Saturday, July 25, 2009

Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée - 1st visit

Thursday, April 20th, 2006 marked my visit to another Alain Ducasse’s top restaurant located inside the Hôtel Plaza Athénée, an art nouveau marvel. This time I brought my parents to experience a meal at 3* Michelin restaurant for the first time. Before coming there, I briefed them on what to expect and what it is like to eat at this kind of place so that they would not be overwhelmed. Actually, I am also relatively new to the world of haute cuisine, just started around November 2005 and then I find it difficult to resist this temptation. After having a marvelous meal at Alain Ducasse New York (ADNY) in the Fall 2005, I came here with a high expectation as many people told me that Ducasse’s Europe establishments – here and Le Louis XV are much better than the one at the Essex House.

After doing a window shopping along avenue Montaigne for the whole afternoon, we arrived at the restaurant 10 minutes later from our initial reservation at 8 PM. The restaurant is actually located not too far from the main entrance of the hotel. Once our reservation was confirmed, we entered the restaurant by passing through discreet engraved glass doors. Our table was at the front corner, so we had a very good view of the restaurant’s ambiance without involving ourselves in the middle of the crowds. The décor’s style is a combination of classic and modern with the most notable thing being the chandelier with 10,000 crystals pendants dangling that alters lighting into a hologram show. Everything here is designed with careful details, for instance: the pink-colored chairs had pull-out plastic trays where ladies can put her bags, and the dining tableware seems to be customized for the restaurant (some are engraved with ADPA). Perhaps the decoration itself is one of the reasons why many people are curious about visiting this place. However, no matter how good or grand the restaurant’s design is, what served on the plates matters more above anything else.

The meal started with the pre-appetizer – something like gougères containing spinach with concise saltiness, I still prefer the cheese cream puff at ADNY. Following this, a waiter came with champagne cart. I opted for a glass of 1998 Henriot Brut Rose Champagne Millesime, the Rosé offers smooth texture and firm structure – a refreshing aperitif indeed. One thing a bit surprising to me is to find the limited bread selection; this is not typical of Ducasse’s top restaurant; whereas the butter, both salted and unsalted, is soft. The menu in ADPA is very interesting where the restaurant provides a holder and thus the guests do not need to hold the menu with their hands. Alain Ducasse always offers dishes made of rare, fresh and precious ingredients. Since I rarely go to Paris, I decided to order the best that the restaurant can offer. All of us ordered the collection menu and here what I had.

Menu Collection

Langoustines rafraîchies, nage réduite, caviar osciètre - bouillon parfumée - (Brittany Langoustines with Court Bouillon Reduction and Osetra Caviar from Iran - served warmed) – The restaurant’s main signature dish. The langoustine is firm, the caviar is one of the world’s best and they are both enhanced by a cup of shellfish broth containing some subtle ginger flavors. Comparable to Passard’s Carpaccio de langoustines - personally, I slightly prefer the latter one

Coquilles Saint-Jacques snackées coco/curry (Seared Scallops served with Coconut Curry) – This dish is arguably the most delicious scallops appetizer I’ve ever tasted (the other is Esnault’s Saint-Jacques Poelees with shaved white truffles). The scallop is very fresh and juicy, with the combination of delectable fruity curry sauce. There are many colorless sago that seduces the overall experience of the dish

Homard de Bretagne, asperges vertes de Pertuis, jus de la presse (Blue lobster of Brittany served with “chez blanc” green asparagus) – A very high quality (as well as generous portion) of lobster (has some sweetness in it and cooked to the right texture) that makes Maine’s lobster pale in comparison. The asparagus is fresh, combined with the sauce make this dish extremely wonderful.

Volaille de Bresse en fricassée, morilles à peine crèmes (Fricassee of Bresse chicken served with mushrooms and crayfishes) – I’m blown away with this chicken dish (a perfect 20/20 - unbelievable to eat 2 perfect dishes within 4 days). Just when I thought that L’Arpege’s chicken is the best ever, ADPA tells me I have yet tasted the best one. The seafood, carrots and mozzarellas etc. do not actually interfere the overall harmony and balance of the succulent chicken. All of the additional ingredients in fact complement the chicken in many different positive ways. This dish has a little Chinese influence too I suppose.

Fromages affinés pour nous (Refined cheeses) – If I could recall correctly, the comte is 3 years old and it’s good, the blue cheese smell is very strong, yet tasty. The cheese, served with special knife and fork, also comes with salads and marmalade as sides. Last but not least, finally the soft olive brioche shows up - served hot from the oven.

Caillé de brebis, caramel-poivre, miel d’arbousier (A very light, fresh goat milk cheese in yogurt-like texture served with pepper caramel sweetened and Corsican honey) – I have a hard time on how to describe this exciting and adventurous dessert. The saltiness of the cheese is reduced with the sweetness from the ice cream, honey and caramel and vice versa. The dessert is accompanied by a glass of light and sweet wine – 1996 Chateau Coutet.

Our multi course meal was accompanied by a bottle of 1999 Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, this almond and flower-scented white Burgundy is tight with tangy acidity. Furthermore, it has a medium-bodied with excellent density and depth to its white fruit. I find the wine to be well-balanced and harmonious; it goes well with our dishes since it does not dominate the food’s taste. The pre and post-desserts, such as chocolates and candies are not inferior compared to the Ducasse New York’s establishment. The home-made assorted chocolates is very good and macarons, both chocolate and coffee, are very crunchy (outside) and soft (inside). I did not have a chance to sip in a cup of tea here as my mother would like to go back to the hotel (it’s closed to 12:30 AM and we had to fly for Barcelona the next morning). Here, the herbal tea infusion is presented in pots on a cart.

There are two things that I do not particularly fond of the restaurant. In my humble opinion, the head sommelier – Laurent Roucayrol is a bit arrogant. It is no doubt that he’s very knowledgeable about the wines, but he’s not willing to listen to the customer’s opinions. He usually forces the diners to always follow his suggestion; this could be a problem had he encountered a short-tempered guest. Another thing, the restaurant’s restroom, located outside, is shared with lobby and tea guests, for me it is not very convenient. Moreover, it is not very clean given the level of both the hotel and the restaurant.

While many people are worried when Jean-François Piège moved to Les Ambassadeurs, the food qualities here will be dropped, I could boldly assure that this will not be the case. Christophe Moret, the former Chef at Paris’ Spoon food and wine, may not be the most creative chef, but he really understands and fully capable of executing the dish with a very high precision the way Monsieur Ducasse wants it to be. The service, lead by Denis Courtiade – the dining room manager, is very courteous and efficient. This should come to no surprise since the staffs are actually outnumber the number of diners. Despite a full dining room, they provide seamless service and there are no certain waiters assigned for particular tables (except one person who assisted us for the menu-ordering, he was very patient to accommodate our needs). Furthermore, the staffs never misstep or collide with each other. Overall, I am extremely delighted with our dinner, one of the best I’ve ever experienced (only my dinner at L’Arpege is slightly better than this). Alain Ducasse Paris could be the best place for people who would like to try the 3* experience for the 1st time at Europe. One could enjoy pretty much everything – from an elegant dining room with an extraordinary service to a wonderful French food accompanied by a wide variety of wine selection. Click the following link for the pictures,

Food (and Wine): 98 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 96 pts

Overall: 97.5/100

Monday, June 29, 2009

La Maison de Marc Veyrat

There were 2 restaurants that I really wish to visit: Le Louis XV and Marc Veyrat. Thankfully, I managed to visit both of them in autumn 2008. Even I dined at Le Louis XV twice, whereas for Marc Veyrat I had a meal at his last fine dining restaurant since he had sold La Ferme de Mon Père in 2006. La Maison de Marc Veyrat, located at the edge of a lake in the village of Veyrier du Lac - about a mile south of Annecy, is a world-class restaurant offering a unique dining experience. The food is fundamentally French with the focus on upscale Apline cuisine. The dining experience is unique – scrumptious, innovative and amusing; in fact it’s almost ritualistic. The focus is not on any particular dish, rather than the overall symphony of a delicious but horrendously expensive degustation menu. The dining room is stylish with ceiling frescoes located at the ground floor of his hotel in rustic pine; wood and iron materials dominated the kitchen. The atmosphere is lively in which the staffs are energetic explaining how each dish is prepared and what ingredients are used; obviously they are proud of working in one of the best establishments in France. The service is indeed impeccable. There is only one menu unfortunately, but guests are welcome to let the kitchen know if they have any food allergy. Here is the detail of Monsieur Veyrat’s symphony that he claims to be the cuisine of the 21st century.

Amuse Bouche: Begin with the hot drink from "chemical tube" that is a mixture of fennel, peas & mint; perch fish with light green sauce; onion bread with wild spinach in pizza-shape; and soda-Veyrat containing mint, sour moustard ... it's cooling in the throat, what a start! The beginning of a symphony by a genius

Yaourt virtuel, jus d’acha
(Virtual yoghurt with acha juice) - The low calory of "hot foie gras" served with sour cream and fragrant myrrh, whereas the cold & light foie gras served with chutney and brioche (not buttery)

Les raviolis de l’environnement de Manigod (Ravioli from the Manigod environment) - A selection of local herbs ... carrot & fennel (top), turnip with little black truffle, and tomato & ravioli with white flowers. The parade of different level sweetness among wild plants

Asperge verte sauvage, fruit de la passion, écume romarin (Deconstructed of wild green Asparagus served with Passion fruit and Rosemary foam) - A creative skill of molecular gastronomy where the asparagus would explode in the mouth, in general it's a unique and entertaining dish but not that delicious

Soupe d’ici dite chinoise (This is the Chinese soup) - As the name suggest, this soup containing wild & chinese mushrooms as well as some deconstructed stocks. Simple and tasty without any typical Chinese "medicine" smell or flavor

Œuf à la coque, écume de maïs piqûre de carvi
(Soft-cooked egg served with injection of corn foam and caraway seeds) - In addition, I could taste some pistachio, wild cumin inside the egg, served with egg-white chip flavored with Indian spices. Good, but not better than Arpege's egg

Nouilles disparaissantes (sans farine, ni œuf), sorbet cardamine (Disappearing noodles, without any flour or egg, served with cardamine sorbet) - The virtual noodle made of cheese is melted through the pouring of hot chicken stock soup, mixed with cold watercress sorbet. Excellent and entertaining!

Féra du lac à l’unilatéral, Benoîte urbaine (Fish from unilateral Fera lake served with cappuccino sauce) - A fresh local fish of good texture with the flavor of mint capuccino sauce. Furthermore, there are a mixture of cockle, red pepper, onion and zucchini below the fish

Bar au jus de sardine, emulsion d’avoine (Sea bass served with sardine juice and oat emulsion) - A beautiful combination of sour & sweet flavor while the the bar is fresh with the right texture

Langoustine pochée, bonbon de serpolet (Poached spiny lobster served with wild thyme sweet) - Incredibly tender and tasty langoustine enchanced by the thyme; simple and delicious served in Japanese style

Boudin de perche, jus de verveine (Sausage-shaped perch and lemongrass-verbena juice) - Fish sausage prepared without any butter and cream, very delicate ... just OK for me

Beignet des sous bois cuit à l’azote (Undergrowth fritter cooked with nitrogen) - Chef Veyrat applying molecular technique to form some kinds of lemon/mango and earthly wild herbs meringues, very fascinating and amusing ... oh it's also good

Filet de bœuf, sirop de cresson (Beef filet served with watercress sirop) - Medium well & tender steak is yummy, there are cheese and black truffle in between the pie/bread and the beef. Side dishes: potatoes, mix of asparagus, carrots etc. for the veggies

Tartifilette déstructurée (Deconstructed tartiflette served in a box) - One of the restaurants' signature dishes. It consists of separated cream of bacon, reblochon, potatoes and onion with white wine. Strong tastes and somewhat pungent smells

L’ercheu de notre fierté régionale (Cheese platter from the Ercheu and Savoy region) - I have Reblochon (delicate and nutty), Bleu de Termignon (fragrant and rich, my fav), Beaufort (fruity & salty), Tomme de Montagne (quite light). All of them are from Savoy & French Alps area

Les desserts de ma fille Carine (Desserts by chef’s daughter, Carine) part 1 - Blueberry, shortbread and mild mint foam. Nothing really special here

Les desserts de ma fille Carine (Desserts by chef’s daughter, Carine) part 2 - Lychee, raspberry, vanilla cream, red fruit and short + crumble bread. Creamy, cool and sweet

Les trois crèmes brûlées d’ici et dailleurs (Tree crème brulee and dailleurs) - The white one is licorice, the brown one is chicovete, it's rather bitter. Mixed them and each will tame the other's taste. There are caramel & raspberry, both taste like bubble gum

I opened my meal with a glass of champagne (in-house recipe). There are 3 kinds of house-baked bread only served that day: baguette, pistachio and olives - all of them are tasty. To accompany my long tasting menu, I had 2 additional glasses of wine. The 1st one (white) was 2004 Domaine G. Berlioz Chignin-Bergeron - it lacked in acidity with interesting aromas; another one (red) was 2004 Chateau le Puy - a dark wine with oak smell and a touch of creaminess. The kitchen here is using an open-kitchen concept in which one could see Marc Veyrat was around checking his staffs for the first 30 min after the restaurant opened. This restaurant is quite high-tech comparing to other 3-star places. The staffs used PDA-like device to monitor what dish a certain table is having or when the next dish should be sent in. I would say the meal here was spectacular, my favorite place to dine after L'Arpege. The ugly part is that Marc Veyrat re-defined what expensive really meant for both the food and wines. However, it's worth it and the restaurant was fully-booked too. This is the establishment like no other. It meant even more knowing that a few months later, chef Veyrat, followed the step of Olivier Roellinger, gave up Michelin's and Gault-Millau's highest accolade by closing the restaurant for good.

Marc Veyrat, the son of peasants from the French Alps, is eccentric yet genius. He always wears his large black Savoyard peasant’s hat and dark spectacles, totally the opposite of Paul Bocuse wearing the traditional white toque. In addition, unlike Bernard Pacaud who always gets the meat, fishes and vegetables from the top suppliers all over the world, chef Veyrat used ingredients, mainly herbs and plants, from his own area – the pastures and Alpine woods such as: gentian, wild garlic, green moss etc. Marc Veyrat practices distinctive style of cooking; he revolutionized the rigid temple of fine French cooking to new and creative ideas. He humbly explained that his cooking is the peasant version of nouvelle cuisine. He also wandered around the dining room to amuse primarily his French speaking guests (It's a nice development that the chef could walk again after he sufferend from the ski accident). Veyrat believes that when a client pays €300-400 per head, he/she has the right to have a handshake with the owner/head chef in addition to having an exceptional meal. It is indeed true that dining here is more than enjoying delicious food; it is also about an exceptional experience of the nature and culture of the region. I'm truly grateful to be able to savor the intelligent and creative cooking of Monsieur Veyrat, the France culinary giant. Here are the pictures,

Food (and Wine): 98 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 95 pts

Overall: 97/100

Monday, April 6, 2009

L'Ambroisie Bernard Pacaud - 2nd visit

As one of the most expensive and arguably the best restaurants in Paris, it is usually never easy to hold a reservation at L'Ambroisie. However, this is not the case for me (at least for lunch). For this 2nd visit, I asked the hotel's concierge to book this place and everything went smoothly. It was in the last day of September 2009; the weather was a bit chill and many leaves began to fall ... beautiful! It is not easy to resist a meal at L'Ambroisie where the master of perfection - Bernard Pacaud is notably always in the kitchen. However, due to the astronomical increase of (soft) commodity prices, I had to control my spending here ... the truffle season has not arrived yet, not sure whether it's a good or bad thing. As I was about to open the door, the staff greeted me. A few steps from the entrance, I could see both monsieur Pascal, the maitre d'hotel as well as monsieur LeMoullac, the sommelier (both of them are essential to the existence of this legendary institution). Unlike my 1st visit, this time I was seated in the middle dining room (there are crystal chandeliers and gilded mirrors in between two colorful tapestries) as requested. Nothing has changed here ... really - the food, the people, the ambiance - it is like dining in a museum featuring master pieces on the plates where many loyal clients would visit over and over again. 

The meal at L'Ambroisie always begins with comte gougeres, a fluffy, hollow and light "cream puff" followed by 2 choices of fresh breads: white and wholemeal accompanied by light and delicate butter. I decided to skip the champagne this time as I would like to have a half-bottle of wine. Once the dishes are set, Mr. LeMoullac recommended Chateau Kirwan Margaux Grand Cru 1998 which I obliged. This Bordeaux is well-crafted and enjoyable to drink after 2007 indeed. In addition, it's seductive with rounded palate and has black olive aromas, but no secondary development. This wine is not too strong, so it still goes well even with fish or sea food dishes. Earlier, I had a short discussion with Mr. Pascal and he agreed to serve the dishes in demi portion - all of them. The sad part, the menu is still from the summer season hence I was unable to order any game dishes. Anyway, my meal is pleasant nevertheless.

Mulet de rouget (Red mullet) - It's actually special dish of the day. Served in amuse-bouche portion, the thinly crisp skin & its meat fish are very tasty. The cooked mushroom puree as well as cepe with citron and olive are overshadowed by the red mullet 

Escalopines de bar a l’emince d’artichaut, caviar oscietre gold (Slices of line caught sea bass served with thin cut of artichokes and oscietra gold caviar) - The sea bass, light in taste, is pure and delicate accompanied by crunchy artichoke. For me, the best part is the creamy sauce with subtle acidity blended well with generous serving of caviar that is not soggy at all ... a harmonious dish 

Homard aux pousses de legumes, nage a l’anis etoile (Brittany lobster served with many vegetables and star anise sauce) - This is the 2nd time I tasted Pacaud's lobster ... I can conclude that he likes the lobster to be firmed with more emphasize on its texture instead of suspecting that he overcooked it (I prefer Passard's & Roellinger's version though). Nevertheless, it's still a scrumptions dish. The (sweet and silky) anise sauce is incredible, balanced with fresh carrots, leeks and zucchinis 

Agneau de Lozere en nougatine d’ail, barigoule d’artichauts violets et fevettes (A rack of roasted Lozere lamb served with garlic, artichokes barigoule and eggplant puree) - The "skin" is sinfully good, but the meat, cooked medium, has a bit too much fat. The smoked eggplant puree is tense, while the side dish may not be necessary. Overally, it's still nice except that I've tasted better lambs (cooked by Troisgros, Passard or Herman) 

Assortiment de desserts et pâtisseries (Assortment of desserts and pastries) – They consist of great madeleines, fresh figs as well as cheese cream-puffs. The wafer is sweet; the numerous chocolate biscuits do not disappoint 

I skipped the dessert because I was quite full and already exceeded my budget (also, I will have a dinner at Guy Savoy in the same evening). The restaurant was only about 60-70% full - most of the clients are foreigners, there are a couple from United States as well as a family from Spain; the front dining room was even quieter. The service is professional as expected, slightly more friendly and warmer than my 1st visit, yet it is not as impeccable as when one dines at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athenee or Le Meurice. It is a well-known fact that Bernard Pacaud only uses finest products and never serves anything that is out of season. All of these great features are executed with almost flawless technique focusing on the purity and quality of the raw materials. Even though one may not find any over the top cutleries or chinaware, every single dish is presented elegantly - there is hardly anything superflous. I find it a bit unusual when chef Pacaud walked around the dining room yet he did not feel very comfortable even to be present at his own "house"; kitchen is truly his real home. This being said, I left the restaurant happily after being well fed and I look forward to returning to this institution in the future, however only in the truffles or morels seasons. Please enjoy the pictures here, Ambroisie Paris 2008 

Food (and Wine): 97 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 93 pts 

Overall: 96/100

Friday, February 27, 2009

L'Ambroisie Bernard Pacaud - 1st visit

L’Ambroisie, along with Le Louis XV, is the 3-star restaurant that I always really want to go. So many people talk about the perfection that the establishment could offer, from the food and wine to service and decoration. Tuesday, June 5th, 2007, in the beautiful and sunny day, I had a reservation at the restaurant for 1 PM. I came about 45 minutes earlier since I would like to take a short walk as well as enjoy the gorgeous weather along arguably Parisian’s most beautiful square – Place des Vosges in the Marais quartier. About 12:45 PM, I entered the restaurant and was greeted with smile by a middle-aged lady (I assumed she’s Madame Danielle Pacaud). As requested, they put me in the front dining room. L’Ambroisie’s interior design features a spectacular and romantic décor a la Chateau de Versailles illuminated by some candlelight. Unlike the luxurious institution of Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, L’Ambroisie, occupies one of the historic town houses, gives the feel of a private home in which the furnishings is similar to an Italian palace with crystal glasses, polished marble floors, some tapestries and oil paintings. The harmony created in the dining room is actually also reflected in the balance of Bernard Pacaud’s cooking.

Bernard Pacaud, one of the most talented chefs in France, is known to be very particular about the ingredients, he would not settle less than the best produce of every season. For him, the ingredient is the real star, not his cooking technique – even though I think he’s too humble when he stated it. The food at L’Ambroise is truly classical as if diners were brought back to the past to indulge the traditional haute cuisine a la Français served into perfection. Do not expect any extravagant degustation menu here; everything is in à la carte menu. As soon as I sat down, I was offered 3 big portions of Gougères – it’s fluffy, warm and has a high quality of gruyère cheese (it would be perfect should the cheese is melted inside). For me, eating good French food must begin with a glass of champagne. I chose a glass of Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne, excellent and fragrant champagne! The taste is rich, yeasty blend and creamy, while being delicate and soft in texture. It also has a little touch of hazelnuts with clean and zesty finish. This was indeed an awesome aperitif before a meal. This was my first visit to the restaurant, and as recommended by many people, I decided to leave the show in the hand of Monsieur Pascal, the maitre d’ for the food and Monsieur Pierre LeMoullac, the sommelier for the wine. Both were very grateful when I let them guide me for this journey.

Royale de romaine (Royal of Roman) - A warm mousse of peas served with cheese and duck liver. The taste blends nicely and the foie gras is not cloying … a simple and nice amuse-bouche, even though not over the top

Feuillantine de queues de langoustines aux graines de sésame, sauce curry (Langoustines tails served on a bed of spinach with sesame wafers and a light curry sauce) - The Brittany langoustine is sweet, flavorful and quite soft perfectly paired with an Indian-style curry while the wafer as well as the low-temperature cooked spinach add another dimension of the dish. One of the best cooked langoustine dishes I’ve ever tasted

Dos de sole en croûte de moutarde, viennoise d’asperges vertes (Sole’s meatiest portion served in crust of mustard with Viennese green asparagus) - A very generous portion of sole whose structure is firm, but like other sole in general - the meat’s taste is rather weak. The light mustard sauce (not too spicy) only helps a bit while the Robert Blanc asparagus is very good

Navarin de homard et pommes de terre nouvelles au romarin (Lobster in its juice served with new potatoes and rosemary) - By nature, the blue lobster is already flavourful, the sauce is a typical wonderful French-style sauce: flavorful, light, precise and balanced. The new/baby potatoes are not as impressive as I expected, nevertheless it’s still a perfect dish for me

Tarte fine sablée au chocolat, glace à la vanilla (Delicate crust of bitter chocolate tart served with vanilla ice cream) - Arguably my favorite chocolate desserts (along with Can Fabes’ festival of chocolates) - the cake/tart is ethereal along with a sweet and soft vanilla ice cream. On the one hand, the chocolate is intense but at the same time the layer below is light and sublime. A must-try dessert for all first-time visitor of this establishment

Assortiment de desserts et pâtisseries (Assortment of desserts and pastries) – They consist of great madeleines and cheese cream-puffs, the wafer is sweet, and the numerous chocolate biscuits do not disappoint

The wine list at L’Ambroisie is fairly average, in fact relatively short, compare to the other 3-star establishments in Paris. The selection here is focus on mature and top qualities of Bordeaux and Burgundy, monsieur LeMoullac does not really fancy any aggressive wines. For the appetizers and main courses, I drank a half-bottle of 2001 Meursault les Tilles Michelot Mère et Fille, a very good white burgundy that’s producing a harmonious taste while for the desserts I had a glass of 1980 Rivesaltes Mis en Bouteille Cuvée Jean-Paul Lespinasse. The service here was formal and a bit stiff, the attitude of the waiters seemed like French nationalist. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed in the beginning since I don’t get used to it. But as the meal flowed, things got better. I find that besides monsieur Pascal, the rests of the staffs do not really speak fluent English. I am not sure if this was the main reason why the overall service here was not as good as the other Parisian top restaurants.

Bernard Pacaud certainly does not like publication or any other media attention. Before coming to this place, I’ve never seen the face of the L’Ambroisie’s master. In fact I almost missed him while dining there. Fortunately, I had a chance to take a picture with chef Pacaud at the end of my meal. He only wore a plain gray shirt along with simple black trousers; people would hardly expect him to be one of the best chefs in the world. Pacaud prefers the blistering noise and smokes of the kitchen to the applause and public appreciation from the guests, media or even his fellow chefs – I could not find any of his pictures either at Paul Bocuse. Regarding his cooking style, I could say that chef Pacaud really emphasizes harmony in the dishes with flawless execution. He does not like any intensity of certain tastes and/or smells, it could be seen where the sauce of every single dish is relatively light – one can hardly taste any butter or cream. In addition, his humble characteristic is also reflected at the Sole dish where simplicity and modesty guided the creation of it. Ultimately, L’Ambroisie offers both luxury and down to earth ingredients in which the qualities are never compromised. This time I was eating all by myself, perhaps one day I could share this magnificent experience with my other-half in this beautiful Parisian grandes tables located in probably city of light’s most romantic square - Place des Vosges with its lovely green gardens. Below is the link of the pictures of my experience, Ambroisie Paris 2007

Food (and Wine): 97 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 96/100

Thursday, February 12, 2009

L'Arpege Alain Passard - 3rd & 4th visit

It is widely known that Alain Passard is one of the most celebrated chefs in the world, and his baby - L'Arpege, not surprisingly, becomes one the world's top restaurants (as well as the most expensive). For me, it is an easy choice whether I should dine here everytime I come to Paris. I tasted Passard's food at the end of Spring 2 years ago and at the beginning of last summer. This time, early in the Fall 2008, I returned to my favorite dining place - not only once, but twice (one of them was during my birthday). The restaurant is as lovely as ever. The dining room is small yet modern; understated yet beautiful. There are Art Deco styles with French Lalique design windows; the lightning is low and romantic during dinner while at the lunch time, the restaurant receives generous amount of sunlight but still pleasant. I realized there is quite a significant change in the dining room team; Laurent Lapaire already left and now Helene Cousin leads the team with the help of another female maitre d'hotel, Nadia. Even though many of the staffs are still young, they are professional, efficient and vigilant. Perhaps, due to a rumour about the inconsistency service at L'Arpege that might have caused the restaurant its 3-star Michelin, Chef Passard decided to change more than half of the team. Based on my previous visits, I never experienced any short fall with the service at this place. In fact, I loved it. They made me feel at home; the service is personalized and flexible even they promised that I will always have a place here whenever I visit Paris.

Again, things here are as good as they're ever be. I began my sumptuous meal by having an aperitif - a glass of Billecart-Salmon Champagne. Then, come an artisan country bread made from a sourdough accompanied by salty butter from St. Malo. For hors d'oeuvre, I had a mixture of fresh vegetables on chips such as: carrot, mustard, beetroot and apple. After that, here come the real deal - for the dinner, I had a magnificent ten-course tasting menu and for the lunch a week later, I had a wonderful carte-blanche as recommended by the L'Arpege's former restaurant manager. Below are the dishes I had (A few of them are repeated, so I will not mention them twice)

Menu Cuisine Choisie

1st meal (Dinner)

Œuf à la coque quatre épices (A coddled egg yolk served in its shell and mixed with four spices - sour cream, maple syrup, clove and sherry vinegar) - Simple yet complex, and it's still delicious as usual. The egg is rich and smooth, probably this is the best amuse-bouche ever

Tomate naturelle à la moutarde d’Orléans onctueuse crème glacée (Natural tomato gazpacho served with Orleans’ mustard ice cream) - The combination of tomato puree (fresh & a bit sour) with mustard 'ice cream' (strong & a little spicy) may not be intuitive, yet they work amazingly well together

Homard de l’archipel de Chausey conjugaison (Chausey island’s lobster served cold with turnips, sherry vinegar and honey sauce) - The lobster here is prepared tender in texture and absolutely stunning. It shows the contrast of honey's sweetness and vinegar's sourness, yet they're balanced ... about as good as the legendary lobster cooked with vin jaune

Risotto (collection légumière) au parmigiano reggiano fleuri aux herbes (Creamy rice in granular parmesan cheese served with onion emulsion, vegetable and herb collections - leeks and green peas) - To create a great sensation, you should combine all the elements. The risotto is white, but delectable and rich. The flavor of the broth & parmesan are subtle, while the peas are sweet. Equal to the Calandre's saffron risotto as the best I've ever had

Robes des champs multicolores (Arlequin) carotte purple haze, chou rave bleu azur, radis sora, courgette black beauty … (Multicolor vegetables from the chef’s garden: carrots, kohlrabi, radish, zucchini and beetroot served with semolina, argon oil and sweet onion emulsion) - The vegetables are cooked in different length of time. They're all fresh, pure with deep flavor. The autumn veggies are rather hard and crunchy, also ... colorful and beautiful

Pêche côtière estampillée dorée sur écailles sole de l’Ĭle d’Yeu (Line caught Sole from Yeu Island served with yellow wine sauce) - A long strip of Sole in precise thickness. The fish itself is already delicious and firm plus the warm and fragrant wine sauce, even better than Ducasse's version. The smoked potatoes and herbs puree are also good. It's almost as good as Passard's famous Turbot or Monkfish

Ris de veau de Corrèze au bois de réglisse grillade (Grill veal Sweetbread from Correze region served with licorice, celery and leek) - Passard never stops to amaze me. The wonderfully cooked sweetbread is delicate and balance, crunchy and creamy at the same time. The buttery juice and peas extraction are also nice. Try to combine all elements together. I like this sweetbread better than Le Bristol's

Fromage de Bernard Antony affineur (Assorted cheeses of Bernard Antony) - I don't bother to try other cheese but the 48-month old comte. This the 1st time I have it shaved & it is insanely good. The comte is purely creamy and fresh. Hands down as the best cheese in the world!

Fruits rouges et noirs du jardin framboise (Red and black fruit from the garden - raspberries served with hibiscus syrup) - The raspberries are good as expected, but I do not particularly like the China rose syrup, it's a bit too intense. Serving the fruit with olive oil or mascarpone should be better ...

Tarte aux pommes Bouquet de Roses création Hiver 2008 (Apple tart prepared in the bouquet of roses shape) - An excellent dessert. It's just very right, neither too soft nor too crisp. The crust is flaky yet tender, and the apple is sweet yet sour. This is even much better when you add the yummy caramel, at the same time it never dominates the apple tart

Vanilla Souffle served with honey, chocolate and sugar powder - Not in the menu, but this bonus dessert is just perfect - not heavy and hardly eggy with correct sweetness, no element is too dominant. I could have a second helping actually ...

Sucrerie 3 macarons du jardin (Sweets and three different flavors of macaroons) - Petit four a la L'Arpege. The macaroons' flavors are tomato, basil and rhubarb. There's also a mini apple tart, sweet lemon grass biscuit and jelly in veggie flavor with sesame

2nd meal (Lunch)

Melon and mozzarella cheese served with sesame, olive oil and balsamic vinegar - A fresh mixture of melon's sweetness with semi-soft cheese plus the fragrance of the oil & sesame. It's simple yet sensational when you combine them all the elements

Sweet onion and peas served with the emulsion of peas and parmesan cheese - The peas, while, are sweet and good, they're a bit too dominant here. I could hardly taste the onion or parmesan flavor

Fines ravioles potagères (belle saison) consommé vegetal (Vegetables ravioli served in clear soup) - The tasty soup is a tomato and basil consomme. The 3 different raviolis are having onion, basilic and red onion inside

Yellow beetroot carpaccio served with walnuts, balsamic vinegar and olive oil - The beetroot is sweet and refreshing, work well with some acidity from the vinegar and oil, lastly the walnut gave some crisp taste and feeling. Another simple but thoughtful dish

Aiguillettes de homard de Chausey savagnin (A long slice of Chausey island lobster served with savagnin grape sauce from the Jura) - A succulent and slightly firm lobster with deliciously sweet and buttery sauce are simply incredible. Previously, the side dish is sour sorrel which I like better than green beans

Oignon doux de Florence au citron de Menton mesclun de Sylvain (Florence sweet onion served with lemon and green salad) - The fragrant onion is almost as sweet as honey, mixed with parmesan cheese and some black pepper. I prefer when the onion is crispier, like my 1st visit here

Volaille de Pays (Grande Tradition) à la casserole poulet du Haut-Maine (Free range of Haut-Maine chicken cooked with hay and wine in a casserole) - A juicy and scrumptious chicken ... yummy. An example of old-style and rustic preparation, the skin with thin layer of fat is not so crispy, but very tasty nevertheless. The leek does not enhance the chicken, a variation of garden vegetables should be better

Selection of fresh goat cheese at L'Arpege - My cheese: Tomme de Chevre (slightly salty), Anneau du Vic-Bilh (balance between salty and sour), Chevre de Corse (strong one). I forgot the other 2 goat cheese names

Millefeuille (caprice d’enfant) goûter croustillant (Crispy puff pastry in thousand of layers filled with sweet cream) - One of the best desserts I've ever had.The layers of pastry are extremely thin and as light as air. It is dynamic by itself: crispy, colorful and flaky in texture, at the same time the sweet cream and caramel work in harmony

The wine list is quite extensive, with emphasis on Burgundy and Bordeaux wines. However, the mark up price is, honestly, exorbitant. I always have the wine by the glass here, the choices are usually good in terms of matching with the food. The new head sommelier is Steeve Jicquel, he has similar personalities as his predecessor, Stephane Thivat - fun, easy going and friendly. For dinner, I had few glasses of wines: an aromatic dry white wine from 2001 Leon Beyer Cuvee des Comtes d'Eguisheim (yellow-gold color and austere in flavor), a rich and dry white Burgundy from 2002 Bernard Morey Saint Aubin and a sweet dessert wine with a bit of spice from 2002 Alsace Riesling SGN Vincent Sipp. Whereas, for lunch, I consumed less wines: a dry and buttery Riesling Grand Cru Rosacker Alsace as well as a refreshing Domaine de l'Hortus blanc Val de Montferrand. Not only the wine, the tea and coffee collection are not bad at all. I enjoyed my infusion of mint and sage tea as well as a cup of Ethiopian espresso.

The restaurant was full in both occassions, including the "cave" at the basement. For the dinner, I had the honor to be seated at the "chef's table" - a single table below the picture of Passard's grand mother - Louise Passard. Personally, I like the atmosphere during lunch which is very laid back, and it was a nice, cooling, and sunny day - a perfect companion for my birthday (It was a bit drizzled in the late afternoon though). The price tag for all of these? It does not come cheap of course, but there was a pleasant surprised ... they only charged me less than half of the normal degustation menu for the carte blanche meal. I am not sure whether it's due to my birthday or I was already treated as a friend of the chef; it is known that the regulars at l'Arpege usually paid a lot less than common clients. I hope I was considered as the latter one, let's see when I come back again. Nowadays, chef Passard often visits the dining room and has some conversation with the guests - either at the beginning or the end of meal. Once, he sat down, and enjoyed his own lunch - a few langoustines with some vegetables - and a glass of wine. Thus, another memorable meal at l'Arpege. The amazing thing about this place is that even when I put high expectation, they almost always deliver (A few even better than what I've imagined). My meal here in Autumn is ranked as the best meal in 2008. For the pictures, please check the following link - L'Arpege 3rd and 4th visit

Food (and Wine): 98 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 98 pts

Overall: 98/100

Friday, January 30, 2009

Genyana Hamadaya Nihonbashi

In December 2007, Michelin - the prestigious gastronomic guidebook that some say could make or break a restaurant - released its first Asian edition, Tokyo. The most surprising news is that Tokyo officially dethroned Paris as the world’s culinary capital (191 restaurants stars were awarded compared to 65 stars at Paris). Long before the Michelin guide was released, I already had a plan to go to Tokyo for the first time in more than 20 years. So, I found that the guide is useful to assist my dining adventure during my Christmas holiday. The restaurant that caught my main attention is a Japanese ryotei (authentic and traditional) restaurant, Genyana Hamadaya. Hamadaya is a 95-year-old restaurant located in Nihonbashi Ningyo-cho (the birthplace of Edo Kabuki) where guests can be entertained by Geishas during their dining. As much as my desire to visit this place, I was a little bit intimidated at first since some told me that many Japanese (classic) restaurants do not welcome foreigners period. Fortunately, my hotel’s concierge, Ms. Ikuyo Takeuchi did a fantastic job to secure a lunch reservation at the main branch (there is another Hamadaya at Akasaka, Tokyo midtown) for me and my father.

Hamadaya, as far as I’m concerned, only offers degustation menu known as Kaiseki. Kaiseki (some call it tea ceremony) is a formal banquet cuisine served in Japanese-style and is nothing like most Japanese food that we know such as: tempura, teppanyaki or even sushi. After eating at several European fine dining restaurants, I thought I know “what and how to eat”, however, this experience taught me that there are still many things I can learn and explore about the Japanese haute cuisine. Similar to the tasting menu in the French gastronomy, a kaiseki banquet is a feast for the senses consisting of multiple elaborate small courses prepared with rare, fine and seasonal local ingredients (mostly unavailable outside Japan). As we entered Hamadaya’s main entrance, the restaurant’s staffs, dressed in traditional kimonos and sitting in seiza (the traditional Japanese sitting posture) position, politely greet us by bowing until their head touch the floor. Wow … I thought it was unnecessary, but I guess it is part of their culture to show respect towards the guests. As soon as we took off our shoes, one of the staffs escort us to the private tatami room – it is very spacious, the size is about 4×10 m2 and with such a large table, this room would be able to accommodate 8-10 people comfortably. At first, we were seated at the waiting room and served a cup of ocha (green tea) as well as warm towel. Once it’s all said and done, the adventure begins.

Hassun: Hors-d’oeuvre. The appetizer consists of: Roasted squid with sea urchin roe, deep fried prawn rolled in dried laver (edible seaweeds) and crab meat with eggyolk - The squid and crab are fine while the prawn is good. Additionally, there is a mixture of carrots, cucumbers and mushrooms served with some peanut sauce - nice and refreshing

Wanmori: Clear Soup. The soup consists of: Taro potato, spiny lobster tofu skin and daikon radish - I like the soup’s broth; the lobster is tender but rather tasteless while the tofu and potato are not too bad

Mukozuke: Sashimi. The sashimi in the winter season consists of: Maguro (Bluefin Tuna), Sayori (Halfbeak) and Hirame (Flatfish) served with wasabi Japanese horseradish - They’re all fresh with good texture, but the taste is very light. Sashimi is served early in traditional kaiseki before our palate sated with cooked foods

Yakimono: Grilled Dish. The dish consists of: Amadai Wakasa-yaki (Grilled Red Tilefish) - dense, tasty and juicy; Kaki (Oyster) in miso paste with sweet-dark sauce; Saba (Mackerel) sushi - in generous portion and chesnut dumpling. I love this dish very much

Nimono: Assorted Simmered Dish. Simmered Ohmi Kabura (giant turnip), quail and Japanese vegetables rolled with fried tofu - I like the soft texture and light taste of the tofu along with fresh spinach. The "meat ball"-like thing is OK

Aburamono: Deep Fried Plate. Deep fried prawn (with fries attached to it) and brocoli - The prawn is prepared in "tempura" style, and somehow it’s not oily at all. An excellent dish - sweet and crunchy, even better than Robuchon’s crispy langoustine

Shokuji: Rice and Soup. Steamed rice with peas, crab omelet, red miso soup (Akadashi) and Japanese pickles (Konomono) - Japanese’s rice is arguably one of the world’s best, and this one is without exception, the omelet is nice and sweet while the soup containing some "seaweeds"

Mizumono: A Seasonal Dessert. Assorted fresh fruits (Honey Dew and Strawberry) and hot sweet red bean soup - The red bean soup is pleasantly delicious - rich in taste without being cloying). In, L’Arpege I ate the best tomato and carrot in my life. Here, I never think that a honey dew could taste this good - sweet, fresh and very watery, the strawberry is also memorable

The savory menu above is accompanied by hot sakeKiku-Masamune tokusenn from Kobe (This dry sake has mild and refined aroma with delicate and smooth taste. It is the kind of sake which would intensify the foods’ flavor) and cold sakeAramasa tokubetuhonnzyouzou from Akita (A flavorful rice sake with gentle grain-like aroma and smooth round taste with a slight bitter finish). I don’t know much about their sake lists since I asked them to choose for me, but given the caliber of the establishment, sake-experts and lovers would not be disappointed. As we enjoyed ourselves or admired the small garden nearby, the Okami-san (female proprietor), Ms. Keiko Mita came a couple of times to keep us company during our meal. Her warmth immediately turned the formal ambiance into a more intimate one. In addition, our beautiful maitre d’hôtel which happens to be the owner’s daughter became the translator during our conversation (Ms. Keiko Mita actually speaks some English). I congratulated her for the 3-star Michelin awarded to Hamadaya. She explained that since receiving the award, the restaurant began to receive many reservations and at the same time adding her more pressure.

Essentially, the service at Hamadaya is indeed impeccable – both the owner and the staffs (all of them are female) are very courteous and cordial. In any authentic kaiseki meal, it is important for the staffs to adopt seiza position since it means not only showing courtesy and sincerity toward guests, but also having significance related to one’s field of vision and the direction of one’s eyes. Furthermore, the tea ceremony is cooperation between the host and the guest – while the host will do her best to make us feel welcome and take care of every details, we also need to perform our part by being appreciative clients. Kaiseki meal is like a symphony; while the feast would follow one particular seasonal theme, yet each course features distinct cooking techniques and above all, everything must work in harmony and be of the best quality. I could not imagine if there is a substitution for kaiseki meal outside Japan. It is true that the food here is not the best I have ever had; nevertheless the experience is unique and unforgettable especially the hospitality. After we finished our meal, Ms. Keiko Mita and her daughter gratefully accompanied and sent us out. The owner said she hoped to see us again. I would be more than happy to return here should I stop by in Tokyo again; hopefully next time will be in different season. Hamadaya is truly a temple of authentic Japanese cuisine. Please visit the website below for the pictures,

Food (and Wine): 94 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 96 pts

Overall: 94.5/100

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pierre Gagnaire Paris - 2nd visit

Like many foodies have said, there is hardly (if any) many fine dining restaurant that could surprise, amaze and at the same time frustrate its clients other than the one and only - Pierre Gagnaire Paris. In the extreme case, some would claim that having a meal here is like a culinary gambling ... it may not be completely wrong since you will spend a few hundred Euros and there is a likelihood that you will be disappointed at the end. But hey ... millions of people still go gambling despite knowing for sure that the odd to win is really small. So, near the end of October 2008, about 2 weeks after Lehman Brothers went bust, I returned to this legendary place, but this time for dinner and no more renovation work happening at Hotel Balzac. It was a chill Sunday and there were plenty of people enjoying themselves around L'avenue des Champs Elysees. I reached the restaurant at 1930 and it was relatively quiet, this time I was seated at the mezzanine level.

As described in my previous meal here, Pierre Gagnaire's cuisine is perhaps like a roller coaster, but it is not completely random. His cooking truly reflects his personality and passion. He's really an extraordinary artist in the kitchen who execute his dishes with high precision though the result is not always perfect, but when it does ... it's simply amazing! I have always been curious about trying the a la carte menu at Gagnaire Paris, but so far have no guts to do so. However, after the 1st visit, I had the courage to do so this time. The a la carte here is unique -there is usually one main ingredient/theme and it's prepared in 4-5 different ways - no other 3-star establishments doing such things, not even Pierre's Tokyo or Hong Kong. The risk for my feast this time was even higher after learning that both Chef Proprietaire as well as Chef de Cuisine were not present in the kitchen, but if not now I was not sure when I would have another chance. In addition, Gagnaire would not simply leave his beloved restaurant in the hand of some incapable staffs. Being an adventurous person, I did not order any conventional dishes to increase the excitement and the risk. Anyway, here what I had (nothing too memorable from my Amuse-bouche).

Les Entrees

Raviole de roquette à l’estragon, soupe de poireau grille aux baies de sureau (Arugula ravioli with tarragon served in grilled leek soup and elderberries) - A unique one and it's the best among "Parfums de Terre" dishes. There's a little taste of foie gras, the soup is also good. Overall, a very earthy dish indeed!

Quenelle Ranavalo; minestrone insoliete; bisque forestière (Thick cream soup of wild mushrooms served with puree of vegetables) - The mushroom cream is very strong and dominant; I hardly taste the vegetables
Coeurs de celtuce, sorbet d’endive au vinaigre de coquelicot (The thick part of stem lettuce served with chicory salad green sorbet and poppy vinegar) - This sorbet with sake is OK

Le veau de lait: poitrine longuement braisée, enrobée d’un caramel de framboise à l’oseille (Braised of milk-fed veal breast meat coated with caramel of raspberry and sorrel) - A small piece of tasty veal balanced with raspberries, so that it will not be cloying
Feuilles sauvages du jardin d’Annie Bertin, bouillon d’artichaut brûlant (Wild leaves from Annie Bertin’s garden served with hot broth of artichoke) - I like this herbs soup. It may taste like Chinese medicine at first, but the more you drink, the better. It's a bit hot and spicy, suitable for cold weather

La Terre

Paleron de boeuf poêlé au laurier; tranché devant vous, la viande est posée sur une crème de rave au saké (Pan-fried shoulder of beef in bay leaf, sliced in front of me and placed on sake cream) - This is the best piece of beef/steak I've ever eaten - forget Morton or Ruth Christ, even slightly better than Akagegyu beef. The French beef (surprisingly is not at all inferior to Japanese Wagyu), with some layers of fat, is truly delicious and it's enhanced with cream of sake. A genius work on the palate, even though the master himself was absent

Moelle au caviar osciètre, pointe de persil fume (Beef bone marrow served with osetra caviar and tip of smoked parsley) - The bone marrow is somewhat dull, the caviar's saltiness brings out the flavor. The herbs below gave some distinct aroma ...
Carotte d’epaule en pot-au-feu; sauce daube et chantilly Hermès (Simmered beef shoulder stew served in sweetened carrot whipped cream sauce) - The beef stew is not bad at all except the mousse is a bit too sweet for my taste

Poire traitée comme un carpaccio, vinaigre liqueur (Thinly sliced raw beef served with liquor vinaigrette and pear puree) - The beef is of high quality, but the flavor is slightly overtaken by the puree
Friselli, cantal frais et oignons crus piquants (Thin potato chips prepared with fresh Auvergne cheese and spicy raw onions) - Nice and decent chips
Jus froids, museau au sesame noir (Vinegared beef muzzle served with cold aspic and black sesame) - My least favorite in the "Boeuf a la Francaise" dishes. It's normal, the gelee below is just fine

Les Desserts

Biscuit soufflé gingembre fraise et pur Vénézuela (Sponge cake soufflé served with fresh ginger and undiluted Venezuelan chocolate) - The intense chocolate souffle served untraditionally on the plate. The top part is a bit crispy, below it's smooth intensified with pure chocolate
Ganache onctueuse au Trinité; tranche de cassate à la pistache de Sicile et chocolat lacté (Rich mixture of chocolate and smooth cream sliced in 3 ways, Sicilian pistachio in left & right and milk chocolate in the middle) - The ganache is very smooth, while the pistachio one is particularly good. But, overall it's just too small

Eau de fraise au kirsch, glace blanche au gingembre noir du Vietnam (Water of strawberry and eau-de-vie of wild black cherries served with white ice of black ginger from Vietnam) - This "cherry water" is hardly sweet and served cold. To me, this side dish of the dessert acts more as palate cleanser to tone down the strong chocolate souffle
Mikado de chocolat au lait saupoudré de thé vert (Powder of Mikado chocolate milk sprinkled with green tea) - The powder beautifully add the presentation of the souffle, but it's swallowed by the strong chocolate taste of the souffle

The wine in Pierre Gagnaire is pretty solid, but often overshadowed by the food. I had a glass of wine for each course. Firstly, I drank 2006 Chateau Revelette Le Grand Blanc and it was alright. To accompany the beef, I had 2004 Domaine Gauby Cotes du Roussillon. The wine is simple, but good; the fruit is clean and pure. It's quite acidic with rapid finishing. Lastly, included in the dessert, I enjoyed a glass of Bodegas Hidalgo Pedro Ximenez Triana. With some raisins aroma, I find it was opulently sweet yet matched well with any chocolate dessert generally. The hospitality here is professional as usual; staffs are attentive and friendly without being obstrusive. I had a little chat with one Spanish waiter regarding the first F-1 night race where his hero, Fernando Alonso won the first race this year. Unlike my first visit, I did not have to submit my Credit Card number to guarantee for my reservation. Nothing has changed in terms of the restaurant decor. The atmosphere is a bit more formal in the evening. Almost half of the diners were foreigners, so it should not be a surprise that there are already 3 Gagnaire's restaurants in Asia. Nowadays, a top restaurant should be able to consistently perform regardless when the head chef is around or not. My dinner here is a little bit short compared to my lunch a year ago, nevertheless I still had a wonderful meal. Perhaps, it would be equally as good had I chosen a more conservative approach by ordering the famous Les Langoustines or Le Turbot. For the pictures of what I ate, please click the following link

Food (and Wine): 96 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 95.5/100