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Paris report (including Pierre Gagnaire and Passage 53)

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(I'll try writing something that will make sense and sorry in advance for the "fran-glais"!)

In Paris for a couple of days after a few days in Barcelona (nice pair of cities!) to see family and eat! I've had only lunch in restaurants, all other meals were at home.

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After landing in CDC, we had some errands in the center of Paris (around les Halles), so we stopped at "Au Pied De Cochon"; classic, a bit touristic-ish, but fun and good (IMO), but horrible wine list. This is a classic Brasserie; so no real surprise in the menu. we opted for a small seafood platter (shrimps, oysters and "Amandes") all was good and fresh, after that, an Andouillette AAAA (+/- an A) and my sister had the Soupe a L'oignon and my niece a nice salmon steak (from the kid's menu) all was well prepared, meat, fish and soup.

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- Cochon à L'Oreille : Small, very small old school bistro right off the "Halles" area. small menu with classics, nothing extraordinary, but well made and just in their portion size; I had quiche as the first course, a sizeable portion, smooth and light, and the Navarrin d'agneau as the main course, a nice chunk of meat with the bones and autumn veggies. One fun thing is that when you order wine, they will open the bottle you ask for and charge you only what you drink; so I had a good portion of a nice Brouilly (Henry Fessy). Comfort food at a good price.

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- Pierre Gagnaire :

That was an awesome meal. I found the food to be a lot more "classical" than I expected from all I could read about the restaurant, nothing wildly esoteric or far-fetched either in ingredients or preparation (or it was so well done that I could not figured it out!); maybe because I choose items off the "Hunting" menu ? I also found the progression of the whole meal very well thought of, starting with the multitude of amuse-bouche to the appetizers to the first course and the main course and the deserts.

The Amuse bouche, even if they are numerous, are just about sized appropriatly to actually "amuse" you, you feel happy at all those little things coming in with no end in sight! All of them were quite light, fish, shell-fish (coquillage), small "green" salad (very good) and a small sweet sablé to finish it; as I told the very nice waitress (cute also), it was like a menu inside the menu!

As I wrote earlier, I chose items from the "Menu Chasse"; since it looked a bit more like a seasonal menu, I felt it was more appropriate as an introduction to Pierre Gagnaire.

The "Entrée" was the "La Plume" a series of dishes around duck: A foie-gras terrine marbled with wild duck; Onion tartelette with "acidulée" girolles (marinated girolles) a ballotine of "perdreau" in a quite bitter cold juniper broth (probably the only thing I did not really liked at first, but it grew on me), an excellent potimarron chutney (and fresh ones) that went perfectly with the wine I selected for the whole meal, a
Château de Saint-Cosme Gigondas Hominis Fides 2003 a very warn year but the wine held up very well.
The highlight of "La Plume" was the Champagne "Faisan" soup with nuts and aloe-vera; velvety, crunchy wit the nuts, a bit weird (in a good way) with the aloe-vera (What the heck, we can eat that ??!?); served in two parts, the soup is poured into the bowl, then the soupière (more like a saucière) is rinced with some champagne table-side and poured again into the bowl.
The main dish was the "Chevreuil", a quite simple dish, not multiple dishes, only 2, meat and veggies,, but very satisfying; the meat, presented to me in a terrine, and then finalized table-side, the meat was sliced and put on the plate on a cerfeuil mousseline with a apricot, cinamon sauce with some chestnut pieces; the combination of all the ingredients went perfectly with the meat, which was cooked to perfection, and quite tender and went very well with the wine. The side dish was a "Friselli D'Agria", which is a series of very thinly sliced vegetables and fruits dried, they are either crunchy or a chewy, nice contrast of texture, with, I think a piece of carrot (or potimarron) with a lemon chutney.

After that, the last choice, do I go with desert or with cheeses… decided to go with the desert, the autumn "biscuit souflé" which consisted of a "souflé" with some sautéed rhubard and mirablles, that was warm, and on top of that, a cold "praliné" that melted into the souflé! a nice combination; alongside of that, 2 cold sidekicks, one sablé and one "red-fruits" tartelette. The desert was served with a glass of Sidre Brut 2008 (Eric Bordelet) which was a good end to a great meal!

The service is exemplary, attentive, not stuffy (heard a waiter talking to another table, saying his/their job is to make us happy!) and competent! the sommelier made a good selection, offered a couple of different choices according to what I told him I liked and what would go well with the meal.

The damage : : 334E, not cheap at all, but, IMO quite reasonable (all things considered) !!! and worth it.

It was a memorable meal. I have to go back again!
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- Passage 53

P.53 was not a real planned meal, I was walking in the area and remembered about the Passage Panorama; ventured in and found the restaurant; decided to make a reservation for 2 days later; my phone died in the meantime, so I could not reconfirm; and I was 1/2 expecting that they forgot about so I could go to Racines instead! but no biggie, it was a very good meal (and I can find Racine type food in Montreal more easily than P.53 food).

The restaurant is quite small, and loungy, even in its white setting; but it makes for a "light atmosphere" (I can't find the word now), especially during the day.

I decided to go with the 85e tasting menu, not knowing what to expect makes it fun; but enough information about it to select a very nice bottle of Puligny-Montrachet 2007 (Vincent Girardin), the wine list is somewhat small but looked very nice, but condidering the size of the restaurant, no biggie there!.

I don't remember exactly what each dishes were… I should have taken note! but everything was very good, fish was well cooked, meats were tender; one of the highlight was a roasted sweet onion quartered where they inserted between each layer a slice of chorizo!!
The bread was good and served with Bordier butter (demi-sel and espelette)

The Damage : 187e, kind of expensive (but including a very good bottle of wine) compared to PG, but worth it; different in style and substance to Gagnaire, so a nice meal…

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Markets visited :
President Wilson St, Market; quite a largish market with a big stand of joel Thiebault and a lot of different other things, from pans and pots to all kind of cheeses and seafood and veggies and meat.
Small I love the way they prepare the roasted potatoes!!

Nogent Sur Marne Market, a very large market in this "banlieue bourgeoise" just east of the Vincennes forest, lots and lots of different kind of stalls, from fish to meats to chair repairman to mattresses, to veggies and patisseries … I love it there! bought some terrine and patés from the Conserverie Marie-Antoinette (http://www.conserveriemarieantoinette...), I've not tried them out yet!

That's all for now folks!
(crappy) Pictures are available : http://www.flickr.com/photos/thesorus...

M.

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  1. Thanks Max, interesting review.

    What was the nature of the game menu at Gagnaire? Was it just three set courses around which they riffed on the main ingredient or was there more choice than that? Would you recommend it? Interested to know if there's a significant price differential over the degustation or ALC.

    5 Replies
    1. re: ihaveanewusername

      The "Menu Chasse" contains 3 "entrées" and 4 plats (including one for 2 persons) to choose from. all items are centered around a principal "game" (duck, rabbit (lièvre), perdrix) and "Biche", Chevreuil, Grouse and Rabbit again.

      From what I understand, and remember from the different menus ( i did not take pics of them), the regular menu items (entrée+plat) are a bit more expensive than the (entrée+plat) of the "Menu Chasse" (but not by much), but you can mix'n'match from each "Carte".

      The full tasting was 235e (if I remember correctly, maybe a bit more?) including the desert (which is around 40e) so it can be a good deal; but you have less control (If I may say so) to what you will be eating, and if you go with with your wife-to-be, it can be fun to have 4 different dishes between the 2 of you instead of have the same menu.

      Also, I think you asked about the restaurant entrance, it's a large door next to the Hotel entrance (up the stairs).

      M.

      1. re: Maximilien

        Very well remembered! Thank you for the advice. I think we will decide on the night whether to go ALC or MD but it sounds good that you can incorporate the menu chasse with the standard a la carte menu.

        You make a very good point about having a huge selection of dishes between us through ordering separately off the a la carte, at the same time I always feel compelled towards a tasting menu on my first time in a restaurant.

        Thanks for the hotel advice, we shall just have to see whether she clocks on when we arrive.

        Quick point on English which I asked in the other thread, there are mixed reports as to how far it is spoken at PG. I can probably translate about 75% of the sample menus on the website but my girlfriend speaks no French at all and I picked up from her that she was slightly fazed about eating in one of the great Parisian restaurants for that reason - any views?

        Best.

        1. re: ihaveanewusername

          Can't really about English (I'm francophone from Montreal), but the waitress ask English or French, and I said French.

          I assume that some waiters speak English a bit more and some a bit less; but all should be good enough to describe the menu (I think!)

          M.

          1. re: ihaveanewusername

            You should not have problems with English at Gagnaire.
            In fact, the two times I went, there was at least one waiter who began speaking in English before realizing we're French, so I'd say they're pretty used to speaking English.

            1. re: olivierb

              Well we had a wonderful engagement dinner at Pierre Gagnaire on Sunday night. Perhaps I have grown used to the absentee chefs in London but to have the man himself cooking and greeting on a Sunday evening felt very special.

              We have the autumn 2 menu degustation which was incredible. The skate and fois gras dish worked particularly well and there was an incredible dish of prawn, shrimp, cabbage and gingerbread. Even the dishes which weren't to my taste (too much pink grapefruit with the turnip, ham and oysters) were incredible feats of invention and texture that surpass anything I've eaten in England. And the grand desserts particularly the liquorice and fig with a caramel swirl were beautiful.

              Thanks to everyone on here who offered help and advice over the last couple of months, it really was a very special meal.

              Only word of warning - despite there being champagne by the glass at e18 and e35 we were served the more expensive of the two at the start which I thought was a little off.