uhockey's thoughts on Paris Restaurants - Part 3 - Guy Savoy, Josephine Chez Dumonet, Michel Rostang, Le Regalade St.Honore, Le Pre-Catelan, L'AOC
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Josephine Chez Dumonet:
Full text below, photos in the blog.
Of the sixteen restaurant meals during our trip to Paris there is only one that I do not feel I can evaluate appropriately – a meal that took place at Josephine Chez Dumonet late on the evening April the 14th. As the circumstances tinting my view of this experience (save for seating us in the “American” section up front while all of the French folks were seated in back) were not a fault of the restaurant I will avoid my traditionally wordy assessment and instead simply opt to comment on what was ordered and how it tasted while noting the service and space were satisfactory – neither overdone nor deficient in any way – though with what the meal ended up costing me I’d have much sooner gone elsewhere for both.
Beginning first with the bread service – a house made toasted baguette with a nice open crumb delivered with rather uninspired unsalted butter and extra fleur de sel on request. It was good for mopping up sauce and as a delivery mechanism for the appetizers but overall sub-par compared to the options throughout the rest of Paris.
Complimentary wines – one white and one red with the first a bit too dry for my tastes while the second was quite sweet and fruity and both a nice gesture while we waited for our courses to arrive – the white with appetizers and the red with the mains.
1983 Chateau Terfort Ste Croix du Mont – an old bottle brought up from the cellar that was uncorked and tasted first behind the bar prior to delivery. Nearly a Sauternes in color and flavor with a smooth sweetness that coated the mouth at first but perfumed the palate with a clean finish and notes of pear, honey, caramel, and even hints of cinnamon. An experience in a bottle coming from a menu most do not even realize exists it was a wine suitable for both the discerning and the novice though perhaps not the sort of thing you order with indifference to yours or someone elses wallet.
Amongst our first courses the first was a demi portion of the house terrine de campagne maison avec salade et cornichons et onions. Similar to that of L’Ami Jean and later Le Regalade St. Honore this was the weakest of the terrines we tasted in Paris and also the only one which was not provided compliments of the house. Overall it simply tasted like meat – the spices largely subdued…a shame as the texture was actually quite nice.
Faring much better than the terrine de campagne, a demi portion of the foie gras de canard frais maison was absolutely sensational – buttery, smooth, and almost melting when warmed to room temperature – the perfect accoutrement to the bread and all the better with some fleur de sel plus a brilliant pairing to the Chateau Terfort with the wine bringing out the sapor of the liver and the liver bringing out buttery toffee notes from the wine.
For our main courses, the first was Cote de veau au vinaigre de framboise – a large slab of meat marinated with and absolutely soaked in a pool of aromatic raspberry vinegar. Not particularly a fan of veal I’ll note that the bite I tasted was supple, slightly sweet, and much more lean than I’d anticipated – an excellent slice of veal which was picked cleaned from the bone by meal’s end.
For my selection, having heard fantastic things of both duck preparations at Chez Dumonet and a fan of all things duck, I selected the Confit de Canard Maison. Served as a sizable leg and thigh over crispy potatoes and an uninspired salad with light vinaigrette the confit was admittedly quite good with a crisp skin overlying a ribbon of fat and dark succulent meat that was slightly gamy with notes of garlic, onion, and chives lending balance. Hefty in portion and low in price the duck was undoubtedly the best deal of the evening – no frills comfort food done well.
The third main plate was undoubtedly the best of the meal and though the 34EU price tag seemed a bit steep the flavors were admittedly complex and the presentation a step (or two) above the others. Titled Millefeuille de Pigeon et ses cuisses confites this two part arrangement was first the legs – lacquered, sweet, crispy on the exterior but melting and falling off the bone within – and then a three layer tower of crispy potatoes with the most flavorful and moist pigeon confit within. With everything resting in a pool of sweetened game sauce with hefty notes of cinnamon and spice I will simply note that even considering the fact that she was stuffed after Guy Savoy it took some convincing to get my sister to share.
With plates cleared and everyone rather full on both food and wine dessert was a rather gluttonous choice, and unfortunately a somewhat controversial one as I was unfortunately prevented the soufflé I’d very much desired instead settling for the Paris Toulouse avec corinthes et framboises – essentially a slightly more dense Paris Brest with filling of berries, whipped cream, and custard. Having heard how large the dessert portions at Dumonet were I was rather surprised at both the averageness of the size and the flavor of the dessert, though the berries were impeccable. Regardless for 18EU I’d have expected better and judging from the soufflés I saw emerging from the kitchen I couldn’t help but feel slighted.
The second dessert ordered was simply a plate of berries and whipped cream – specifically currants and raspberries with the same whipped cream that filled the Toulouse. At 12EU it was again overpriced, but the berries were again excellent.
The last of the desserts was titled “Mille-feuille Jean-Louis” and while I’m not sure which Jean-Louis they are referring to, this two layered version was the most paltry Mille-feuille we experienced in Paris and at nearly 2.5-times the price of the marvelous version at Jacques-Genin (though admittedly more affordable yet vastly less impressive than those at l’Arpege or Guy Savoy) it was simply disappointing in pairing the same vanilla bean custard from the Toulouse with two crunchy layers of pastry…the presentation honestly looked like they’d forgotten another 5 layers.
Ordering coffee because it was nearly 11pm and I’d hit a wall nearly an hour prior it was a humorous display to see our server yipped at by the chef for failing to bring the mignardises with the coffee, but when they arrived these treats were perhaps the best desserts of the meal – particularly the honey and nut tuilles and the fried coconut macaroons.
In the end Josephine Chez Dumonet turned out to be an overly expensive and exceedingly average experience that due to some ancillary issues turned out to be perhaps the meal I regret most on our trip to Paris – while the room, the company, the service, and the experience were fine, with what the meal ended up costing I could have gone back to Le Cinq or any number of one to two starred experiences – not to mention the significantly cheaper and vastly more impressive L’Ami Jean or Le Regalade St. Honore.
It's worth pointing out that you ordered (seemingly) 3 main courses and 3 desserts for 2 diners, and a fancy bottle of wine. You could have eaten less and paid less. What you paid must be higher than average and might explain the cost of your dinner being similar to lunch (?) at starred establishments. Not to say that JCD isn't expensive.
Also, the French usually seem to be sat at the front at JCD. You weren't seated so badly.
Agree with what you say Johanna the back is the generally thought of as the American section (or so other reports suggest). Also it is disingenuous to compare dinner and lunch prices at Le Cinq especially as you say uhockey had three mains and three desserts.
Interested to know why they comped the wine? But good to here the white (Chateau Terfort Ste Croix du Mont) tasted and looked like a Sauterne, after all it is made with the same grapes and is from an appellation which is next door to Sauterne
There is a disclaimer at the very beginning of this post and I'll not expound on the ancillary issues here or in the blog.
A) I tried to order the Souffle.
B) I don't eat veal and I never order wine, no matter who is paying.
C) I stated this was my (one, single person) opinion of the food we tasted - and regardless of any of the ancillary it would have been more expensive and less impresive than L'AJ or LeRegalade.
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Surely the Grand Marnier souffle is one of the reasons for going to JCD.
Wonderful report on GS and thought you should have posted it here regardless of chowhound politics. Seems the GS outpost in Vegas does not compare favourably with Paris. Interesting as we are thinking of trying the one in Singapore on our way to Europe.
With 5 more reports to go this a reader's feast with surely a Guiness book of records nomination in order for such a gastronomique achievement . Well done and I am enjoying every report.
Full text below, photos in the blog.
When someone asks me about the very best meal I had in Paris Michel Rostang is not the first name to come to mind, yet at the same time if I were asked to explain the most “classical French dining experience” of the trip our lunch in front of the kitchen window at 20 rue Rennequin is precisely what I would describe. Family owned and operated since inception and garnering 2-Michelin Stars the year I was born I was told by friends that this would not be the most revelatory experience in the City of Lights, but that if one ordered correctly it could be a stellar meal at a comparatively good price and while Rostang’s kitchen may not produce items as delicious or distinctive as Gagnaire or Barbot I can say without batting a lash that my friends were right.
Located slightly off the beaten path in the 17eme but easily identifiable by its patron’s name on the building outside we arrived to our 12:30 reservation a few moments early and within seconds of entering the door were greeted by a young man who introduced himself as the Maître d’Hôtel and Chef Rostang’s daughter, a pleasant yet serious woman who was very clearly in charge of many (if not all) aspects of the front of the house. With coat and bag taken we were asked if we would prefer a seat in the more “intimate” portion of the restaurant or if we should prefer a seat before the large picture-window looking into the kitchen – an obvious choice and given the situation of the table an opportunity for both of us to watch every aspect of our meal’s preparation without hearing a sound from the kitchen staff.
Seated and greeted by our server, a young man perhaps my sister’s age who spoke perfect English, three distinctive menus were presented and after a couple of questions we both decided to opt for the lunch special – 78Eu for three courses, plus to split an additional appetizer and a cheese course. Having heard impressive things of Rostang’s famous truffle sandwich it was somewhat disappointing when we were informed that they were not currently offering the item because “the current truffle selection is best suited for garnish and sauces” but given the breadth of classics on the menu we certainly were not left scrambling for ideas.
With orders placed and water filled it was a short wait before the meal would begin and during that time we each made a visit to the gilded downstairs restroom largely to see the two separate wine rooms – one quite enormous and rustic with the other well appointed and behind glass showing off some of their more esoteric selections. With the restaurant less than half full throughout our meal we also were left time to remark on the how charming the room was with its heavy wood paneling juxtaposing delicate lace curtains and a collection of ornate statuettes and dolls displayed along the wall – the whole feel like dining in a stately mansion, or as the case may be, the private residence and vision of Monsieur Rostang.
With thick linen napkins unfolded and heavily padded wooden chairs beneath us the meal would begin with a trio of canapés – all three tasty and one utterly outstanding. Beginning first with the simple, a slice of house cured Jambon with truffled vinegar, pistachio, and parmesan was plenty savory, a little sweet, and nicely accented by the nuts. Moving next to the sandwich, described as a club sandwich of hand-picked crab, truffle, and brie this selection was buttery, sweet, and aromatic with each ingredient coming forth with aplomb – I’d have gladly accepted a full portion of this sandwich in place of the truffle sandwich had they offered. As good as the sandwich was, the showstopper of the troika was the Butter tart with onion cream and foie gras – an unctuous amalgam of smooth liver and onion that was even more so plus mildly sweet top notes from the pastry.
With canapés consumed the next item to arrive at our table was the house bread – a single option in the form of a crunchy demi-baguette served with salted Bordier butter. With bread replenished with a warm roll each time the prior version was within a bite of completion I, as usual, enjoyed plenty and the butter was as good as any save for that at l’Arpege.
With Chef Rostang in the kitchen (apparently something less and less frequent these days according to reports and his daughter’s comments towards the end of the meal) largely as an observer and coach as the young team worked convivially our amuse proper for the meal would arrive in a rather sizable bowl described as Fennel Soup with Lobster claws and Lobster coral Crème. Impressive in portion and in taste this medium-warm potage was the definition of “velvety” and with the aromatic blend of spices and fennel balanced against the butter poached lobster and briny cream it was better than most lobster bisques I’ve tasted stateside. While I personally would have preferred it to be hotter and I jokingly mentioned this to the server it was a minor quibble given the quality.
For our first course of the afternoon there were six choices and all but one sounded enticing but in the end my love of foie gras won out and my server would soon arrive with “Fresh Sea Scallops and Foie Gras Ravioli in a broth of algae, root vegetables and herbs.” Ever professional if not a bit too serious I was warned that this soup was “hot – as you like it” completely straight faced and indeed it was; it was also wonderful. With the scallops caramelized on the exterior and nearly raw within and the pillows of foie lightly kissed with balsamic the sweet proteins melded nicely with carrots, turnips, and rutabaga while the savory broth sang of Asian inspired umami – an admittedly surprising flourish considering the chef’s classic stylings.
For my sister’s first course her decision, like her main course, was “Le Plat du jour proposé par le Maître d’Hôtel” – in this case described as “Chilled Fisherman’s Stew of Calamari, Razor Clams, Sea Bass, and Belotta Ham.” Expecting a broth-thin cioppino or gazpacho but instead delivered a buttery and smooth veloute loaded with briny seafood, savory ham, and bitter greens balanced against onions and peppers the most impressive part of this dish was the heterogeneity of it all – each bite a new experience with the acidity of the tomato providing an anchor to the diversity of flavors.
For our added appetizer a third soup was selected and though we asked for it to be split in the kitchen we were instead served two full bowls of the “Egg cream with fresh black truffles and Jerusalem Artichokes.” Again served hot and thick this velvety soup was the best of the trio and as a 30Eu supplement well worth the expense as the chopped egg blended seamlessly with the hefty vegetal tones of the Sunchoke and aromatics of the truffle.
With plates cleared we were next visited by both Michel and his daughter (acting as translator) who thanked us for coming and commended our main course selections – “one a classic, the other my new take on surf and turf.” Beginning first with the Plat du jour, “Truffled John Dory with blood sausage wrapped in bacon lardons and black olive puree” – it is hard to imagine more polar opposites. Beginning first with the fish – 2 slices, both pan kissed but moist and flakey with a layer of black truffles atop – it was mild, aromatic, and lovely. Serving as counterpoint to the fish, the very definition of savory – briny bacon, aromatic and heavily seasoned sausage, plus the essence of olives. With a silver sauce-pan of truffled potatoes along side adding a creamy aspect to the plate it was perhaps the best “surf n’ turf” I’ve ever tasted thus making it a classic in its own right.
For my main course, a classic by any definition as it was handed down from Escoffier by way of his father, the selection was easy – La Quenelle de Brochet soufflé a la crème de homard “comme le faisait Jo Rostang” – a serving practically half the size of a regulation basketball and nearly as orange. Plated tableside and served with nutty saffron rice this admixture of pike, egg, and bread was impossibly fluffy and delicious on its own, but what truly raised it to its legendary status was the buttery lobster sauce which was baked to a leathery dome atop with more added not once, not twice, but thrice during the course of it’s consumption. While everything at Michel Rostang was delicious this dish was alone worth the visit and undoubtedly one of the five best savories I had on the trip.
Wiping the rest of my plate clean once again with some baguette we were again visited by the younger Rostang who seemed very pleased we’d enjoyed our meal and cleaning the table herself mentioned that the cheese cart should not be missed. With Erika again growing full I suggested perhaps splitting a course which was agreeable to all – even though as it turns out I’d be eating 90% of it myself. With the two boards unloaded from a clever refrigerated space in the wall and described at length I unfortunately do not recall all of the selections from the Goat-heavy board, but of those selected my notes include “Two year Comte, Epoisse, Ashed Lyon Goat, Raw-milk sheep, Blue, Roquefort, Brind amour” and all were quite tasty paired with slices of toasty house-made Walnut Raisin Bread.
Having missed out on my soufflé the night before and already bearing witness to the sort of products coming out from under the kitchen’s Salamander our dessert selections were similar but entirely different – for my sister the Hot Chocolate Souffle with Cocoa Ice Cream and Black Pepper Whipped Cream and for myself the Salty Butter Caramel Souffle with Williams Pear Sorbet. Larger than expected and with outfitted in silver both I can only note that both were beyond reproach – tall, proud, piping hot, and a cloud of sweet balanced by the nuances of their respective sauces. As an added bonus it should also be noted that the ice creams at Rostang are every bit as good as those at Berthillon – particularly the dark chocolate which is trumped only by Philadelphia’s Capogiro for best Chocolate Ice Cream I’ve ever tasted.
With soufflés finished (and Erika stuffed) the final treats for our meal would arrive on the flowing dress of a marvelous silver statue. With nine mignardises in total including an overly soft Canele, a perfect boozy Baba, and other flavors including Candied Currants, Almond Nougat, Apricot Gelee, Rhubarb Tart, Almond Cookie, Chocolate Ganache, and Lemon Marshmallow all were quite tasty but none truly exemplary – more or less the standard despite the lavish service ware. With the kitchen drapes now pulled and the staff making their way downstairs to change clothes and head home our check was requested as we enjoyed the bites and after noting a double charge for the cheeses that was instantly corrected the bill was paid and a copy of the menu requested while we lingered and chatted with our server for a bit before making our way to the sunny streets.
Having already noted my overall thoughts about Rostang at the start of this review I think it is important to say that although the meal wasn’t “the best,” it did fall in the setting of a shear embarrassment of riches unlike any trip I’ve ever taken…in almost any American city Rostang would be the best restaurant in town by leaps and bounds. While the food was perhaps “old school” there were certainly flourishes that made it stand out and additionally, while the service and room were a bit stodgy and not as much fun as that of Le Cinq or Guy Savoy both were every bit on par with that of LeDoyen or Le Pre-Catalan. In the end I’d gladly go back not only for the quenelles or the soufflé, but also because by being “old school,” Michel Rostang represents something quite unique in the new world of Barbot and Bistronomy.
re: Nancy S.
Again, I admire your ability to consume and so thoroughly enjoy those portions of such rich food. After our lunch at Rostang (which included the famous quenelle, of which I only ate about 1/3 of) I felt so full that I could barely function! I long late afternoon walk helped, but I couldn't eat another bite of anything until dinner the next day!
Thanks so much for the fine reporting and huzzah to you and your fine appetite!