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

Food (and Wine): 97 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 95 pts

Overall: 96.5/100

1 comment:

RiNo said...

Thanks for the gastronomy tips.
Very insightful. I'm still new with gastronomical world, but very eager to try the restaurants (and the dishes) you have recommended.
Keep up the good work.
-Henry (aka RiNo)