from Perigord. There were lots of food and they were remarkable. My 2019 best meal would actually occur in the first month of the year? Very likely ... 


1st appetizer
Damier de Saint-Jacques d’Erquy, bouillon de boeuf au tapioca (Damier of scallop from Erquy, beef bouillon with tapioca) - Erquy is known as French scallop capital. The kitchen arranged the pristine scallop carpaccio and thick slices of black truffles in alternating colors like a checkerboard. The scallops were delightfully fresh with soft texture and mildly sweet flavors, in contrast to the firmer and more intense Tuber melanosporum. The beef broth & tapioca were lightly umami, gave additional delicate taste in the background. This scallop dish was served with 2 different side dishes ...
Corolle de haddock : encornets, morue, artichaut poivrades (Smoked haddock corolla : squids, cod, small artichokes) - On the contrary to the clean scallop, the broth here was creamy, more flavorful yet not overly rich. The haddock was slightly sweet and smoky, in harmony with the black truffle aroma. The addition of squid, cod and artichokes delivered texture and flavor contrasts; these ingredients beautifully absorbed the yellow sauce as well. This bowl and the earlier damier scallop were both excellent
Mousseline de choucroute, radicchio (Sauerkraut mousseline, radicchio salad) - The last part of the first course was slightly acidic mousse of sauerkraut mixed with rather bitter radicchio and pungent truffle. It gave an interesting accent for the other 2 items

2nd appetizer
FiFine – crosnes, mange-tout, pamplemousse thaï (FiFine – chinese artichokes, butter beans, thaï grapefruit) - (Fried) Crosnes was a bit juicy, having pleasant & earthy flavor + crunchy texture. The 'artichokes' were accompanied by grainy butter bean, sour grapefruit and unique truffle flavor ... this dish was light, a bit sweet and really enjoyable + easy to eat
Crépinette Sarladaise, velouté d’épinard, ail noir Aomori (Crépinette Sarladaise, spinach velvety soup, black garlic from the Aomori region) - Quite the opposite to the crosnes ... here, some kind of pork internal organ was cooked with goose fat resulting in intense rich taste. It was served with tender aged garlic that somehow tasted like plum with subtle balsamic aromas and creamy spinach. A solid & classical French flavor to balance the more modern & Asian-influenced chinese artichoke item

Accompanied by wine: Lanson extra age brut (Full body & fresh, delicate color, red fruit notes, and smooth with good balance) 

3rd appetizer
Une tourtière de légumes (A vegetable pie) - The freshly cooked soup was boiling. It had some characters and flavors of the Japanese food - delicious and full of umami taste. Some of the vegetables were: cooked sweet yet savory & juicy turnips (appear golden) as well as sweet and nutty parsnips. Last but not least, the earthy black Winter truffles with its distinct aroma and flavors elevate this excellent vegetarian soup!
Gelée de coing, glace poire | gorgonzola (Quince jelly, ice cream pear | gorgonzola cheese) - To "support" the soup above, the kitchen prepared 2 dishes. Here, I had soft and tarte quince jelly that (surprisingly) went well with sharp and salty gorgonzola. The pear ice cream with small amount of pecorino provided a good bridge for the jelly & cheese while the chopped Perigord truffle gave some crunchy texture to this dish
Rémoulade de céleri-rave (Shredded celeriac in a remoulade sauce) - The pie crust was not wasted as the kitchen used it along with the traditional preparation of Celeriac remoulade. The celeriac was fresh and crisp, combined with airy pie and black truffle-infused remoulade sauce. The umami soup was in harmony with soft quince jelly and crunchy (raw) celeric - overall, what an amazing 3rd course!

Main course - fish
Fine escalope de féra du lac Léman à la nage ; voile de Savagnin, Paris boutons, panais, feuilles de capucine (Thin escalope of whitefish from the Geneva Lake ; veil of Savagnin wine, Paris mushrooms, parsnips, nasturtium leaves) - The quality of prized "fera" was superb. The thinly sliced and perfectly cooked whitefish fillet was moist and delicate without any fishiness. To develop more flavors, Chef Nave put Winter-inspired sauce of Paris mushrooms and black truffle. The versatile parsnips would reduce any strong taste and fresh nasturtium gave light accent - very good
Gagnaire prefers to prepare the side dish on a separate plate. For the whitefish, the kitchen provided clean vegetable bouillon with soft Corsican cheese and some Perigord truffle - this chilled soup assisted the parsnips to balance the whitefish's rich sauce

Accompanied by wine: 2016 Blanc de Chasse-spleen (Medium body & acidity, smooth with citrus nose, long and rounded finish; a solid pairing for the vegetarian pie and lean fish)

Main course - 1st meat
Blanquette de veau fermier – grande feuille de romaine, endive et red meat (Blanquette of farm veal – large romaine salad leaf, chicory and red meat radish) - Despite known for his innovation and (often) complicated technique in cooking, Pierre Gagnaire respects tradition and possesses technical mastery of classical French cuisine. For my 1st meat main course, the chef interpreted an iconic and timeless mild stew of poached veal. At 3-star level kitchen, as I expected, the chunks of veal were tender and tasty, enriched by velvety and refined sauce having deep flavor. To make it even "better", the cooking team added slightly sweet radish, mildly bitter and spicy taste from romaine and chicory as well as aromatic fungi. It was wonderful and I never felt overwhelmed with any intense flavor here - a comforting and elegant veal stew
Galette de polenta blanche, oignons grelots (Galette of white polenta, small onions) - The flat pastry with creamy & oaky Winter truffle sauce and crisp & sweet small bulb onions became a pleasant and ideal supportive side dish for the veal blanquette

Main course - 2nd meat
Blanc de poularde de la ferme de Culoiseau en vessie (Fattened hen breast from the Culoiseau farm cooked in a bladder) - Inside the hot water, the (pig) bladder swelled up ... then it was punctured in front of me and following that, the fattened hen was carved by the table side. The idea of using a baldder was to retain and integrate the flavors of the poularde during cooking. It was a "half-portion", so the kitchen picked a smaller hen for me. A beautiful homage to Mere Brazier?
Blanc de poularde avec petit épeautre du pays de Sault, puntarella et Sauce Albufera (The poularde breast was served with spelt from the Sault region, puntarella salad and Sauce Albufera) - Voila .. the dish was presented with all of its glory. The en vessie cooking resulted the breast meat to be tender and moist with lovely and subtle tastes of lardons and black truffles (if consumed without the sauce)   
Foie gras poché, gnocchi de parmesan et pignons de pin (Poached foie gras, gnocchi of parmesan cheese and pine nuts) - The classic albufera sauce and duck liver enhanced the poularde's flavors; some spelt and light gnocchi beautifully absorbed the creamy sauce while the nuts gave solid accent and texture contrast. Ultimately, the Tuber melanosporum (slipped beneath the bird's skin when cooking as well as from generous slicing) elevated this traditional dish to even a higher level. C'est parfait!
Friselli d’agria, fondue d’oignons doux | lard de colonnata (Friselli of agria potatoes, slow-simmered sweet onions | colonnata lard) - The thin & crisp potatoes in deep yellow color + simmered onions + fragrant Perigord truffles delivered some moderate sweet flavors to perfectly complement the savory taste of the chicken from Culoiseau farm

Accompanied by wine: 2015 Vincent girardin Volnay (Nose of ripe cherries & plum, lovely but rather young, good tannin and acidic as well as medium body)

Grand desserts
Mont Ventoux - A mont-blanc with the addition of mushroom galette and Perigord truffles. It had different layers of texture and flavor variations. Unlike the classic version, the chestnut, meringue and cream filling at Mont Ventoux were less sweet ... the earthy and firm mushrooms added additional dimensions. I liked it a lot   
Royale Richerenches - It might not look too appetizing but it was some kind of cream cheese with good balance of sweet and a little sour taste plus musky & tasty truffle - better than expected
Cassate citron de Menton, oranges sanguines liées d’un sirop de clémentine (Cassate flavoured with lemon from Menton, blood oranges thickened with a clementine syrup) - A creative take from the traditional Cassata. The firm and cold cake was moistened with lemon & blood oranges and layered by some cheese (ricotta?). The use of blood orange generated more sour / acidic taste which was very useful in the grand scheme of the other desserts altogether. This one would reduce any sweetness but the truffle did not make any big impact here  
Un trait d’huile d’olive de votre choix (A hint of olive oil of your choice) - The extra virgin olive oil with passion fruit cream and Winter truffles contributed some bitter taste in a gentle way 
Sablé de mâche (Lamb’s lettuce salad shortbread) - A smart combo of rich & sweet sable pie with raw & tangy lamb's lettuce successfully highlighted the unique aroma and flavor of chopped Tuber melanosporum on top - awesome!
To fully appreciate the dessert creations of Gagnaire was by eat a little bit of everything continuously in random orders or according to your palate preferences - I truly enjoy this many desserts showcasing the use of black truffle; well done!

The dinner food was exceptional, but what made the overall meal extraordinary was that the front of the house team also performed at (very) high level in particular from the "middle level" staffs. Herve Parmentier, the restaurant director, did not work on that Monday night. I was mostly taken care of by the assistant manager, who helped the opening of Gagnaire Bordeaux and a junior maitre d' lady, who used to work in Ireland. Whoever served you, the younger staffs at this place mainly were patient, spoke fluent English, had good knowledge about Gagnaire's (complex) dishes, and amiable. In the last 2 visits, I noticed things that I only encountered at Pierre Gagnaire Balzac. Any meal here usually would last 3+ hours, so before I actually completed my lunch / dinner ... if my maitre d'hotels had to leave first, they would come to my table and politely excuse themselves - apologizing that they're unable to stay until my meal finish, thanking me to have come and the opportunity to serve, and lastly introduce another staff who would attend my table until the end. I thought it was a very kind and professional gesture. Strangely, the memorable hospitality I received at Gagnaire Balzac was generally rendered by staffs whom I would never see them again when returning here a couple of years later whereas the service from long-service staffs at the manager / director level was somehow just ordinary.

Having visited and dined at Pierre Gagnaire's flagship restaurant for more than a decade, what more needs to be said? I was still blown away by his innovative, artistic and 'experimental' cooking. The master's ability to cleverly juxtapose flavors, textures and produce to bring dishes to the next level never ceased. Each dish preparation, execution and presentation was, as always, excellent. With the open mind and adventurous spirit, it's hard not to like this place. The menu kept evolving; there's no specific signature dishes. Even the Parfum de terre's content usually changed every season & annually. Guest could have a fantastic langoustine a la carte, come again 1-2 years later for the "same" dish ... to his / her surprise, the smaller and large plates combinations of the langoustine would be different. The mineral water at Gagnaire was often free; the restaurant had pretty good selections of wines at reasonable prices and the sommelier could adjust to the diners' need accordingly.

The only "downside" was perhaps the dining room begged for upgrading given the great status of this institution. Lastly, a few words about the passionate and accomplished Executive Chef Michel Nave. Michel Nave to Pierre Gagnaire is Eric Bouchenoire to Joel Robuchon; they were simply inseparable. As a MOF recipient, Michel's ability in classical French cuisine was unquestionable. Similar to his boss, Michel loved challenge and progress. How Gagnaire's attitude to never stay on his laurels happened to be suitable to Chef Nave's personality and ambition. Michel Nave was crucial when Gagnaire managed to recover his 3rd Michelin star after having moved to Paris. Then, Chef Nave has safeguarded the main restaurant's quality and operation as Pierre expanded his empire. Now, with nearly 20 restaurants to oversee under Gagnaire's brands ... well, the humble and talented Michel Nave has to get used to travelling overseas as well. Sometimes, Gagnaire and Nave even got to travel separately to ensure their restaurants perform at their desire levels. The pictures of this meal can be found: Pierre Gagnaire Jan '19. This is one of the "4-star" (the better ones among Michelin's best) restaurants in my notes and I can come here again and again without being bored.   

Food (and Wine) : 98 pts

Service (and Ambiance) : 96 pts

Overall : 97.5 / 100

Friday, April 12, 2019

Restaurant Überfahrt Christian Jürgens

Germany is blessed with numerous top restaurants holding Michelin 3-star awards. However, reaching most of them was generally not an easy task as they're not located in the country's major cities. My latest adventure was visiting the under profile restaurant named Uberfahrt, located in the small town of Rottach-Egern (around 50 km South of Munich). The hotel where Uberfahrt resides, overlooked the beautiful Lake Tegernsee. Bavaria region is well-known as one of the coldest area in Germany. My lunch in the late January this year, coincided with the heavy snow and plenty of wind chill. Perhaps, the rather unpleasant weather contributed to the quiet lunch situation - including myself, there were only 4 people dining at this top restaurant ... 3 locals and one of them dining solo. Restaurant Uberfahrt was led by the 'celebrity chef' named Christian Jurgens. After having worked under the guidance of none other than Heinz Winkler, the German living legend chef, for several years, Chef Jurgens arrived here in 2008 and gained the 2-star award in a very short time. 6 years later, he attained the ultimate 3-star from Michelin.

After having relaxed in the hotel lobby for 20 min. or so, I walked into the restaurant Uberfahrt hidden in one of the hotel's corner. The dining room was intimate and far from being opulent. I began my meal with some snacks and a glass of non-alcohol aperitif of Virgin winter bellini - fresh, sweet but in a subtle way, and a little buttery. Similar to Atelier Munich, there were 2 different tasting menu offered ... 5 and 7 courses (you're allowed to order any courses as an a la carte as well); I selected the longer one. Prior to the first appetizer, the kitchen brought in its timeless amuse bouche: a tomato snowball with tomato liquid caipirinha (Brazilian cocktail) inside; it had a taste like a mixture of some kind of white rhum with lime and sugar. It was fluffy at the outside but with deep & concentrated tomato + some piquant flavors on the inside ... an opening with tame look but dramatic taste. Then, here comes the degustation menu,

BLAUKRAUT Rotkohl, Saibling, Senf, Soja (Red cabbage with char, mustard, and soy) - Cabbage with the soy was somewhat sour; the Char, served almost raw and having moderately firm texture, was mild yet kinda fatty. Altogether with the rest of the produce, the kitchen made this appetizer refreshing and a bit sweet. It looked complex but the taste was clear and clean. 

HONG KONG CRAY FISH TEA Kaisergranat, Sesam, Kräuter, Pioppini (Langoustine with herbs and pioppini-mushroom) - The soup was prepared in the Cona auto drip coffee machine. The broth taste was delicate with some herbal aroma and light flavor of the crayfish and tea - interesting. The 'sashimi' of the half-portion langoustine was unfortunately very small. Therefore, despite its sweetness, the impact it had to the dish was not as powerful as I had expected while the mushrooms were alright. 

TURBOT Steinbutt, Edamame, Röstzwiebel, Koriander, Senfsaat (Turbot with edamame, roasted onions, and mustard seeds) - The meaty back Turbot, seasoned with some lemon and pepper, had beautiful white flesh, mild taste and rather firm texture. The light taste and distinct texture of the seeds and green soybeans complemented the fish. The roasted onion 'soup' with some greens (such as parsley, chives and greens) gave bolder and deeper overall flavor to the Turbot. Starting from this dish onward, I began to truly like my meal more ...

DIE KISTE Gefüllter Kartoffelwürfel, Perigord-Trüffelmousseline, Trüffelsalat (Filled potato cube with Perigord truffle mousseline and truffle salad) - This is one of Chef Jurgens signature dishes and I think no better time to savor it other than during the high season of Winter black truffle. The potato with hidden egg yolk inside was carefully shaped into a yellow cube. The flavorful potato & yolk was surrounded by sweet, pungent and delicious mousseline infused with black truffle as well as Madeira sauce. I loved this dish very much - rich and deep in flavor yet not overwhelming, served with the right texture and temperature. It was the best thing I ate during my short trip to Germany this time.

FLATTERMANN Challans-Ente, verbrannter Spitzkohl, Gewürzjus (Challans-duck with burned cabbage and spice jus) - The duck was of high quality and it was meticulously prepared. The meat was tender and flavorful, especially with the jus made of the duck's jus and some spice. In contrast to the tender meat, the kitchen put some crunchy coating (coriander, mustard seeds etc.). The soft burned cabbage was quite playful ... more plain in taste, a little smoky and absorbed some of the spice jus flavor. A creative approach of Bavarian cooking. 

KÄSEAUSWAHL von Maitre Fromager Günther Abt (Cheese selection by Maître Fromager Günther Abt) - Unlike the earlier dishes, the cheese course portion was rather large. Some of the cheese I had were: brillat-savarin, camambert, mimolette, comte, tomme de chevre, langres and so on. The condiments were also comprehensive such as muscat grapes, almond & walnut, sweet mustard jam and a few bread. It was a solid variation and good cheese in general - I enjoyed them and they're quite filling. 

OMA JÜRGENS WARMER ORANGENKUCHEN Götterorangen, Nougateis, Pistazie (The Chef's grandma Orange cake with nougat ice cream and pistachio) - It was a rather intense and condensed dessert served warmed. The cake was a bit heavy with sweet & bitter nougat, sour oranges, a little alcohol, crunchy pistachio and some 'pop rocks'. It was suitable given the cold winter outside with plenty of snow; the portion was generous. Mix everything together to savor this sweet optimally.

The 2 staffs delivering the hospitality were both friendly and attentive. Given it was a quiet day, the service was relaxed ... if unnecessary, they would rather not to be found in the dining room. But every few minutes, they would show up to ensure that everything was fine. The pacing of the food was generally fine except for the main course, I was waiting for quite sometimes. Christian Jurgens was clearly capable of creating and delivering refined and contemporary French-based haute cuisine with Bavarian characters. He balanced the classic and modern cooking approach with good attention to details. The dishes' flavors were distinct and sublime. In spite of his creativity and skills, Chef Jurgens tried to present the dishes as simple as possible - guests could clearly what ingredients were used and recognized their taste. I did not know much about the Restaurant Uberfahrt before; I hoped the dishes served here would be very seasonal and the kitchen would still create new stuffs in the regular basis. I may not rush to return here again but I was pleased to be able to have a solid lunch at this dining place. The pictures from my lunch were Uberfahrt Jan '19

Food (and Wine): 95 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 94.5/100

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Épicure Éric Fréchon - 2nd 'visit'

2019 is a special year for restaurant Epicure and its illustrious chef Éric Fréchon. This year, he is celebrating his 20th anniversary as the Executive Chef of Hotel Le Bristol. Chef Fréchon rapidly led the restaurant to attain the 2-star Michelin in just 2 years after arriving here, however the elusive 3rd star did not come until 2009. Clearly, he has cherished the passion, hard work and sense of his achievement at Epicure and it's truly well-deserved. There was a time when I came to this restaurant only because most of the other elite dining places were closed (such as Easter Monday and Sunday lunch). Despite that, the "2nd team" of restaurant Epicure did perform at a high level during those public holidays. At the end, slowly but surely ... I really like this top palace-hotel restaurant. Early this year, I made a conscious effort to reserve a meal here for dinner on the weekdays when the best staffs (both in the kitchen and front of the house) are likely to work.

Épicure is a kind of restaurant that's quintessentially French. The execution of the food, carving / plating some dishes table side, a parade of cheese and petit fours with trolleys, charming service, an elegant dining room were some of the qualities that I'm glad they keep meanwhile more and more restaurants nowadays prefer preparing things less elaborate and 'too clean/healthy'. That being said, Eric Fréchon's sincere love towards his profession has pushed him to always strive for the best everyday. Compared to my last visit, I learnt that Epicure served a different bread, in fact only one kind - homemade country bread. This new bread was prepared fresh daily in the hotel and created from various natural & top quality wheats such as emmer, khorasan, barbu and so on. To achieve bread perfection, thanks to the hotel's unlimited support, Chef Eric installed a working stone flour mill (designed by Roland Feuillas, a bread master). Diners do not come to Epicure and pay for the bread, but Eric Frechon believes that a good bread at the beginning is crucial and could set the positive tone for the rest of the meal experience. Salute for the continuous improvement!

As soon as I was seated, the staff brought in some nibbles and kougelhopf. Then come the new wheat bread served with creamy butter. Since this would be my last dinner in Paris for this trip and due to a good experience the last time I encountered with the sommelier, I decided to go for the wine pairing. All of Benjamin's recommendations were pretty much spot on. Let's dive to more details below regarding my dinner on the last day of January this year ...   

LANGOUSTINES ROYALES juste cuites au thym-citron, condiment « oignon-mangue », bouillon des pinces aux agrumes et coriandre (Large Langoustine slightly cooked with lemon-thyme, served with « onion-mango » condiment, broth of the claws with citrus fruit and coriander) - The fresh langoustine (from Le Guilvinec) was lightly cooked and succulent.  It was beautifully served with the orange buttery sauce made of the prawn jus, yuzu and coriander. An elegant dish with the 'sweet' broth that was balanced by the onion-mango; it was particularly refreshing & light given that we were in the deep Winter season. I ordered a half-portion for the opening

Accompanied by wine: Alsace Riesling Grand Cru 'Pfingstberg', Domaine Valentin Zusslin 2014 - aromatic and concentrated with smooth texture; rich on the palate with long finish. An elegant riesling (dry & crisp) was a good match for this scampi  course

POT-AU-FEU DE BOEUF AUX TRUFFES NOIRES 1er service: Royale de moëlle, purée de céleri-rave et truffe noire (Beef Pot-Au-Feu with Black Truffle part 1: “Royale” of marrow, celeriac mousseline and black truffle) - The creative work of Chef Frechon interpreting a traditional home-made French dish. It came in 3 parts and the 1st one was soft and savory marrow with celeriac mousse ... they're contrasted to the crispy croutons and earthy truffle cubes. The kitchen added poultry jus to make this dish more flavorful

POT-AU-FEU DE BOEUF AUX TRUFFES NOIRES 2eme service: Pot-au-feu de boeuf, légumes, truffe noire et foie gras de canard (Beef Pot-Au-Feu with Black Truffle part 2: Beef pot-au-feu served with vegetables, black truffle and duck foie gras) - I thought it was the best part of the dish. The delicate and nutty marrow on top was again paired with pungent Winter truffle; they're accompanied by the "millefeuille" of beef, duck liver and vegetables (carrot, turnip and cabbage). The superb produce was harmoniously tied together by the aromatic and delectable beef consomme. Each byte was a pure bliss!

POT-AU-FEU DE BOEUF AUX TRUFFES NOIRES 3eme service: Bouillon infusé à la truffe noire et au shiitaké en montgolfière (Beef Pot-Au-Feu with Black Truffle part 3: Broth infused with black truffle and shiitake) - The last part of the "pot on fire" trio was a clear soup covered by puff pastry. As I pierced the pastry, there was a pleasant fragrance coming out of the broth. The pastry would soak many flavors of the delicate soup - it was really divine when the celery, Perigord truffle, foie gras, shiitake etc. were integrated altogether.
Dividing this course into 3 small dishes and savored them one by one was indeed the "best" way to serve and enjoy this unique pot-au-feu dish ... stunning, filled with plenty of texture and taste variations. Glad to have ordered it

Accompanied by wine: Rioja Reserva Vina Tondonia, Lopez de Heredia 2004 - cherries & berries aroma yet savory, round & crisp with subtle acidity, medium concentration and complex finish. The finest Spanish wine I've ever tasted and it could be even better in the next couple of years. A hearty red that went long well with my beef stew     

TRUFFE NOIRE DU PERIGORD cuite entière au gros sel et senteurs de sous-bois, mousseline de topinambour, croûtons dorés à la moelle (Whole Black Truffle from Perigord cooked with coarse salt and underbrush aromas, served with Jerusalem artichoke mousseline and croutons cooked with bone marrow) - Out of curiosity and the fact that it's one of Eric Frechon's Winter-only specialties, I decided to order this deluxe dish. It would be my maiden experience to eat the whole cooked black diamond 'naked' as opposed to the more common truffle shaving / cut into small pieces or covered by pastry. It's only possible with Perigord version as the Italian and Australian summer truffle do not have the same aroma and flavor strength when compared to the French counterpart.
As I cut the truffle (like a steak) and put it in the mouth, there was a perfect combination of firm & rather crunchy texture, strong & sensual? perfume as well as rich & intensive taste occupying my palate - truly ecstasy for the fans of Perigord truffle. The kitchen brought the dish to the next level by preparing light yet deep sauce made from truffle jus and chicken consomme. For the side dish that actually also elevated the experience, Chef Frechon and his team provided naturally sweet & tasteful artichoke mousse combined with egg white, croutons, egg yolk and bacon on top. An extra portion of the mousse served in the small cup was available too on the table and I 'devoured' it together with the cooked truffle. A unique and sublime dish ... the presentation (or my picture) might not look that inspiring, but it's certainly a masterpiece     

Accompanied by wine: Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Domaine Charvin 2013 - elegant nose of red & black fruits, rich but silky with good finish, and nice minerality. Given the proximity of Perigord and Rhone valley, perhaps it should not be surprising that a red Chateauneuf-du-Pape and a cooked truffle dish (having more intense flavor) were an excellent pairing

TRUFFE NOIRE émulsion de noisettes torréfiées aux éclats de cazettes, glace à la truffe noire, sauce au chocolat « gianduja » (Black Truffle dessert served with Roasted hazelnuts foam with “cazette” and Black truffle ice cream with “gianduja” chocolate sauce) - The cute dessert mimicked the real black truffle shape. The black truffle amount was just sufficient and the ice cream was pretty delicate in both aroma and flavor. With sweet chocolate sauce + fresh hazelnut in liquid form, crunch hazelnut + cookie underneath, it still tasted like a normal (choc-based) dessert. Don't worry ... you would not be overwhelmed by the Perigord truffle. I really liked the texture (crisp vs soft) and flavor (sweet vs earthy) contrast here. The portion was quite generous, but it was pretty easy to clean it up

Accompanied by wine: Niepoort, Porto 20 Year Old Tawny N.V. - creamy, sweet & delicate on the palate with some intense fruitness, smooth with pure finish ... a relatively easy port to drink. A good match indeed with any chocolate-based dessert

Prior to the main dessert, the kitchen delivered yoghurt sorbet with blueberry jelly as the pre-dessert. I skipped the cheese course. At the end, I had the petit fours for take away to be consumed with the coffee. There were 8 different flavors of fresh and fine macarons (as far as I could remember them, they were salted caramel, dark chocolate, coconut, lemon, chocolate with hazelnut, pistachio, cassis, and raspberry); a good balance of right chewiness and sweetness - one of the world's best macarons at the moment. From start to finish, my dinner was a haute cuisine experience at a very high level: innovative and meticulous cooking with top-quality ingredients and combinations resulting in dishes with superb flavors and perfect textures. Excellent food was balanced by flawless service under the leadership of Remi Segui, Director of restaurant Epicure. Whenever engaged in a conversation, in genuine smile and with full attention, he  would try to make it meaningful - not simply a lip service. Remi was assisted by his capable right hand man, Thomas Pfeiffer who was in charge of my section. Thomas would not be afraid of giving his insights about the food in particular and restaurant industry in general. For example, he warned me about some similarities between beef pot-au-feu and whole black truffle dish. I appreciated this kind of opinion though I still decided to go ahead and loved my choices. In addition, most of the staffs at Epicure were outgoing, spoke fluent English, and cordial with good sense of humor. For example, when Mathieu de Matteis, the junior maitre d', approached me ... I congratulated him that he's no longer in the beige uniform. He happily smiled and (on purpose) spoke rather loudly towards Remi and Thomas that soon / next he would get the same suit as them; read "take over their positions" :-) From the past experience, the staffs were also good in creating some dramas (a little fight or mock one another) among themselves for the sake of entertaining guests. That being said, the service, gesture and explanation were always performed consistently at the 3-star level.

If I had to be picky, the only 'downside' of the meal was that I prefer the lunch atmosphere to the dinner ambiance. The dining room with marble floors, red & thick curtains and plush upholstery was as opulent and elegant as ever. However, it lacked views and natural lights from the big glass window during the night, thus guests could hardly see the hotel's lovely inner French garden. Anyway, it was a minor thing. Épicure par Éric Fréchon quickly rose to the top 5 among my favorite restaurant in Paris and this meal ranked as the most memorable I've ever had here. Could you do better in the future Epicure? I hope so. Only a handful restaurants in Europe that I had the privilege to visit at least 5 times and now Chef Fréchon's temple of gastronomy joined that "exclusive" group. If you want to see the pictures, check the following link: Epicure Jan '19

Food (and Wine): 97 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 96 pts

Overall: 97/100

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Odette Julien Royer

Ever since the closure of Joel Robuchon Sentosa and Restaurant Andre, Odette is arguably the best restaurant in Singapore in terms of serving modern French cuisine; Les Amis should be the island's finest delivering classic French fine dining. Odette, opened in the late 2015, was the collaboration of its patron chef, Julian Royer with the Lo and Behold group. It took me some times to have a full meal here because as I observed online, the dishes served at Odette were very similar to the ones Chef Royer created during his days at Jaan. I expected a few years after the opening, Julien Royer would establish his own style given the freedom / power that he has as the owner of the restaurant. I was invited for a business lunch (it was satisfying) earlier in the Spring of 2017, then more than a year later, that's when I decided it's time to have a dinner to savor supposedly Chef Royer's "most proper meal".  

Restaurant Odette is named after Julien Royer's maternal grandmother who taught him a lot about respecting top produce / seasonal ingredients and cooking fundamentals. 5 years has passed since my dinner at Jaan ... I found Chef Royer was more confident and the cuisine has evolved. Nowadays, his cooking received some influence from Japanese cuisine and he often used Japan's top ingredients. In addition, he was more bold about taking advantage of utilizing Asian spices on the dishes. Julien Royer (still) liked to start the meal with the 'same' amuse-bouche: mushroom tea with Cep sabayon and Cep brioche. It was consistently good, creamy and tasty with earthy mushroom flavors and rather flaky brioche. For the bread, I tried 3 flavors - onion chestnut, black truffle brioche and sour dough - they're accompanied by normal butter as well as butter with pork lard and pancetta. Odette provided 2 tasting menu and I picked the non-vegetarian one. Below was more details info about my meal: 

The Tasting Menu

Hokkaido Uni served with Spot prawn tartare, Mussel cloud and Royal Schrenckii caviar - Prawn tartare and sea urchin have been proven as a potent combination, however the highlight for me was more of the airy and creamy mussel cloud that delightfully balanced and held other elements together. On the side, there was squid ink toast with uni on top - I truly tasted the sweetness of uni here more than the one inside its shell; a wonderful appetizer with plenty of umami flavors.

Trondheim Bay Scallop served with Horseradish, white balsamic, Pickled onion and dill - The fresh bay scallops were sliced and served a la sashimi accompanied by seaweed butter & rice cracker. The green 'sauce' below was horseradish while the dill oil was on top. It was simple and clean with a little sweetness; an interesting dish but would not be my favorite way to prepare scallops.

Heirloom Beetroot Variation served with Salt-baked beetroot, Stracciatella 'artigiana', and Honey - Eating a better beetroot than the one served at L'Arpege was nearly impossible. However, the kitchen played smart by presenting differently and adding more elements. For instance, the soft and silky Stracciatella gave some sweet and milky flavors that somehow worked well with the beetroot. The combination of honey, pomegranates and smoked beetroot were quite tasty. The frozen & gelato beet were not as bad as I thought. Overall, it was a very satisfying and well-deserved signature dish though I don't necessarily want to repeat it for the next time.

Organic Egg Capellini served with Light Comte cream, Hokkaido uni and White Alba truffle - It has been a trend for many high end restaurants recently to ask for supplement for dishes involving truffles; Odette practiced such method as well. The positive consequence was that the Alba truffle shavings were usually generous. Moreover, it was of good quality in terms of both flavor and aroma. The pasta was solid with decent taste, somewhat al dente but unfortunately really 'sticky'. The sauce consisted of 24-month old Comte cream and a little hint of chicken jus was light and delicious whereas the sea urchin was barely noticeable (perhaps only as an accent to the dish). A rather sophisticated pasta dish with satisfying flavors but with a little issue on the capellini's texture.

Foie Gras 'Comme Un Pho' served with Jade tiger abalone, Bbq eel dashi and Yuzu - The eel was torched in front of the guest; the abalone was so little that it's "almost irrelevant". The variations of clean & light dashi with several vegetables (such as spring onions, mints, coriander, tarragon, nasturtium leaves etc.) induced the idea of pho. The soup with fragrant veggies and a few layers of textures was my favorite part of this dish while the duck liver in a hot soup, made it less 'fatty'. Chef Royer seemed to like serving foie gras inside some kind of broth even several years ago in Jaan.

Wild Atlantic Turbot served with Butternut squash, Yari ika and Thai veloute - The beautifully cooked Turbot was kinda tasteless / under seasoned but it had flaky & lovely texture. The tender squid was slightly sweet and the mussel was alright. The main flavor of the dish was mainly derived from the moist Thai veloute and a little mussel jus. Many high quality ingredients were good but I did not find they worked too well together with the (strong Asian-influenced) sauce here.

Pigeon 'Beak To Tail' served with Jerusalem artichoke, Kampot pepper and Black garlic - This dish has always been the pride of Julien Royer. It was sourced from Brittany, specifically from Fabien Deneour. The bird was first grilled, then smoked. It was meticulously cooked with pepper, rosemary and garlic. After a short presentation, the kitchen would later prepare the pigeon in 3 ways.
The breast part was perfectly executed - tender and flavorful. The addition of delicately aromatic and mildly spicy/sweet Kampot pepper covering the meat made it almost ethereal. The crisp leg confit was tasty as well. Lastly, the liver parfait with a little sherry vinegar, pigeon jus as well as Jerusalem artichoke completed the overall enjoyment of this remarkable dish. It was even better than Chef Royer's hay roasted Bresse pigeon in the past.

Lemon Tart served with Sable breton, Meyer lemon and Basil - The crunchy Sable breton became the base for this dessert. The pleasant & tangy Meyer lemon curd was a bit sweet. The Basil could be detected on the white foam and sorbet. It might not reach the high note of earlier dishes, but it was a decent dessert to close the degustation menu at Odette. 

The service at Odette was above average when compared to other restaurants at similar level in Singapore. The front team managed to strike a balance between being formal and friendly; the staffs (even at the junior levels - the ones without any jacket/blazer) were warm and sincere. When explaining the dishes, they were confident and not robotic. The conversation sometimes involved the personal view / sharing from the team, indeed a few small details often made a difference. The wine selection was quite good. Since I usually only drank 2 glasses, my concern was more about the "pairing". I had a glass of 2016 white Sancerre and a glass of 2013 red Cote Rotie.

Besides JR restaurant under Chef Danzaki, I think this was my most delicious French meal in Singapore - technical-wise, Andre might be more superior, but I was more fond of the taste at Odette. I might not love all of them, but the signature dishes here such as the pigeon, beetroot and uni caviar were remarkable. The problem was probably that if Julien Royer is unable or unwilling to make changes and create new dishes that are at least equally flavorful, I would hesitate to return anytime soon as I usually like trying new items. It's not wrong to keep the same dishes over the years (including mushroom tea, rosemary smoked egg etc.), but I'm afraid the current state might not be sufficient to earn the 3rd Michelin star. For the pictures, please click Odette Autumn '18

Food (and Wine): 95 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 94.5/100