Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Château Restaurant Joël Robuchon

Joël Robuchon is one of the most revered Chefs in the world. When Gault Millau bestowed the highest rating of 19.5/20 to Robuchon’s legendary Jamin in 1988 (only Marc Veyrat surpassed it in 2004 by receiving a perfect 20/20), I was still in primary school and too young to understand any gastronomy world. Who expects a boy that used to eat KFC and fried eggs almost everyday would sit and savor the foods of the French living legend two decades later. After having a great lunch and experiencing the best hospitality at Genyana Hamadaya, I did not waste my time to go and dine at the famous Château Robuchon four hours later. This grand palace, located at the Ebisu garden, is truly the ultimate place for Robuchon’s fans; there is also La Table as well as Rouge Bar de Joel Robuchon inside this chateau. Outside this palace, one could also pamper himself with Robuchon’s foods by visiting Café, La Boutique or L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon; these many Robuchon’s establishments could be enjoyed together in one city - Tokyo, the new culinary capital of the world.

Originally, I secured my dinner reservation on 21st December 2007, but upon learning that they only serve the 8-course Christmas tasting menu that night whose price was closed to the L’Arpege’s set meal, I decided to dine there one day earlier and it saved me about USD 100. As I entered Château Robuchon, a lady from the reception warmly greeted and escorted me to the 3rd floor. On the way up, I passed the red-black color bar with little touch of gold that reminds guests of this castle’s luxury as well as the pre-dominantly purple-black color dining room of Robuchon’s La Table providing the chef’s modern French cuisine. Once I was seated at the extravagant dining room, dominated by the gold color, a glass of Bruno Paillard’s champagne was offered. My dining experience at the Parisian’s palaces certainly helped me to stay calm inside this castle that’s done away with the ornate of Louis XVI furniture blends with some of Tokyo’s fresh and contemporary style decoration. While zipping my champagne, I observed the menu; in addition to the a la carte, there are 12-course and 6-course degustation menu. To maximize the experience of Joël Robuchon‘s cooking, I ordered the bigger one and here what I had.

L’Avocat dans une infusion juste prise aux herbes et une caillebotte à l’huile d’olive (Avocado purée in a thin herb gelée and olive oil flavored curd cheese) - a fresh, slightly sour and creamy avocado amuse that would ignite one’s appetite

Le Caviar Osciètre petit œuf mollet et friand, flan mœlleux au fumet d’asperges, fines graines de couscous iodé (Crispy soft boiled egg, flan of asparagus, thin couscous and oscetra caviar) - the one with crunchy salmon and quail egg is divine and balance, the one with asparagus, showing contrast between land and sea creatures, needs a bit “more” caviar especially inside, and the last part with couscous is in right texture and temperature with subtle flavor. Once again, Robuchon shows his expertise in caviar dish

Accompanied by wine: Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs Reserve Privée

Les Crustacés la langoustine truffée à l’étuvée de chou vert, le homard rôti à la citronnelle avec une semoule végétale, l’oursin accompagné d’une purée de pomme de terre au café (Truffled langoustine ravioli with chopped cabbage, lemon grass roasted lobster with vegetable semolina, sea urchin, potato purée with a hint of coffee) - This is the best dish of the night - a combination of delicious and solid lightly cooked blue lobster; intense and succulent Brittany langoustine accompanied by fragrant truffle and foie gras reduction; as well as sweet and creamy Hokkaido sea urchin along with Robuchon’s famous mashed potatoes which are decadent

La Saint-Jacques la noix poêlée aux fregolas avec une émulsion coralline (Pan seared scallops with fregolas pastas and her emulsion) - The scallop is tasty and juicy, integrated with nice pastas. The emulsion’s intensity is just about right, very good

Le Gorgonzola en royale avec une vierge de poire et de tomate à la sauge (Custard of Gorgonzola with a pear vierge and sage tomatoes) - This buttery and warm Italian blue cheese is served warmed while the tomato, almond and pear neutralize the cheese's overly rich taste; very colorful and pleasing to the eye

L’Avoine veloutée aux amandes torréfiées et aux sucs de chorizo (Wild-oat velouté with roasted almonds and chorizo) - A unique and uplifting dish. The bland and sticky oat flavored by the “bacon’s” smokiness and almond’s“crunchyness”

Accompanied by wine: 2001 Chassagne-Montrachet Jean-Marc Morey

Le Saumon Sauvage d’Ecosse confit avec une nage au gingembre et une fleurette légèrement fume (Salmon with ginger marinière and lightly smoked cream) - the Scottish salmon is quite light but fresh while the rests of the elements do not mix very well. It’s just OK

Le Bar cuit sur la peau aux épices avec une sauce verjutée (Seabass cooked on its skin with spicy red wine sauce) - The Seabass’ quality is not that good (lack in freshness) and soft while the red wine sauce is too intense/sweet. I don’t really like this dish

Le Bœuf grillé, cristalline au poivre, cresson en tempura, raifort à la moutarde (Grilled Sendai beef, watercress tempura, horseradish mustard) - The “steak”, cooked perfectly (medium), is delicious and marbled (far superior than Australian wagyu) worked well with the fragrant tempura. It goes well with the mustard’s “spiciness”

Les Racines Maraîchères mitonné à l’huile d’Argan (Garden vegetables simmered in Argon oil) - Nice combination of fresh winter vegetables to clear any previous flavors before the desserts, very similar to the one I had in L’Arpege served with couscous

Accompanied by wine: 2003 Gevrey-Chambertin en Reniard Domaine Alain Burguet

Le Yuzu Vert en granite avec une gelée à la verveine et un voile au cachaça ambré (Young citrus sherbet with verbena jelly and soft goat cheese) - A combination of yuzu’s bitterness and citrus’ sourness that yield goat cheese’ slight sweetness. Not too over the top, but pleasingly fresh

La Châtaigne en soupe parfumée au rhum brun avec des billes de chocolat fondant et une glace au lait (Chesnut soup flavored with dark rum, bittersweet melting chocolate and milk ice cream) - The chocolate is fantastic with its bitterness balanced by the sweetness from the chesnut and ice cream. There's also a contrast of hot and cold

Le Café express ou le Thé et ses douceurs sucrées (Espresso or tea served with sweets and pastries) - The madeline and cannele are good, so are the chocolates (earl grey is my favorite). The best part is the macaroons especially pistachio, lemon and orange. All of these are accompanied by Darjeeling tea, it’s thin-bodied, with light floral aroma and musky spiciness

Accompanied by wine: 1998 Chateau Doisy-Vedrines Grand Cru

Overall, I am very satisfied with my meal here - the most delectable feast during my winter holiday in Tokyo and Hong Kong. The cooking here is simple yet tasty and balanced with beautiful yet non-traditional presentation; don’t expect to eat intensely flavored dish or one will be disappointed. The chef de cuisine, Alain Verzeroli is very talented and successfully merging French cuisine with some Asian sensations that generates a stimulating and adventurous tasting menu. The wine collection is extensive, comparable to many great French restaurants even in France and as expected, very expensive. I enjoyed all of my wines by the glass which varied from Reims’ champagne, white and red Burgundy as well as Sauternes’ sweet wine. And if your wallet allows, Takehiro Nobukuni-san, the sommelier, could pair each course with different wines by the glass according to your taste and budget.

The service throughout the evening was friendly and comforting despite the fact that a few of them did not speak English that well. However, they never missed to replenish my water and change my napkins. By 10:30 PM, I was the only diner left (Japanese had dinner quite early), but they never rushed me at all when I still enjoyed my desserts followed by tea and petit four. The restaurant’s decoration built in harmony with the architectural traditions of the 18th century is arguably one of the most elegant places in Tokyo. My sofa is spacious and comfortable, but one can still hear when the guests in the next table talk (one table spoke a bit too laud for fine dining restaurant standard). A year earlier, I ate at Robuchon a Galera in Macau and did not really like it. This Château Robuchon has changed my opinion about the cuisine of Joël Robuchon; he indeed is capable of producing exceptional dishes even though he is hardly in the kitchen himself - only once every quarter. Joel Robuchon at the Mansion in Las Vegas would probably do the justice whether his cooking suits my palate and taste. Please click this link for the pictures of the dishes http://picasaweb.google.com/Andi.Chahyadi.Hermawan/ChateauJoelRobuchon#

Food (and Wine): 95 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 95/100

Thursday, November 20, 2008

L'Arpege Alain Passard - 1st visit

Almost a year ago I had my first taste of 3-star Michelin restaurant at Alain Ducasse New York (ADNY) and it was excellent. However, I’m still curious what it would be like to dine at the one in Europe especially in France – the home of the Michelin guide book I suppose. More than 4 months ago, on Easter Monday in 2006 I, all by myself, had a dinner at the French 3* restaurant called L’Arpège, the home of one of the world’s best and most talented chefs – Alain Passard. Honestly, L’Arpège was not my first choice in the beginning simply because I’m quite scared with its prices. I tried to book either Pierre Gagnaire or Le Grand Véfour, but alas both were closed that day since it was still an Easter holiday in Paris. Then L’Arpège came next on my list and it’s available. I guess I was quite lucky as well to secure one place right there as the restaurant is small and full on the day I ate there. This year Easter Monday was actually very special for me. It could be said that day I had my best meals in my life. Earlier, I had a 3-hour lunch at Le Bristol and it was awesome as well. Hence, there was only 3 hour break in between my lunch and dinner. Personally, I was quite full and wondering if I would fully enjoy the meal at L’Arpège. How was it actually? Well, I was blown away. It’s the best dining I’ve ever had in my life, not only the meals but also the experience.

L’Arpège, located in the corner of Rue de Bourgogne and Rue de Varenne at 7th Arrondissement near the Rodin Museum, is set in a modern, contemporary setting in which the large gilt frame could be the only touch of classicism. The size is relatively small (I believe the place could at most allow 40 people to dine at the same time), yet the guests will not feel cramped inside. The decoration is sparse, perhaps only an old violin and a black-and-white portrait of a lady (the grand mother of the chef – Louise Passard) are the only distinguished furniture here, yet impressive. In addition, it is nice, clean and comfortable. About 7:35 pm I got off at the Varenne metro station. It was not too difficult to find the restaurant since I’ve been to Rodin Museum before. If one is not carefully observe the place, he could easily miss this wonderful place to eat. From the outside it looks very simple, nothing special about the entrance-door or the wall outside. It was a quiet evening but the sun was not yet set. I was a bit doubtful to enter the place, maybe it’s not opened yet so I was just walking around. 20 minutes later, I decided to open the door and a lady quickly greeted me and checked if my name was there. After that, Helène (one of the leading waitresses) accompanied me to my table. There had been 10 people seating inside when I took my seat.

The fun began with the (chef) sommelier, Stéphane Thivat, came and offered me a glass of champagne to start my unforgettable journey of eating that night. I accepted the offer and let him choose whatever best for that night and considering the one which would match well with the restaurant’s amuse-bouche and/or appetizers. The dishes inside L’Arpège’s menu are not that many – only 11 appetizers and main courses combined plus 5 desserts; whereas only one choice available for the dégustation menu. This year L’Arpège celebrated its 20th anniversary, so in the savoring menu we could see the dish’s name plus the year it was invented there. At first, I was tempted to let the chef to give me a surprise and cook me whatever he wanted according to the best ingredients offered. Then, Helène told me that Alain Passard was actually not present that day, because of this I decided to play safe and choose the tasting menu. Another reason is that it’s the first time I dine here so it should be best to be conservative. Here it goes; I ordered the grand classic menu as well as wine-tasting to come along with the food. The bread, butter and pre-appetizer here are good, in particular the vegetables. It should come to no surprise because the master of the stove here is the world’s top for vegetable-oriented Haute Cuisine. However, when the real dishes arrived, and then I just realized why and how the food here is considered by many food critics to be extremely exceptional.

Menu Grands Classiques

L’oeuf, fermier de la Bigottière (Poached egg served with maple syrup and sherry vinegar) - This is very impressive, the best egg dish I’ve ever had - easily top the egg from JG’s NY and even Calandre’s. It’s rich yet smooth; I could taste the balance flavor of sweetness, acidity and a little salt. As I “fish” further, I found the depth and precision of this coddled egg yolk

Carpaccio de langoustines du Guilvinec, caviar osciètre royal d’Iran (Prawn carpaccio served with osetra caviar) - An excellent and classic dish from L’Arpege. The pristine caviar, with cream of light emulsion, is served generously. They matched well with the fresh langoustine. It is about as good as the famous langoustine caviar with bouillon served at Alain Ducasse Paris

Bavarois d’avocat et caviar osciètre royal d’Iran, huile de pistache (Avocado mousse served with osetra caviar, oils of pistachio, tarama, and prawns and osetra) - This dish is not in the degustation menu’s list, but they kindly gave me as a surprised one. How’s it? This is one of the best dishes for the night, and truly the best caviar dish ever for me. The mixtures of the mousse (soft with high quality of an avocado) and caviar are excellent!

The first 3 dishes were accompanied by wine: 1996 Billecart Salmon - Cuvee Nicolas Francois, Brut Champagne

Fines ravioles fleuries aux herbes, consommé vegetal (Thin raviolis served with vegetable soup) - A simple dish with strong Asian influence, but as usual - it’s good where the fresh vegetables are wrapped in thin pasta. The slightly dark yet clear consommé is simply the purest essence of the vegetable

Gratin d’oignon doux au citron, parmigiano reggiano (Sweet & soft onion gratin served with parmigiano reggiano cheese) - It’s actually possible to create tasty food in haute cuisine without using too expensive ingredients. The onion is truly fragrance and sweetly appetizing, it’s prepared to my likeness – a bit crispy

These 2 appetizers were accompanied by wine: 2002 Verre de Chablis - Rene et Vincent Dauvissat

Homard des Îles Chausey en aigre-doux, miel d’acacia (Blue lobster served with acacia honey and turnip petals) - One of Chef Passard’s signature dishes. It combines the sweet and sour taste of the turnips and honey sauce. The lobster itself has a nice texture. The only bad thing I would say the size is too small … really

Lotte de Bretagne à la moutarde d’Orlèans, huile de noisette (Monkfish served with mustard emulsion and oils hazelnut) - Honestly, this is the first time I eat monkfish and it’s really delicious. The sides, such as the slowly-cooked at low temperature spinach and roasted beets with aged balsamic vinegar, truly enhanced the dense and meaty fish, grilled gradually for more than 2 hours. Wow … even better than the lobster!

Antique poulet du Haut-Maine au foin, jardinière (Free range of antique chicken served with garden vegetables) - I thought I could not eat a better poultry than Esnault’s white truffle blue foot chicken (ADNY), well L’Arpege proved me wrong. This is indeed the best one and also the highlight of the night along with avocado caviar and the tomato dessert. The skin is crispy, the meat is juicy and succulent (even the breast meat) combined with wonderful raw and cooked vegetables - here it goes a 20/20 dish

The 3 main courses were accompanied by wine: 2000 Saumur Blanc - Chateau Yvonne

Fromages de Bernard Antony, affineur (Assorted cheeses of Bernard Antony) – What more could you expect rather than an amazing cheese selection when a master like Bernard Antony prepare them for you? The captain kindly gave me 6 different kinds of cheeses. Mixtures of cow, goat and the age varied from 3-month to 4-year old. Since I’m not a cheese expert, I do not really know their names exactly. Only remember one, comte … They are all good, in particular when combining with Passard’s fresh tomatoes (my new friend asked for the tomato and it actually matched well with the cheese - a pleasant surprised!)

Accompanied by wine: 1991 Porto Colheita Niepoort

Tomato confite farcie aux douze saveurs, sucre à l’orange (Crystallized tomato stuffed with 12 secret flavors, sweetens with orange and vanilla ice cream) - I thought all desserts are the same, something sweet could not go further than chocolates, fruits or cakes. However, this one is very unique and special. The combination of 12 stuffs in the caramelized tomato was awesome – perfect with the soft and not so sweet vanilla ice cream; the presentation is pretty good as well

Accompanied by wine: 2002 Mambourg Grand Cru - Marcel Deiss

Unlike many other 3* restaurants, L’Arpège does not serve any chocolates or candies following the desserts. Fortunately, this time I got a chance to taste another of L’Arpège’s desserts: Avocat soufflé à la pistache (Avacado soufflé with pistachio) and Millefeuille pralin (a kind of Napoleon with cream and sugar). How could it possible? For the avocado soufflé, my new friend let me try hers. First of all, there were 2 American ladies (it turned out they’re from Philadelphia) dined there on my left side. Probably, they were bored and heard me keep talking English with the waiter, Monsieur Jean-Christophe and Helène, and then through Jean they invited me to seat at their table. Since I was all alone, thus I accepted their kind invitations. Wasn’t it nice to make new friends while dining alone? The older lady is one of the restaurant’s regular customers. She’s very familiar with the food even when they’re nowhere seen in the menu. Furthermore, she has many experiences with gastronomy food, to name a few she has been to many exclusive restaurants such as: Le Louis XV, ADPA, Guy Savoy Paris, and almost all of the New York’s top dining places etc. In the end she offered me to taste her dessert (soufflé – came close to the one I had at Le Bristol for lunch). For the Napoleon pralin (thin and airy), on the other hand, the restaurant prepared a large portion of it to the Japanese guests, but there were some left over usually served to other guests ordering the same dessert. Apparently, nobody asked for it, so I boldly asked if it’s fine for me to taste the Napoleon pralin and they’re happily gave the rest to me. It was big and I could not finish it.

The wine lists at L’Arpège may be a bit inferior compared to its competitors. However, Stéphane Thivat really made the different. Not only is he an expert in picking wines in a relatively young age, but he’s also a very friendly person to talk with. He rarely told me directly what wine I was having; instead he quizzed me to find out the year and the vintage of the wine. As I’m still a beginner, I often failed to guess it correctly. Nevertheless he gave 5 glasses of excellent wines, particularly the champagne and the port – the best I’ve ever had. Clearly, the qualities count more here than the quantities. My advice is that when you come here, let the sommelier picked the wines for you and you will not regret. I was just relaxed and truly enjoy excellent food and wine here. Only wine-pairing in ADNY could top my experience here. The atmosphere is calm and comfy. The day I ate there, more than half of the guests were foreigners – some came from Japan and USA, only few French people as far as I was concerned. There were a few families (even with the small kids – what lucky ones to be able to eat here in such young ages) as well, and it’s fully booked by the way. The service in L’Arpège is extraordinary and the staffs are superb. There are not many waiters/waitresses here (only about 10 people including the ones bring the dishes from the kitchen), nonetheless they’re never shorthanded. I could not recall the time when I had to wait when I need something. They sincerely explained whatever questions I had and the ways we’re discussing or talking something, it’s as though we already knew each other for quite a long time. Last but not least, I must give two high-way thumbs up to the chef-de-cuisine, Anthony for his ability to execute Passard’s cooking tastes close to perfection. I could cry joyfully for eating such outstanding dishes here. I would be more than happy to come back here and hopefully next time Alain Passard would be around in the kitchen (I possibly would give a perfect score then).

When I finished the last sip of my sparkling water, my watch already showed 30 minutes past midnight. I was the 2nd from the last guests to leave the restaurant. It would be nice to end it with a cup of hot tea, but I realized that it’s already very late. The staffs still nicely allow me to stay for the tea; they earnestly would wait for me and I really appreciated that. However, I had to pick up my parents at the Roissy airport in the morning and at the same I was quite drunk honestly after drinking 8 glasses of wines (3 from Bristol and 5 from here) in less than 12 hours period. Therefore, I decided to go back to my hotel with the taxi. All in all, dinner at L’Arpège in fact exceeded all my expectations. The food, wine, service, and experience are all first-class. I’ve never had a better dining experience anywhere else (only Alain Ducasse Paris would come very close) as of now. If any of you would like to see pictures of what I ate, please click the following link http://picasaweb.google.com/Andi.Chahyadi.Hermawan/LArpegeParisFrance1stVisit#

Food (and Wine): 99 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 97 pts

Overall: 98.5/100

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Le Louis XV Alain Ducasse

Alain Ducasse at the Essex House? Check ... Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee? Check ... Le Louis XV? (Finally) check and here is my story. In the beginning of Autumn 2008, at last I managed to dine at a palace in which many consider as the most perfect restaurant in the world - Le Louis XV. It was all started here, 21 years ago, when Alain Ducasse decided to accept the challenge from Societe des Bains de Mer that he would obtain three stars from the Red Guide within four years. He kept his promised and the rest is history. As of now, Alain Ducasse has opened and/or advised more than 20 restaurants globally, stretching from Tokyo to Mauritius. Even after having many restaurants/bistros, various gourmands still proclaim that none of these places can top the one where Ducasse's empires all started.

Le Louis XV is located in the very heart of the Hotel de Paris; its dining room (the terrace) is facing the crowded Place du Casino in which the rich and famous often show off his sports car or her expensive jewellery. I arrived about half-hour earlier since I'd like to walk around Jardins du Casino and Galeries du Metropole. By 730 PM, I entered Hotel de Paris and the legendary restaurant is situated at the right side of the entrance. As expected, they found my name and I was escorted to the most opulent and elegant dining room on this earth. My dream to savor the 3-star Mediterranean cuisine of Alain Ducasse was just about to become a reality in a few minutes. Like any other fine dining place, an aperitif is offered before the journey began. A glass of Champagne Paul Drouet (Cuvee Speciale Alain Ducasee) is a perfect companion while opening the extensive menu of Le Louis XV. The choices here are abundant, they are varied from the vegetable garden, sea, woodland, farm and pasture land (cheese) ... the sad part is that the game season has not started yet. In addition, there are 2 degustation menu: Les Jardins de Provence and Pour les Gourmets. However, since I have not been here before, most of them look very appealing to me. I already anticipate this, so I reserved this place for 2 days (back to back dinner and lunch the next day).

The bread selection at Le Louis XV is so impressive that you are as if in the bakery shop (in my opinion, it's even better than Chateau Robuchon's Tokyo and Guy Savoy's Paris in both qualities and quantities). The bread came in a wooden chariot and for 2 days I had tasted: baguette, tomato, olive, organic, country, fig, wheat, semolina, bacon, rye and raisin bread. The bread is accompanied by both salted and unsalted butter supplied by Jean-Yves Bordier. If any of you have followed my review, it is correct if you guessed that I would order the tasting menu (aka Pour les Gourmets for both days, but with completely different dishes). Also, it's due to the fact that the price of a la carte dishes is staggering (€80-90 for each dish). Here what I had,

Day 1 (Dinner)

Amuse Bouche: Crudites dipped in mushroom dressing mixed with olive oil. The crudites include carrot, radish, courgette, celery etc. By the way, these vegetables are one notch above our normal ones ... the Riviera products indeed impressive

Fumet de homard lié d’une purée de châtaignes, paysanne de légumes mijotés (Lobster stock with chestnut purée, simmered vegetables) - The soup is tasty in particular the chesnut whereas the seafood are fine, but not that many of them. I wish it were hotter when it came to my table

Riso aux cèpes de montagne : étuvés, dorés, en copeaux, marjolaine (Riso with cepe mushrooms: braised, roasted, chips, marjoram) - Franck Cerutti is capable of making good Italian cuisine. The rice has nice texture, the serving of mushroom is quite generous and the marjoram contributes to pine & citrus flavors.

Loup de Méditerranée piqué d’olives de Nice, garniture et bouillon d’un minestrone, basilic pilé au mortier (Mediterranean sea bass spiked with olives, Minestrone vegetables and bouillon, ground basil) - The flesh of Mediterranean sea bass has more taste than the one from Atlantic. The crispy skin generates more flavor to the sea bass while the colorful vegetables gave different "colors" to the overall taste. And they're all in harmony (including the rather thick minestrone) - the best fish I've ever had at Ducasse's restaurants. Accompanied by: a glass of Meursault 1999 (Les Tessons) M. Roulot

Veau du Limousin élevé sous la mère en cocotte au jus, petits farcis niçois (Farm veal from Limousin region “en cocotte”, small stuffed vegetables) - The highlight of the night. The veal is tender with light taste (only intensified by its juice), the tomato is quite nice. What makes this is slightly better than the veal prepared by Passard in Singapore is simply the stunning quality of Limousin's veal, not much of the chef's skill. Accompanied by: a glass of Chateau Lestage Simon 2000 Haut-Medoc

Sélection de fromages affinés pour nous (A selection of cheeses perfectly matured) - They're abundant and bought from several different affineurs in France. I had an aging Comte (from Philippe Alleosse) - not bad at all, Abbaye de Citeaux is rich (quite good), Ossau Iraty, Roqueforts - crumbly and moist and the goat cheese - Bondon Cendre. The rasberry jam condiment is nice to neutralize some of the cheese intense's flavor and odor

Le Louis XV au croustillant de pralin (Le Louis XV with a crispy praline) - Arguably one of the best chocolate desserts ... sophisticated, rich yet not cloying. The smooth dark chocolate is refined with a little pastry dough at the bottom supported by the hazelnut's crispiness. Simply stunning!

For the mineral water, I had a bottle of Orezza sparkling water from Corsica France and I closed the meal with a cup of Jamaican blue mountain coffee

Day 2 (Lunch)

Amuse Guele: Fried ravioles with ricotta cheese and mix of herbs (mesclun) - fragrant, crunchy and appetizing

Gamberoni de San Remo saucés de leurs sucs, mille-feuille d’artichauts, tomates et courgettes, jus des têtes acidulé (Gamberoni from San Remo sautéed, artichokes, tomatoes and zucchini, tangy sauce) - the gamberi's taste is complex but more on the sweet side, its texture is firm yet tender in your mouth. The "millefeuille" of vegetable is crisp, good to neutralize the sweet taste from the tangy sauce

Géométrie de pâtes aux herbes mêlées de champignons sylvestres, les dernières amandes (Fresh pasta with herbs and mushrooms, the last almonds) - One of my favorite dishes here. The green (watercress) pasta is fresh with light taste complemented by cepe and sauteed chantrelle mushrooms. Not only that, the addition of almond cream makes this dish simply fabulous! Accompanied by (for the 1st 2 dishes): Champagne Lanson Rose

Sole côtière braisée au vin d’Arbois et petites câpres, artichauts violets, côtes de salade, champignons trompettes (Sole braised with Arbois wine and capers, artichokes, salad and trompette mushrooms) - This sole served in generous portion has firm texture and is more flavorful than the one I had at L'Ambroisie. The salad gives a mixture of some sweet and sour

Agneau de la race des Préalpes piqué de sarriette au feu de bois, laitue braisée, quelques feuilles rôties, tendres gnocchi et girolles (Baby lamb spiked with summer savory and cooked over a log fire, braised and roasted lettuce, gnocchi and chanterrelle mushrooms) - The lambs are actually delectable except they're too much fat attached and the meat is not tender enough to my likeness. The lettuce is very thick, the mushrooms are tasty as always and the "milky" gnocchi could lighten the intense lamb's flavor

Fraises des bois de l’arrière-pays dans leur jus tiède, sorbet au mascarpone (Local “fraises des bois” in their natural juice, Mascarpone sorbet) - An ordinary dessert with extraordinary impact. The wild strawberries and its warm sauce are very refreshing combined with the sweet and cold sorbet creates some wonderful feeling in the afternoon. Accompanied by: Klein Constancia 2002 Vin de Constance

Baba imbibé du rhum de votre choix, accompagné de crème peu fouettée (Rum baba served with your choice of rum, whipped cream) - There is no better place to eat Ducasse's famous rum baba than here - the authentic Monte Carlo Style. The sponge is very tender nicely soaked in strong and spicy rhum (see below). If the rum is somewhat bitter, add the delicious 'sweet' cream which is light and not cloying at all. Accompanied by: Vieux Rhum Agricole Les heritiers Crassous de Medeuil

For the mineral water, I had a bottle of Ty Nant Red and I closed the meal with a cup of Infusion - rosemary and mint tea plus lavender honey

At the end of each meal, the restaurant offers mignardises: coffee macarons (pistachio at the next day), short bread with figs, lemon tart and chocolates (praline, coffee, dark & bitter). They also served some caramel, nougatine, marshmallow and sorbet (I like the pineapple sage flavor) as well as madeleines (good but a bit cold already)

The cooking here is all about the fresh and high quality produce of the Mediterranean area. Alain Ducasse's cooking philosophy is simple: do not manipulate the ingredients, but simply reveal and bring out the products' optimal taste and texture - 60% ingredients and 40% technique. There is no better person to implement this than Franck Cerutti, the (former) chef de cuisine. As a native of Nice, Cerutti is very familiar with the best produce in its surroundings, arguably the finest and most abundant in the world. He only needs 2-3 ingredients for each dish to reveal the food's subtle and aromatic flavor; all of this is executed with great technique and high precision by his team consisting for more than 15 chefs and cooks altogether. Along with Olivier Berger (head chef for pastry), Cerutti was appointed as the executive chef of Hotel de Paris, consequently both of them will no longer be in the Le Louis XV kitchen regularly. Since a few months ago, Pascal Bardet and Damien Cassart were promoted as chef de cuisine and chef patissier of Le Louis XV respectively. I could not comment about the difference since I've never dined here when Cerutti was the man behind the stove. However, after dining here twice this Fall 2008, I can say that the food here is (still) delicious indeed.

The wine cellar at Le Louis XV (combined with Hotel de Paris) is incredible; there are more than 400000 bottles and almost 1000 different wines. Many of the prestigious and rare vintages, however, are for display only. Perhaps only La Tour d'Argent Paris has a better wine collection than Le Louis XV and it's confirmed by the Chef Sommelier, Noel Bajor. For me, I just managed to drink a few glasses of wines (see above) due to limited budget; nevertheless they're all satisfying. In addition to impressive wine cellar, the restaurant also provides more than dozens of different kinds of bottled water, coffees, teas and infusions. You name it, they got it.

The decoration of Le Louis XV is very Versailles. The grand dining room is wrapped in gold with many glasses and big mirrors to reflect light and every detail of its dining room. The high ceiling is beautifully painted; the thick carpet has floral-patterned; and there are portraits of some famous Marquise and Comtesse whom I did not remember their names. At the heart of the room, one can find a huge bouquet of flowers in burgundy color. Every detail counts for Alain Ducasse. During each meal, I believed to use almost sixty pieces of cutlery (mostly in gold), china and glassware - they are the best that money can buy. The distance between one table and another is relatively far; it is the most spacious dining room I've ever been. This place should be able to accomodate more than 70 people at any one time, but they prefer to utilize it for 45-50 diners at most and it's full house for dinner. A cosy ambiance matters as much as the pleasure of our palate here.

The dining room at Le Louis XV could be intimidating to many diners who have never been to palace-like restaurants such as: Le Meurice or Le Bristol. However, thanks to the professional staffs here, led by Michel Lang who is friendly and helpful. The Maitre d'Hotel and his team make sure that every diner would feel comfortable despite the formal dining room. The service is truly impeccable and seemed effortless. There are about 30 staffs who are ready to help, yet they're never obstrusive and very efficient. The only weak point is perhaps that a few of them did not really speak english, but they're always sincere to assist every guest. Similar to my meal at New York and Paris, the culinary experience at Alain Ducasse's top establishment is indeed unforgetable. For the pictures, please check the following link http://picasaweb.google.com/Andi.Chahyadi.Hermawan/LeLouisXVMonteCarloMonaco#

Food (and Wine): 97 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 95 pts

Overall: 96.5/100