Review of Albert 1er in Chamonix, France (w/ pics)
I posted a question a month ago looking for food recommendation for a ski trip to the Alps, including a few days in Chamonix, France. I got one reply for a place in Switzerland (which we skipped), and the rest were either crickets chirping silence or that the ski towns were culinary wastelands. Imagine my surprise to stumble upon a Michelin 2 star establishment in Chamonix, France, at the Albert 1er Hotel (http://www.hameaualbert.fr/).
I knew heading in I was going to pass on the more elaborate tasting menus and go for the La Petite Fête Gourmande du Marché, a five course meal for 76 €. My friend and I had a lovely day skiing the Vallee Blanche, and had hit a bar in town for some apres ski fun, so a big, big meal was out of the question. The hotel that houses the restaurant is very nice. A beautiful lobby and bar opened to the restaurant, spacious and comfortable.
For the menu of the day, the meal started off with escargo, which neither of us wanted, and the waiter offered to switch it out for the foie gras, which was pretty sporting of them. The sommelier (a real sommelier of course, no some 'wine steward'), next came to check on our wine choices. With that kind of knowledge at my fingertips, I was not going to try and blindly pick a wine myself, so we asked him to recommend 2 wines, one for the appetizers and one for the main course.
The meal started off with the amuse bouche, a bit of pumpkin soup with some goat cheese and chives. To me, this was a misstep. since the goat cheese and chives overpowered the delicate soup. I am happy to say that this was the only misstep of the meal. We had a lovely white wine first, and our first appetizer was the foie gras, topped with a quince jelly, which was one of the best tasting bites I have ever eaten. It was a little sweet from the jelly, but also savory, fatty, and melted in the mouth. Fantastic bluefin toro, lightly seared with real wasabi, would be the only thing that comes to mind as a possible rival.
Next came the red mullet with squid ink pasta and a saffron sauce. Good, but not spectacular. For the main course, we had the lamb, nice and tender, very good, but for me, not nearly spectacular, paired with a fantastic Bordeaux. Next came the cheese course, a 2 layered cart with more choices than I can shake a stick at. I allowed the server to pick out a selection of local cheeses, all good, a mix of semi-soft and hard. After that came the dessert tray, well, trays. A 2 tier job with cakes, and another single tier with ice cream and fruits. We were given the option of selecting what we wanted, no limits beyond our own gluttony. We did limit ourselves to just a few options, a slice of cake or two, and some ice cream - anise for me. Finally we were given a small tray of petit fours and chocolates with the check.
All in all an excellent meal, a bit pricey, but I did not leave feeling I was overpaying. The service was perfect (cleared everything between courses, correct flatware...), which I really enjoy in a fine dining establishment. Of course, without the amazing foie gras, I would have a different opinion.