Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pavillon Ledoyen Yannick Alleno

Pavillon Ledoyen, a legendary Parisian dining institution, has been identical with high quality French gastronomy. Since the beginning of 21st century, Ledoyen has become one of 3-star Michelin restaurants at the city of light - thanks to the uber chef Christian Le Squer. In 2014, there was an interesting "swap" involving this establishment: Le Squer left Ledoyen to become the executive chef of Four Seasons George V whose main purpose was to carry Le Cinq to re-gain Michelin's highest honor (as expected, he did it this year); Yannick Alleno, a French top chef who felt burnt out having to run a major hotel Le Meurice for a decade, came to the rescue as well as proved himself that he still "had it" when he had reclaimed the 3-star awards last year. Personally, I am very happy that Chef Alleno and Chef Le Squer to be around again in Paris. Both of them also successfully run fine dining restaurants. In light of the recent trend of bistronomy, I found it would be "wasteful" if these elite chefs do not defend the dignity of French cuisine at the highest level.

The 2 main reasons why I re-visited Pavillon Ledoyen were: Yannick Alleno and my parents. I had a very good meal during Chef Alleno's tenure at Le Meurice nearly 8 years ago and felt disappointed when knowing he no longer led any gastronomy restaurant after leaving the hotel. Now that the "Prince of the Palaces" has returned to Paris, albeit not in a hotel's palace, I was convinced that I had another chance to savor Alleno's creations. For my parents' case, they do not come to Paris as often as I do. They prefer going to new places whereas my trip is often dictated by food. Based on that, my parents were inclined to dine at restaurants they've never been before. Moreover, my mother loves European historical building with its classical interior design. Therefore, Ledoyen seemed to be a logical choice and it certainly did not disappoint. This Europe trip was part of my treat for their 40th wedding anniversary, so I should select the 'best' dishes. Our meal was for lunch and since my father and mother would be in Paris for a couple of days only, they strongly would rather the meal lasted 2-3 hours max. As I observed the lunch menu, the dishes did not look that appetizing. It meant a la carte was the way to go because the degustation menu would take at least 3 hours.

Our meal began with satisfying amuse-bouche:
-Cabbage jelly and mushroom served inside cabbage leaves: the cabbage's flavor was quite strong
-Onion consomme and cracker with comte chip: another rather intense item displaying texture and temperature contrast
-Chestnut marshmallow: for balance, this one was light & smooth
-Roll of cream cheese and smoked eel: decent; crunchy outside and soft inside

Tarte friande de Langoustine au Caviar: Langoustine tart topped with Oscietra caviar and gold leaves - I share this appetizer with my mother and it was outstanding! The tart was crisp & light enclosing the Dublin bay prawn in 'pate' form that was buttery and very tasty yet not overwhelming. The sauce was creamy with some crustacean clean flavor; it was elevated by the luxurious and briny top quality caviar. The leaves provided pretty decor but not so much on the palate. In short, it's simply perfect! Stunning and balanced ...

Accompanied by wine: 2009 Domaine Trimbach Riesling Cuvee "Frederic Emile", Alsace - Excellent Riesling especially to be consumed this year onwards. It was compact, full-bodied with mineral flavors and lime/zesty finish. It also had the flavor of apple and honeycomb. This white wine paired well with our caviar langoustine appetizer 

Blue lobster fricassee served with Safi capers, cabbage leaves and coral sauce - It's my mother's main course. I tried a bit of it. The lobster was tender and tasty while the sauce was lighter but still flavorful. In this dish, Chef Alleno drew inspiration from the east + south of France. I kinda like it, but not blown away. My mom had no problem to finish it all up though

Wagyu beef Gunma grade 4 "en aiguillettes" iodized "onigiris"; served with sea urchin and confit smoked eel, celery cooked in a clay crust served "à la cuillère" - It's my father's main course. My dad shared a little portion of this dish with us. I was impressed with the kitchen's ability to produce a wonderful well-done meat (he's unable to eat pink or 'bloody' steak); it's also nicely seasoned and cooked. The wagyu was still very tender and a bit oily - the amount of meat vs fat was balanced. The uni and smoked unagi would make the overall flavor even richer; to bring it down, you can savor the 'mashed' celery. A very good dish ... For my father, it's probably one of the best things he ate during this Europe trip.

Roasted milk-fed lamb served with home-made truffle pasta and nutmeg cream, tangy apple and slow cooked lamb shoulder - It's my main course. While my parents' main courseswere sublime, still I liked mine the most. Every elements here were simply awesome. The Limousin lamb was perfectly executed resulting in juicy meat and some crisp skin. The pasta was al-dente; it would nicely absorbed the cream as well as interacted with the truffle to elevate the already great roasted lamb. There's hardly any trace of unpleasant lamb's smell instead the black truffle aroma had stronger presence. It's a scrumptious dish: delicious lamb with flavorful sauce and not cloying at all

Accompanied by wine: 2013 Vacqueyras Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux, "Cuvee de Lopy" - This red wine had a mixture of Grenache and Syrah. The color was opaque black ruby; it offered the flavor combinations of black raspberries & licorice with gentle tannin. I think it needs more time to mature but it went quite well with the lamb dish

When it comes to the sweet tooth indulgence, except for the last items, I found Alleno's desserts were not on par with his entree + plat principal. For the pre-desserts, we had:
-Pear and vanilla sorbet as palate cleanser
-A glass of Tonka bean liquid: bitter and 'unusual'
-Jelly-like & sweet baked pineapple covered with almond
-Chocolate 'rolls': crispy  

Crystallized chocolate leaf served with milk flavored and hazelnut extraction - This was 65% of (dark) Caribbean chocolate. The leaf and the base was pure (crunchy) chocolate and somewhat bitter & strong. It's 'necessary' as the milk, mousse and the sorbet were more on the sweet sides with some fruity flavor coming of the lemon gel. Alright but nothing memorable

Roasted mango meringue served with pepper vinegar - In addition to chocolate-based dessert, it's ideal to also have a fruit-based sweets. The mango had a mixture of sweet and sour flavor while the 'sauce' was more intensely sour. The sugary meringue was, as expected, (really) sweet. A good dessert was a pleasure in and of itself. However, at Ledoyen, they acted more as palate cleanser with some pleasant flavors ... at least for me

Lastly, the petit-fours (the finest part from the pastry kitchen):
Beer creme brulee: Sublime and really delicious! The buttery crust was superb; the caramelized cream was even better and not cloying. I ate about half of them
Chocolate truffles: Soft and pure chocolate flavor in cube forms. It's bitter in a good way and hardly any hint of milk. Cocoa lovers should like this a lot

The food was superb overall in particular I really love the langoustine tart with caviar although during our lunch, Yannick Alleno himself was not present. Most credit that day probably should go to the gifted chef de cuisine, Nicolas Le Tirrand. The kitchen team was capable of creating innovative, interesting, and intricate dishes that were also delicious. From our meal, I can say that Yannick's prime talent lies in redefining traditional cooking: examining and understanding the French culinary tradition and at the same time giving new interpretation by pushing its boundaries to a new level that's unique to his own style.  As his own boss and someone who's very passionate about food, the current situation at Ledoyen is ideal; it gives Chef Alleno (along with his proficient team) plenty of liberty to create and play with different produce to generate surprising arts on the plate. It seemed to be his goal as well - to bring back French cuisine to the fore front of world gastronomy. This was the kind of opportunity he hardly had when working at a huge palace hotel. For the dessert part, I had to admit that Camille Lesecq (Alleno's pastry chef at Le Meurice) was arguably better than Ledoyen's Damien Cassart, who used to work at Le Louis XV.

The service was generally attentive, friendly and not obtrusive. Water was consistently refilled, napkin was replaced whenever you left to the restroom and staffs tried to put guests at ease despite the rather formal ambiance. Like the chef patron, the restaurant director Frederic Pedrono was not supervising his team but it did not lower the Ledoyen's hospitality standard. Perhaps this happened because the restaurant was relatively quiet - only half full and most guests were local business people. The assistant's sommelier recommendation for my wine by the glasses was spot on. We drank no champagne and the staffs never pushed it either, professional! Last but not least, the main dining room's decor was less formal under Yannick Alleno but still graceful and looked opulent. The big tables covered with white linen were accompanied by comfortable willow green chairs. For the fans of the old style, Ledoyen still keeps the old paintings and stone carvings intact at the first level and around the stair case on the way to the upper level. During the lunch and on a sunny day, the natural light was very pleasant and guests could also enjoy the trees/garden from the quiet dining room as this temple of haute cuisine was hidden behind a museum. The whole dining experience was uniquely Parisian indeed and I was glad that my parents also liked it. For picture, please check this link: Ledoyen Mar '16

Just incase anybody is interested in the pictures of my meal with Chef Alleno at Le Meurice and see some differences: Le Meurice Sep '08  

Food (and Wine): 96 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 95.5/100

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