Friday, April 6, 2018

Le Grand Restaurant Paris

Once upon a time, Alain Ducasse had a very capable right hand man (besides Franck Cerutti) that some might have argued that he could be better than Ducasse himself and his named is Jean-François Piège. Jean-François Piège had been working at the flagship of Alain Ducasse restaurants in Monaco and Paris for more than a decade before he became the Executive Chef of Hotel de Crillon in particular in charge of Les Ambassadeurs. After he left Le Crillon in 2009, he was free to venture on his own. His status as a celebrity chef was more and more apparent. He showed up in many magazines and television shows in addition to running some restaurants including a gastronomy restaurant at Thoumieux. Eventually in late Summer of 2015, chef Piège opened and ran his own restaurant called "Le Grand Restaurant". Awards kept coming ever since including a 2-star Michelin and chef of the year awards from Pudlo and Champerard. It's quite obvious that the red guide highest accolade would be his main objective for this restaurant.

Due to my earlier commitment and rain, I arrived kinda late (nearly 9:30 PM) at Le Grand Restaurant. Contrary to its name, Le Grand Restaurant was actually a small and stylish restaurant with only 25-cover. It was hidden in the small side street, not too far from the Elysee Palace. The restaurant's unique feature near the entrance was its glass window showing the open kitchen with plenty of the staffs in plain white. As I entered the restaurant, not only the maitre d' greeted me, but also many of the Jean-François Piège's kitchen team. However, the dining room was (very) low-lit in contrast to the bright open kitchen made from solid black and white marble. I could not appreciate the dining room's elegant design until after everyone left. The most striking aspect was clearly the dramatic & majestic black and white ceiling, followed by the sparkle of Baccarat lights as well as thick carpet whose pattern was similar to the dining room's glass ceiling. This refined decor with comfortable and cozy atmosphere was done by Gulla Jonsdottir, an Icelandic interior designer.  

For the food, I selected the degustation menu - 3 courses plus cheese & dessert - accompanied by (surprisingly generous) wine pairing. The meal started with some bread with butter and a few nibbles such as crispy beef with pickled jelly, parfait bread with olive and parmesan, pigeon egg with red wine etc. Then followed by the "real stuffs" ...

Mes Cuissons Mijote Moderne (Chef's Tasting Menu)
Caviar Daurenki Tsar Impérial servi sur une pomme soufflée croquante, crème foisonnée d'extraits de crustacés en chaud et froid, bouillon toasté 
(Daurenki Tsar Imperial Caviar part 1 served on top of an egg-shaped potato souffle with some potato cream inside) - The potato souffle was crisp and light with velvety potato & shellfish cream inside. It went very well with a dollop of caviar (carefully prepared with vodka and lemon) which was briny & buttery with nutty flavor. A "pop" of this firm & farmed Daurenki caviar met with delicate potato were simply stunning. To avoid any mess, I recommend to consume it in one byte
(Daurenki Tsar Imperial Caviar part 2 served with crusted cream of hot and cold shellfish / langoustine extracts jelly) - The shellfish emulsion was complex and smooth in contrast to the caviar's richness and texture; a lovely combination

Accompanied by wine: Chablis Premier Cru 2014 (floral aroma, golden color, crisp, good minerality and lively palate)

Langoustines de belle taille cuites dans du beurre noisette, marinière liée de fleurs de capucines, fines feuilles des pinces soufflées (Large size Langoustine cooked in hazelnut butter with mariniere sauce, white wine mixed with onions, herbs etc., and nasturtium flowers) - Paris is the heaven of exceptional langoustine dishes. Here, the succulent, fresh and sweet big scampi were perfectly executed - superb! It was enhanced by the delicious & balanced green buttery sauce and perfumed by the capucine's leaves and flowers. There were finely chopped young mango below that nicely absorbed the sauce and acted as "rice" to give some texture contrast. Langoustine seemed to be Chef Piege's specialty, so try to order one whenever you eat at his restaurant

Accompanied by wine: Meursault 2013 (medium acidity and minerality, fruity, subtle finish)

Grillotee sur des coques de noix, Ris de veau de lait, cepes de pin au four, excudat de cuisson infuse des aiguilles (The veal, slowly grilled over walnut shells, was served with baked pine mushrooms, walnut and mashed potatoes) - The veal was prepared in 2 forms: soft sweetbread and tender rack / 'steak' - both were divine and flavorful. The veal was also lacquered with the walnut to gave the meat some smoky and nutty taste. The dish also came with caramelized veal's jus, cepes mousseline and walnut highlighting the Autumn's flavors - a very satisfying main course

Accompanied by wine: the sommelier kindly gave me 2 different wines for tasting
-Chorey-Les-Beaune 2014 Burgundy (medium body, plenty of acidity, bright red, medium tannin, a bit too young but a decent pairing for the veal)
-Bandol 2008 Provence (dark berries & some spices, full body, soft tannin, bright acidity, smooth with medium length; liked this more than the pinot noir)

Brie de Meaux fondant - The cheese (a combination of brie and mont d'or) was processed in certain ways and served with refined celery. The cheese's taste and smell were rather weak and the celery yielded interesting flavor variation. The normal & regular cheese, served at multi-level wooden platforms, would probably be better than this one

Accompanied by wine: I forgot the detail but it was a wine from Loire Valley having creamy texture

Blanc-manger coulant - It was definitely the finest and most delicious blanc-manger I've ever eaten. It was pristine and chilled with very soft texture; inside, it had a runny & smooth vanilla cream and at the top, there was a thin & crisp yellowish caramel disc. I didn't notice any unpleasant 'eggy' smell or taste here. It was simply perfect and showcased Chef Piege's artistry workmanship. Bravo! This pre-dessert was even better than my real dessert next

Millefeuille vanille, rhubarbe au four et givree (Vanilla Napoleon, thousand layers puff pastry, served with baked and frosted rhubarb) - The aromatic millefuille was relatively thick with minimal vanilla cream hence failing to tame the rhubarb's sour taste. Except with the help of smooth vanilla ice cream, I only experienced sourness from the mille-feuille; flavor-wise, it was not as tasty as I initially had expected though the texture was good

Accompanied by wine: Muscat 2016 (naturally sweet and aromatic, a good pairing for the rhubarb)

In addition to the usual petit four, the pastry team provided this caramelized pumpkin with hay ice cream. The coarse pumpkin was sweet and flavorful, in contrast to the delicate and lightly tart hay ice cream. The food might not be perfect, but Jean-François Piège pushed his creativity and often the boundary of creating modern French cuisine with some flair. Dishes were generally pure / not pretentious, harmonious, and delicious with careful attention to details. I could sense that chef Piège devoted lots of energy and emotion in creating every dish. The service was competent with fine pace (never felt rushed in spite of my late arrival) and the atmosphere was relaxed. The front staffs were a bit 'calculative' yet gracious, friendly and worked efficiently although I never noticed they spent a lot of times chatting with the guests - many of them were locals celebrating special occasions. I look forward to finding out what Le Grand Restaurant will deliver in the next few years. I think 3-star it's not impossible for the chef-owner, latest when Jean-François Piège is in his early 50's. Here are the pictures of my meals: Grand Restaurant Oct '17

For nostalgia's sake, these were Chef Piège's creations I savored during his days at Le Crillon: les ambassadeurs 2007

Food (and Wine): 94 pts

Service (and Ambiance): 93 pts

Overall: 93.5/100