Repeat meal at Ortolan: From Good to Outstanding [long-ish review].
Just returned from a killer meal at Ortolan.
My first trip to Ortolan was about a year ago. It was good; it was nice, but it didn't blow my socks off. Mrs. J.L. & I got a requisite picture taken with the lovely Jeri Ryan (wife of Chef Christopher Emé) on that visit.
Different story this time.... in a good way...
Our party of 4 was warmly greeted, and shown immediately to our "front window" table, adjacent to the (brighter) main dining room. The place was about half full on a Friday night. Candles everywhere - nice touch. Noise level was very good for conversation. Sidenote: Jeri Ryan was not there, but we were there for the food anyways...
The sommelier was patient and cordial. Wine list was more extensive than on my last visit, as I recall.
The menu involved 2 different tasting menus - A $110pp, 7-course 'Menu Seduction' and a $135pp, 11-course 'Menu Plaisir'
Being a hungry bunch with curious palates, we opted for the 'Menu Plaisir'
The sommelier brought us a nice bottle of pinot noir.
Here's the play-by-play:
Amuse bouche (compliments of the chef): A very interesting layered radish & celery(?) soup - its pink-red & lime green colors were brightly contrasting, a bit tart; it was an excellent opener.
Bread: Ortolan's dinner bread is one of their strengths, and I was looking forward to it. Again, the Chef surprised us with another freebie - a gentle and tasty eggplant spread. Also, lobster infused olive oil was offered, as well as a 12-year balsamic for our bread. Good bread indeed.
Foie gras confit / peach chutney: Great combination of tastes, ALMOST as the good as the version at French Laundry (and I hold Thomas Keller in very high esteem in my book).
Salmon, marinated / Yuzu / Lemongrass: A cold dish. I like yuzu with most fish, but I don't remember having yuzu with salmon before - the result was good. The coconut milk base and lemongrass reminded me of my trip to Phuket, Thailand.
Egg with whipped cream & caviar: Better than L'Orangerie's. 'Nuff said.
Langoustine with white asparagus / Morel / English pea: This was easily one of my favorite courses in any restaurant so far this year. Each part was well-executed and combined thoughtfully. I wanted to take, like, 20 portions of this dish home with me.
Scallop / Mandarin soup / summer vegetable / rosemary powder: Rosemary powder works great with scallop! Very imaginative!
Sea bass with parmesan crust / quail egg / Swiss chard: Perfectly done sea bass. Quail egg adds a bit of richness, which my friends liked, but I prefer my fish simple and not overcooked (this fish was not overcooked).
Duck / fennel/ rosemary panisse / peach: Again, perfect execution. The duck breast was just right, and my friend, who usually avoids duck, even commented that this was (and I quote): "This just might make me start eating more duck."
Cheese plate: A nice selection of cow, goat, & sheep. We particularly liked the Chaubier. The usual accompaniments - walnut bread, marmalade, etc.
And now, on to dessert!
Coffee service was flawless.
Panna cotta - Ortolan's famous cherry "caviar", presented in a caviar tin - yum. Mrs. J.L. really liked this one last time, and this time was no different.
Lime geleé / coconut emulsion / red berries / vanilla ice cream - Nice way to cap the meal... Or so we thought...
From the Chef: Some nice petit-fours for the table, AND, to top it all off, housemade chocolate truffles (many different flavors - lemon, coconut, Earl Grey, mascarpone, pear).
The Chef himself checked on us once during the meal, and again afterwards, when we chatted. Turns out his wife was filming "Shock", so she couldn't be there that night.
Bravo, Chef Emé! We'll be back!
BTW, I have NO stake in Ortolan - I'm simply a very satisfied client.
As the crises bore thru our high falluting restaurant fabric, the corkage meshegoss is growing thinner by the day. I've as of late not paid a single penny in places that used to be "very strict". (I won't name names).
That's the flip side of bad times, you can now fearlessly show off your Moutons and other grandma jewels without much fear. Trust me...