Sunday, June 18, 2017

Taillevent Alain Soliveres

Taillevent is a Paris icon and one of the most important landmarks in the history of French haute cuisine. The restaurant was found by Andre Vrinat in 1946 and named after the nickname of a legendary chef from the 14th century called Guillaume Tirel. Taillevent was identical with 3-star michelin especially when Claude Deligne was leading the kitchen while Jean-Claude Vrinat (Andre's son) was often perceived as the finest maitre d'hotel in France, if not the whole Europe. However, things changed fast when in 2007, Taillevent lost its third star and Mr. Vrinat passed away in early 2008 due to lung cancer. In spite of these challenges, Taillevent has been doing relatively well. Under Alain Soliveres (the current chef de cuisine since 2002), it comfortably keeps the 2-star status though everyone here certainly works very hard to reclaim Michelin's highest honor. After more than a decade of indulging and appreciating various gastronomy food around the world (mainly in Europe and Asia), I eventually decided to visit this famous dining institution last month. As I was looking at the menu, the staffs brought in a small plate of Gougeres (Comte cheese-flavored choux pastry). It was a very good nibble, served warmed with light choux and containing pleasant cheese flavor. In less than 10 minutes, I made up my mind and ordered the seasonal tasting menu - it was supposed to be the last week of Morel mushrooms.

Menu Asperges & Morilles

Crispy Langoustine with sweet and sour sauce - The amuse-bouche at Taillevent displayed some Asian influence. It was a tasty Dublin bay prawn with delicate & sweet 'meat'. The sauce, having a hint of spiciness, was fine

Asperges Vertes d'Anjou, Gelée de Verjus et Caviar Osciètre (Green Asparagus from Anjou, served with Verjus jelly and Oscietra Caviar) - The asparagus was crisp yet tender; it's delectable without any bitter flavor. The acidic verjus jelly (acted like a refined vinegar 'sauce') and briny caviar enhanced the overall flavor of the dish. The kitchen truly thoughtfully prepared all elements here and the presentation was exquisite

Accompanied by wine: 2014 Domaine Didier Dagueneau, Blanc Fumé de Pouilly - a dry white wine from Loire Valley. It was fresh, medium-bodied with distinctive smell and a bit complex texture-wise. A good pairing with my vegetable dishes

Asperges Blanches Angevines aux Saveurs Printanières (White Asparagus from Angevine farm, served in Spring seasonal flavors) - The cooked white asparagus was a bit mild and slightly sweet; texture-wise, it was delicate (thus, I like using a meat knife to cut through and eat it). The overall flavor of this dish was intensified by watercress 'sauce', parmesan and some seasonal vegetables

Homard Bleu Sauté a Cru, Morilles Blondes et Coquillages (Blue Lobster in "browned" jus served with yellow Morel mushrooms and Shellfishes) - The lobster and morels were carefully executed resulting in delicious dish. I really liked the meaty and tender lobster's claw. The shellfishes were alright while the mushrooms were 'nutty', meaty and tasty. The sauce, mainly derived from the lobster jus, was stronger than I expected but balanced by fresh herbs juice on the side; very satisfying

Accompanied by wine: 2008 Domaine Didier Dagueneau, Pouilly Fume - more complex than the one I drank above, but balanced & buttery. It's full bodied, dry, mineral with acidity

Turbot Sauvage en Tronçon, Asperges Vertes et Morilles Blondes Asperges Vertes et Morilles Blondes à Peine Crèmes (Wild Turbot cooked on the bone served with Green Asparagus and Yellow Morels in a slice of 'cream') - The turbot was perfectly cooked and simply marvelous. Keeping the 'middle' bone and the fat added unique & delicious flavor to the already wonderful fish. The delectable sauce was made of white wine + the fish bone. The morels and asparagus were good but "the king of fish" here just outshone all other ingredients. My favorite dish from the tasting menu!

Faisselle aux Fruits Exotiques, Parfait a la Passion et Citron Vert (Kind of 'strained' Fresh cheese and Exotic fruits served with Passion fruit mousse and caviar Lime) - This dessert has everything and it's a good option especially for the Spring season. Sweet. sour, & fresh flavors; creamy & crisp texture. For maximum enjoyment, consumed a few things together and I had no problem to wipe clean this dessert in a very short time

Petit four - It's often an after-thought as served towards the end, but I had to admit the pastry team took them seriously. Canele, chou cream, mango tart and the chocolate were delicious. They're accompanied by the complimentary Cognac petite champagne from the house. A nice way to end a very good meal

The wine list was very extensive and somewhat daunting, but a few of them was reasonably priced. If you're bored or wine lover, flipping trough the Taillevent's 'carte du vin' was an enjoyable activity by itself. The restaurant's building was apparently a former private mansion of the Duc de Morny. It had a classy entrance. The interior design of the dining room was elegant yet discreet and the ambiance was both restrained and comforting. I was seated at the Lamennais dining room with wooden panels, lush carpets and modern artworks; the natural light was minimal here. Taillevent's 2 main dining rooms were relatively big (they could comfortably accommodate 60+ people). However, since it's pretty quiet during my lunch time, I was seated in the sofa booth that normally would be used for 4 diners. The service, led by Jean-Marie Ancher (a former right hand man of Mr. Vrinat), was polished and smooth in the old school fashion way. Napkins were replaced whenever you left your table and water was constantly refilled. All the front staffs delivering the hospitality were gentlemen. They're competent, respectful and helpful but don't expect to have much engaging conversation. The clientele was diverse; in my dining room, more than half of them did not speak French. Similar to other Parisian top restaurants, wearing a tie was no longer mandatory and a jacket was only encouraged during lunch but required for dinner. Overall, it was a very good meal in many aspects and I wish Taillevent's team all the best in the pursue of regaining the 3rd "macaron". I think they have a chance ... Here are the dishes' photos: Taillevent May '17  

Food: 94 pts

Service: 94 pts

Overall: 94/100

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