Monday, February 12, 2018

L'Hotel de Ville Franck Giovannini

Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville at Crissier, a lovely suburb near Lausanne, has been synonymous with top quality dining place serving French cuisine. Fredy Girardet was the only non-French chef selected by Gault-Millau as chef of the century in 1996. Attaining Michelin's 3-star award was certainly not an issue. Despite his stature, Chef Girardet would spend most of his time in the kitchen managing and supervising his team. The strong tradition continued when Philippe Rochat took over the restaurant, followed by Benoit Violier. Chef Violier's sudden death in early 2016 was shocking and unfortunate especially when one month earlier La Liste had declared l'Hotel de Ville as the world's best restaurant. Franck Giovannini, the right hand man and close friend of Chef Violier, was the most logical choice to lead this historical and elite institution during the transition period. Chef Giovannini has proved himself that he was a worthy successor by successfully maintaining the 3-star award as well as receiving Gault Millau's latest chef of the year award.

I was lucky to have eaten at this place about a decade ago when Chef Rochat was the leader. The la liste award 'encouraged' me to return to this place and it finally took place in Fall 2017. Given that l'Hotel de Ville has managed to retain its prestigious awards, I had no doubt that I would have a wonderful meal. It was a sunny day in October and I was seated (again) in the main dining room that could accommodate up to 25 people. The interior design was fundamentally quite similar to my 1st visit - elegant, spacious and comfortable. The natural light was very pleasant. This restaurant has more than 50 people working at the kitchen and the front team combined. It meant that the ratio of staff to its guest is nearly 1 to 1. The hospitality was, as expected, impeccable. My maitre d' and other staffs were helpful, polished and friendly. In addition, they're also flexible in fulfilling guests' needs. For example, my lunch time was rather limited, hence I was unable to order the big degustation menu. But, I was also not willing to do the surprise menu as there were several dishes I wanted to try. At the end, after a short discussion, I was allowed to design my own tasting menu. My meal looked like as follow,

Oursins violets des pêches Atlantiques cuisinés au Champagne jeunes fenouils croquants à l'Impérial (Atlantic purple Sea urchins lightly cooked in Champagne and served with spicy fennel) - The sea urchin 'veloute' was neither rich nor cloying - a bit weak in flavor compared to its raw form. However, the briny caviar and sweet + perfumy fennel helped elevate the uni. The intention and presentation were great but it was a bit too 'complicated or manipulative' that it lost the oursins' intense & pure flavors

Oeuf en surprise à l'italienne aux Truffes Blanches d'Alba (Italian surprise Egg with white Alba truffles) - It was one of the specialties of Chef Philippe Rochat. The perfectly cooked egg (lightly poached) was hidden under the al dente spaghetti dome. The Alba truffle had the right impact in fragrance and some (deep) flavor in the creamy sauce. Egg + pasta + white truffle with delicious sauce was simply outstanding. I could've easily consumed another portion of this dish

Accompanied by wine: 2016 La Maison de Moulin (with sauvignon blanc grape, from the Vaud vineyard area, generating 'explosive' flavor, fresh, and having a bit of acidic finish)

Ravioles végétales de Bolets et Chanterelles aux flocons de chou-fleur, céleri cuit et cru au Vin Jaune (Wild Porcini and Chanterelle mushroom ravioli powdered with cauliflower flakes and celery served on vin jaune cream) - The earthy raviolis were slightly firm with woody and tasty Fall mushrooms. The crunchy cauliflower and celery interacted well with the ravioli and the delicate soup + "yellow wine" sauce - very pleasant

Belles Noix de Saint-Jacques juste poêlées aux agrumes parfumées à la mélisse (Scallops seized and served with seasonal vegetables and a lemon balm sauce) - The pan-fried scallop was plump, a bit crisp outside and tender + moist + sweet inside. It worked in harmony with the somewhat sour yellow sauce, made of lemongrass and citrus, as well as green seasonal veggie on top. Simple and delightful 

Accompanied by wine: 2016 Petite Arvine Les Cretes (fruity and rather aromatic, some mineral, smooth with balanced taste)

Cœur de Filet de Bœuf des bords du Léman juste grillé au poivre vert, aubergines et courgettes rondes à l’origan (Local tenderloin Beef fillet grilled with green peppercorns and served with aubergines and oregano flavored round courgettes) - Similar to its wine, Switzerland has many high quality local produce (such as this beef) in limited amount that's usually only accessible domestically. The flavorful tenderloin was perfectly executed - still pink, slightly 'beefy' and tender in the middle - while the outside was crispy and kinda salty. The green peppercorn sauce was creamy and delicious. The side dishes like crisp potatoes, zucchini and eggplant went well with the 'steak'

Lièvre à la Royale (Hare a la Royale) - Historically, this restaurant had unique interpretation of this classic dish. The confit of the hare was carefully cooked for 6 hours with red wine, shallots etc until it became soft / very tender. The wild rabbit meat was covered with dried mushroom powder to show texture contrast. The velvety sauce was strong yet not too overpowering. The portion, the lighter preparation and the cooking for this dish were simply perfect for me

Accompanied by wine: 2014 red wine made of Cornalin grapes - I forgot to write down the red wine's name, but the tasting note said it was 'heavy', strong, very fruity. It should be more elegant as it aged and it was an excellent companion for my hare dish

Douillon de Chocolat Pur Caraïbecorsé à l’Arabica, amandes torréfiées légèrement citronnées (Caribbean dark chocolate tube filled with Arabica coffee cream and almonds) - Chocolate-based dessert was always a safe choice when I was not sure which one to order. The dark chocolate was smooth with lovely bitter flavor and good texture. The coffee generated pleasant aromas with delicate flavor while the almond gave some crunchy textures - really solid

Friandises - Mini size of delicacy / confection. Both the small mont blanc and cassis were lovely. In addition, I was also given coconut marshmallow, bailey chocolate and peanut chou. Even the sorbet were well executed and delicious. I had mango-passion (refreshing and could function as a 'palate cleanser') and caramel (flavorful ,smooth with some crunchy peanut)

All of the dishes were carefully executed with great culinary technique and using superb ingredients. They were all pleasure to all of our senses - delicious with attractive presentation. Whether preparing for fish, seafood, meat or sweets, the kitchen delivered high quality and very satisfying dishes consistently. The wine by the glass that I requested specifically to be as local as possible was well-selected and matched relatively well with the food. Chef Franck Giovannini and Madame Brigitte Violier lead the team by example. Chef Giovannini diligently checked all the dishes and greeted guests near the end of the meal. He would be more than happy to listen to any direct feedback from his guests. Mrs. Violier not only greeted her customers upon entering the restaurant, sometimes she would not hesitate to pull chairs, talk to them or clear dishes. L'Hotel de Ville has stood up to its stellar reputation for decades and once again, I witnessed the restaurant's outstanding performance by having another memorable meal. You could check the meal's pictures here: L'Hotel de Ville Oct '17
For some historical comparison, my old meal here under Philippe Rochat - l'hotel de ville 2008 

Food (and Wine): 96 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 94 pts

Overall: 95.5/100

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