December 29, 2009

Un tour de France en hiver

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I hadn't been back to Pierre for a few months, and I wanted to try out Olivier's cuisine.  I invited a friend along as I knew she would enjoy the bottle of wine I was bringing for the night.

There is the usual spread of amuse bouche to start with.  The shrimp paste dumpling seems to have a bit of coconut milk in the sauce.  Interesting...

The entrée I chose was always going to be interesting, judging by the name and the description: La France vue par Pierre Gagnaire.  Representative items from four different cities would be presented for the diner to sample the different regional cuisines.

Paris: black truffle, mushrooms and spinach tartlet - this was one of those times when the item that you've put in your month causes you to blurt out "oh-my-gawd!" involuntarily. The black truffles were just so, so fragrant, and were perfectly matched with mushrooms and spinach.  I was left wishing that the tart was 4 times as big...

Strasbourg: traditional fleischnaka, sauerkraut, charcuterie, and pan-seared goose liver - the funny looking roll in the middle is the fleischnacka made from minced beef and noodle. The foie was at the bottom of the bowl. It was nice, fresh, and a little firmer than I was expecting. But it was all good...

Of course we can't forget about the sauerkraut, which was on the bottom below the yummy slices of ham. Very Alsatian...

Reims: Champagne sorbet, grape, grenadine and coquelicot vinegar - this was perfect as a palate cleanser before moving on to the seafood.

Marseille: bouillabaisse mousseline, rouille toast, red mullet terrine - this was an interesting take on the bouillabaisse... with a good amount of dill to pick up the flavors.

The terrine was sitting in yummy bouillabaisse with a stick of toast on the side.  Everything has been very delish so far.

We had a middle course of black truffle, parmesan foam, potato and tomato confit. Is there anything better than potatoes with black truffle - especially when you've got both potato chunks as well as mash? The parmesan foam was a nice tough, and the tomato confit and spinach at the bottom was a refreshing counter balance to the otherwise rich and heavy flavors.

For main course I chose something that was suggested by the sommelier Pierre - hare.  It's a gamey winter dish that works well with wines from the Rhone valley.  Even though I was never a big fan of hare - I always found it a bit tough and dry since there's never enough fat - I decided to order it anyway.

La Lièvre : roast loin of hare with juniper, blackcurrant and red cabbage, pomme darphi - as I expected, the hare was a little tough. Strong flavors from the black truffle shavings and blackcurrant sauce.

Traditional civet; crosnes and grelot onions - the civet of hare was pretty heavy in terms of flavors, with blood and red wine sauce plus black truffle shavings.

This was really yummy... caramelized onions, onion jelly and nice, crunchy crosnes - with a hint of curry. These little tubers are really interesting... although the restaurant got them from France, the origins are actually Chinese - 寶塔菜. They look like worms but the consistency is crunchy like lily bulbs.

Foie gras tartlet with chocolate, walnut and endive salad - wow... imagine the combination of sweet chocolate with rich foie gras mousse. Yum!

Whenever I dine at Pierre, there is always only one option when it comes to dessert - les grandes desserts de Pierre Gagnaire.  Nicolas just keeps sending out plate after plate of  his sweet creations!

Almond and milk pudding - this was nice and light, and I joked that this was basically almond jelly (杏仁豆腐)... petals of different flowers were laid on top to accompany this.  There was also two sections of what looked like Bûche de Noël with different flavors.

This was something sweet wrapped with a layer of marzipan and topped with carmelized artichoke.  Very interesting.

Very interesting with layers of agar agar on top.

Beaujolais Nouveau sorbet - this was definitely made from young red wine, but it's not exactly sorbet... consistency was more like a thick foam.

"Khaki" ice cream with caramelized fruit - pretty nice.

The coffee foam was pretty yummy - almost like soft meringue in consistency.  Love those coffee beans.

This was good, too!

Finally, we have something that is pretty interesting.  Of course the wild strawberries are nice, and they are coated with sweet honey.  But the real show stopper was in the other bowl.  The green came from coriander, I believe, and the rest was milk curd.  It tasted exactly like the Cantonese ginger milk curd (薑汁撞奶) popularized by places like Yee Shun Dairy Company (義順牛奶公司).  Interesting to find this at a Michelin-starred French restaurant...

I decided to open a bottle of 1995 Guigal La Mouline.  This is hands down my favorite wine in the world, and I bought a few bottles of this vintage in Tokyo 10 years ago.  I always knew it was a little early to drink this wine, but I wanted to see how far along it has come in its evolution.

The nose had lots of violet, pine needle, forest, caramel, toffee, smoked meats, very sweet fruit like ripe melon, mint and eucalyptus notes.  Reasonable concentration, with a medium length finish that is slightly acidic.  The alcohol was still very apparent.  I wasn't disappointed at all.

This was a really enjoyable evening, especially the army of desserts sent out by Nicolas which left me totally defeated.  I'm really very happy with Olivier's cuisine, and hopefully we can do this again in the near future.

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