L'Orangerie--a farewell visit (long)
Last night I paid a farewell visit to L'Orangerie--an early birthday dinner courtesy of my parents.
This place had always been a favorite of theirs, and mine too--I went there for the first time for my 12th birthday, again for my 25th, and several times more for other big events. I had my very first taste of caviar here, and once got a free glass of Armagnac there for inflicting my bad French on one of the servers. So I knew I had to go back to say goodbye.
We were all a bit worried that they might be a bit apathetic, and content to get through the rest of the year with no major mishaps. But to our delight, they were definitely still on their 'A' game.
The meal started with a very strange amuse guele (a little glass mug filled with about 2 ounces of a cold lentil salad, topped with yogurt and chives). It was tasty enough (the lentils were nicely seasoned and pleasantly tangy, the yogurt creamy and not overly tart). But it seemed more like something you'd find at a potluck for vegetarians than at an upscale restaurant.
For appetizers, the three of us ordered the scrambled eggs with caviar, served in egg shells presented in little silver egg cups; foie gras ravioli (one of their specials), and artichoke ravioli.
I knew I had to have those eggs: I thought they were the coolest thing ever when I was 12, and they're still pretty neat now. The eggs were slowly cooked in what must have been a generous quantity of butter--creamy, but not at all greasy. Mom's foie gras ravioli were filled with large chunks of seared foie gras, and came with a very rich (but not overwhelming) sauce with truffles and cabbage. I didn't get to taste Dad's artichoke ravioli, but he said it was excellent--he liked that the ravioli skins themselves were thin and delicate, and not at all tough or gummy as they can often be.
For mains, I had roast squab with truffled potatoes and cabbage; the 'rents had roast scallops with (I think) risotto and a roast lamb loin with polenta. My squab was nice and rare as I had requested, and the potato/cabbage mixture that went with it darned tasty. Dad loved the polenta that came with his lamb ("very creamy") and said the meat was very tender. Mom likewise enjoyed her scallops. The presentation on all the dishes was elegant but not fussy--there were discreet decorative lines of sauce on the plates, but nothing that would make one hesitate to dig in and eat.
For dessert, we shared their thin apple tart with a puff pastry crust--both the thinly sliced apples and the crispy crust were slightly caramelized, which lent a nice bittersweet touch. This was served with a very generous assortment of petit fours--twelve pieces, four for each of us. The assortment consisted of a tiny dome of passionfruit cheesecake on a crispy cookie disk, an airy cylinder of tangy lemon mousse on the same cookie base, a very intensely flavored cube of fruit jelly (I could not for the life of me tell what fruit or fruits were involved, but darn, it was tasty), and a little dark-chocolate tart shell filled with mocha mousse. All of these had nice, clear, clean flavors and none were overly sweet.
The service was cheerful and helpful, and everyone working there seemed to be in a good mood (or at least, did a great job of pretending to be in a good mood). We were in a good mood, too, until we stepped out into the driveway and realized this was the last meal we'd ever have there.
All in all, a terrific experience. What a pity that we will soon lose this place!