La Régalade (original location) - Rio Yeti report
Where it all began. The place that, according to the common knowledge, started the "bistronomy" trend, where Yves Camdeborde put his 3 star magic into traditional bistro dishes.
Today Yves Camdeborde is no longer behind the curtains at la Régalade, but he can sleep well assured that Bruno Doucet is continuing what he started flawlessly.
Thanks to my family's gluttony (I mean that in a good way), dishes were being past around the table and I got to sample a fair amount of different food. Let me cut to the chase if you're already bored and don't feel like reading on: everything was spot on !
Before our orders started coming, we were offered a terrine de paté, with some pickles and pickled onions. Not bad, not amazing, a good terrine I'd be happy to eat regularly but not something that would stop my train of thought.
Marinated scallops with bacon and parmesan vinaigrette.
I didn't have a great appetite when coming in (which I am ashamed to admit), so I thought I'd go for a light appetizer, something refreshing, palate cleansing, bright. And this it was, the scallops were subtle with a nice soft but firm texture, and every ingredient though pretty obvious, complimented each other perfectly.
What else I tasted: The squid ink risotto with shrimps was very intense, briny and punchy, probably my favorite appetizer. The veal headcheese carpaccio was very soft with mellow gamey flavors. The "pressé" de volaille au foie gras, way better than the terrine.
Suprême de Volaille with gnocchi, mushrooms and Albufera sauce.
Our server told us this is an Antonin Carême dish. The Albufera sauce being made with foie gras, porto, and white truffle oil.
Before I dove in, the aromatics of this plate were mesmerizing, one could smell all the richness of the sauce, the mushrooms, the foie gras, the hint of truffles (which weren't overpowering), I couldn't wait to start the devouring ritual.
The poultry came without skin, looking like 2 quenelles of meat. It was soft and delicate, slightly pink, juicy but not too juicy as to gorge itself easily with the sauce. The duke of Albufera must have been a nice man as the sauce named after him is what every sauce aspires to be, well balanced, incredibly well balanced, a beautifully written string quartet where the richness of the bass-foie-gras is certainly present without making the piece too heavy, the acid of the first-violin-porto takes us by the hand with its playful melody, the muskiness of the white-truffle-second-violin adds counterpoints, richness, something a bit crazy without which the melody would sound dull, and finally the base-sauce-alto-violin creates a nice pattern, a discreet base without which everything else would fall apart.
The gnocchi were sauteed which added some salty intermissions in the dish (poached gnocchi would probably have been to bland for them to stand out), although I wish there would have been a few more of them, I think I only had 5 small nuggets in all the dish.
What else I tasted: Two fish whose identity cards I can't remember, cooked just enough, one was with spinach the other with braised endives, both had punchy acidic tastes. One pork panna cota ... uh... I mean... pork belly (sorry the texture got me confused), skin crispy and served with lentils which is probably something I could eat anytime of the day, no matter how full I already am.
Rice pudding. Is it better than this one : http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/784995 ? I'm sorry to the Chez l'Ami Jean fans (sorry Parigi), but I will have to say... yes.
It's been too long for me to actually compare the rice itself, but what tickled my belly with angel fingers at la Régalade was the caramel sauce. You get a bowl of rice pudding, a small container of caramel sauce, and they close the curtains and allow you to have your opium trip alone in a dark room with floating curls of vanilla smoke dancing while you're eyes close and you die. Until you wake up again, to have a second fix.
I loved the rice pudding at Chez l'Ami Jean, it is amazing, incredible, and I said it was the best in the world, but it's over the top with all the little goodies you get to put inside, it's a Dvorak's New World Symphony rice pudding. The Régalade rice pudding it a Richard Strauss' Metamorphosen rice pudding.
The only complaint I have about my dinner at La Régalade is that our table was near the entrance door and it was freezing. The little electric radiator, that our server had to jump over a few times, didn't do much. So if I can give one piece of advice is to try and ask for a table that is inside the room, oh yeah, and also, go... now!
On recent visits, I also found the rice pudding at La Régalade has become better than the one at CAJ, and it was both because of the decline at CAJ (it actually turned soggy whereas it used to be such a perfect texture) and progress at La Régalade (where the portion is slightly less than it was, but the texture is awesome if not quite light, and the flavour of vanilla is very intense).
In general, I would agree that the original Régalade remains consistently one of the very good places in town, and an affordable one, whereas CAJ has clearly had at least a few bad months lately, with very experimental cuisine, and prices that have taken off.
It's like Jégo, as he kicked out the Michelin guys, still self-awarded himself his (deserved) first star and raised prices accordingly. Going back tomorrow and next month to monitor the progress of this worrying situation.
Today's meal at CAJ was thoroughly awesome -- went for the 80€ tasting and everything was very good, some stuff wonderful:
Fish soup, great as usual
Truffle scallops in an olive sauce/vache qui riz/squid ink sauce had excellent components but there were mishaps: the yet generous slices of truffle inside the scallops were overpowered by the olive, all the more since the dish lacked some heat. The olive sauce was drink it by itself good (luckily it came back later in the meal...)
Abalone, foie gras and calf feet was sooo good -- though I should warn purists that those are the French style, chewy (almost rubbery) abalone. I love it but many don't and I can't blame them. The overall taste was very meaty and juicy.
Sole with a potato risotto (little dices of potatoes cooked like a risotto was yummy, especially the bites with truffle -- the whole thing in a tasty buttery sauce.
Whiting with truffle was a perfect dish -- smells of truffle, tastes of truffle, wonderful cooking of pristine fish.
Pork "epigram", mostly fat really, was served with the return of the olive sauce and I can't remember what else there was but it totally worked.
Cocoa sweetbread was as perfect as usual, melty inside with a "cross" pairing with the cocoa, meaning that both tastes go well together but don't overlap at all. It was strangely served with confit sweet onions, which did not work.
Of the avalanche of desserts I only studied the riz au lait as it was the only one that was gluten-free. We're back in business and the last few times were mishaps. It is all about a masterful creaminess, not the more risotto like, more vanilla intense Régalade version. And there's more of it.
The take on the Saint Honoré was clearly remarkable and deconstructed just enough, the fresh kiwi stuff got enthusiasm from my lunch comrade, and chocolate/chestnut was good for those who like that, I suppose.
Anyway, if this meal is any indication, bad times at CAJ are over. There is now a 35€ lunch deal on top of the regular 45€, also a mini-tasting for 50 something, and the big 80€ all you can eat tasting. As always, specials of the day are each more tempting than the next. The cote de veau in particular looked very good today.
To go back to the topic at hand, I think CAJ and Régalade, despite coming from the same mold, are less and less comparable. Régalade is an excellent, well-oiled, good food machine at great value. CAJ can be more of a roller coaster but holds gastronomic surprises which are not in store at La Régalade. And not really in the same price range anymore.
Amen. I ate at the original la regalade the day after l'ami jean and preferred not only the rice pudding, but the entire experience - the food, the staff (by a mile) and the ambience. )we were near the door but it was a lovely evening) It is my new must-visit for every trip to Paris
To be fair about the rice pudding, when I first ate the one at Chez l'Ami Jean it blew my mind. And it's been a while, so maybe I had just forgotten how good rice pudding can be... I do prefer the "simple" caramel sauce rather than all the little goodies they give at CAJ, but that's just nit-picking at what are probably the two best rice puddings in Paris.
As for the ambiance, I think I also prefer La Régalade, the staff is less intrusive, at CAJ sometimes it's trying a bit too hard to make jokes and be fun. But it depends on the context, going there with my family La Régalade was better, going with one's partner La Régalade would be better, but going with a bunch of friends CAJ is probably better.
Again, if you read my post about CAJ here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/784995 you'll know that I absolutely loved the place, so any comment on my part that may seem like criticizing the restaurant is just because I loved La Régalade even more !
re: Rio Yeti
Great report. We hit the original La Regalade every trip and will do so again in May. I far prefer it to CLJ and I, too, very much enjoy CLJ. And yes, a combo of the 2 rice puddings is my favorite and what I make myself. In fact we're having it tonight!!! Caramel sauce, salted caramelized nuts, whipped cream folded in to the pudding....No, I'm not in Paris yet but it's a taste while we wait for May!
Thanks for the report. Just thinking about the squid ink shrimp risotto makes me want to get on a plane.
I love the original La Regalade. I strongly prefer it over CLJ, which has disappointed me a bit the last two visits. Jego is brilliant, but I have experienced food there that I did not love, and the value equation seems to have changed a little. Also, sometimes the place is just too crowded/bustling/jammed for me to enjoy it.
I have never had a not-great meal LR; one of my favorite restaurants anywhere in the world.
"it's a Dvorak's New World Symphony rice pudding. "
Hahahaha, block that metaphor !
(I started to expect you to compare the Régalade rice pudding with Eric Satie + Ry Cooder…)
I agree that Jégo really does not need so much accessorization for his rice pudding. There is such a thAng as too much of a good thing. After a while, adding does not add. More is less.
And when you say "where it all started", did you also mean geographically? Did you go to the original Régalade and not the St Honoré one? It may facilitate others' search if you specify so in your title, not that anyone, ANYONE, ever uses the search function. For chowhound, everyday is yesterday - Groundhog Day.
I think food works really well with music metaphors, there is harmony, styles, soloists (main element of the dish) and orchestras (everything else), and more importantly there is the emotion, which is abstract by essence and yet reachable with our senses...
Yes it was the original location, I've added it to the title (just in case...).
I had dinner at La Regalade (original location) the day after having dinner at Chez L'ami Jean in January (reviews slowly on their way) and preferred the "over-accessorized" version of the riz au lait personally. Even noting that I was a big fan of the accompaniments, I also preferred the consistency of the pudding itself at Chez L'ami Jean.