October 30, 2011

MNSC Rhone Trip Day 8: Enfin, Paris!

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Another early start to the day, as I get ready to leave Switzerland and go back to France.  B very kindly made us a huge breakfast, and I joked that the spread is about half the size of the 5-star luxury hotels that I had been staying at during the past week...

After getting dropped off at Nyon, I took the local train into Gare Cornavin in Geneva, and boarded the TGV to Paris.  I was wondering why it would take 3 hours for us to make the journey, then it all became clear as we snaked along the river gorge during part of the journey... Can't exactly travel at 200 km/h given this kind of terrain!

The train pulled into Gare de Lyon, and I quickly checked into Hotel Mercure Gare de Lyon - rising above one corner of the train station.  I dropped my luggage quickly and ducked into the Métro below.  I was already late for my lunch appointment with the Specialist and her friends.

Le Grande Café Capucines is normally not the type of place I would patronize in Paris.  Everything about it screams "TOURIST TRAP"...  But I was only tagging along for lunch, so I happily joined in.  When I arrived I saw what was left of the stereotypical seafood platter one finds so often at tourist restaurants in Paris, and it was time for us to order our main course.

Choucroute de poissons fins (saumon, daurade, haddock fumé), beurre blanc au cumin - I never knew that people actually made a seafood choucroute... and I figured I owed it to myself to check it out, since I love the original pork version so much.  While it may not have been a great dish, it was just what I needed for lunch today.  Having fillets of fish was much lighter than having meat, and the mound of sauerkraut gave me the acidity to help digest the food that's been in my system for the last few days...

2006 Louis Latour Chassagne-Montrachet - nose was a little muted, with some minerals.

After our lunch we strolled around to help digestion, checking out the flea market along Boulevard des Capuccines which stretches to Boulevard de la Madeleine.  I was surprised to come upon a Baillardran boutique, and it took me all of 5 seconds to turn around and go in.  I looooooove canelés, and I couldn't resist buying a box along with a dozen copper molds and some cute canelé-shaped candles.

We stopped in at Dalloyau on Faubourg St.-Honoré for a cup of tea, and to rest our tired legs a little.  I was sad to learn that my favorite tea - N°10 - has been discontinued and isn't even available for dining in.  I made do with something similar... Pêche de vigne.  I also took a few scoops of sorbet, since that's what I had on my very first visit here back in 1994.

It's Sunday and dining options are pretty limited in France.  I made reservations for us at Pur' in the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, which has themselves one little macaron.  I didn't have much expectations, and didn't really spent much time reading up on the place.  It was open on a Sunday night, and is close to the hotel where the Specialist was staying... that was good enough for me!

We started with a glass of Jacques Lassaigne Le Cotet, an extra brut blanc de blancs.  This was pretty yeasty and metallic.

Then came the foie gras lollipop...

...and some more little nibbles... The little gougères are filled with savory cream... and a lot saltier than I expected.

...and some ribbons of celery with peanut butter; and potato cream w caviar.

We took the 5-course dinner with wine pairing, which we thought was very reasonably priced:

The amuse bouche was pan-fried scallops with caramelized turnip and muscovado.  This was pretty interesting in terms of the flavors, since the turnip sprouts were a little bitter, and the turnips themselves were also slightly bitter.  The turnips had been pickled so there was acidity, but the foam was made with muscovado so it was sweet.

Champignons crémeux, girolles "bouton de culotte", mûre au vinaigre de cidre et crumble de noisette - mushrooms galore... taste of the fall season.  The acidity of the blackberries was able to balance out the butter used in sautéing the girolles.

2008 de Vénus L'Effrontée - a little mineral, almost no nose.  Definitely no palate except the alcohol...

Saumon sauvage confit, concombre l'huile d'aneth & purée de sésame noir - this was the first dish that really "wow'ed" us.  The Scottish white salmon was cooked sous vide at 44°C for 15 minutes.  It was incredibly tender and delicious.  The use of black sesame purée and cucumber oil was interesting, but surprisingly the sesame did not overpower the salmon.  Very, very good.

2008 Georges Jayer Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Nuits - strawberry, jammy, mineral.  Very surprisingly did not clash with the salmon at all... perhaps thanks to the sesame.

Pigeonneau cuit en cocote "au mélilot", épeautre & échalote grise - with herbs from Savoie and cébette onion on top.  The little ball was made with pigeon foie, which was very tasty.  The pigeon itself was nicely done, quite rosé, although I could have taken it just a tad more rare...  The spinach barley risotto was not too bad... and clever use of barley instead of arborio rice.

2008 Catena Zapata Malbec - sweet, ripe, mint and forest.  Still very tannic, but thankfully the heavy sauce of the pigeon was able to stand up to it.

Pruneau gonflé, Ossau Iraty & sirop de cassis - the prunes were marinated in white wine, then stuffed with cream cheese made from sheep's milk.  Slices of Ossau-Iraty cheese on top.

A pre-dessert came in the form of goat milk sorbet with crispy milk, honey, green and red apple shavings.  Looked so good that I dove in without taking a picture first...

Figues «de Monsieur Baud», pain perdu aux graines de lin & crème glacée Normande - a trolley was rolled in front of us bearing two of these mounds... and we had no idea what they were.  In the dim lighting of the restaurant, I thought they had baked some rice cakes for us...

Our waiter proceeded to cut them open, to reveal whole figs which had been baked inside the sugary shell.  I've seen plenty of salt-baked dishes, but don't remember ever seeing something baked in sugar...

The final product:  fig bakes in sugar, sorbet made with lait cru on bread, yogurt panna cotta with fig coulis.  The fig was very moist and the baking intensified the flavors.  Very nice.

2007 Kracher Cuvée Beerenauslese - Alois Kracher died in 2007, so this would have been the first Kracher vintage without him.  Nose of honey, white flowers and orange blossom.  Delicious.  We were supposed to get a glass of Pedro Ximenez with dessert, but the waiter very kindly substituted this one...

Mignardises:  orange and Grand Marnier marshmallow w almond flakes

Dark chocolate with chocolate ganache

What a fantastic meal!  We went in with zero expectations, and were totally surprised on the upside.  For the price that we paid - EUR 100 for the food, EUR 160 including wine - and dining at a Michelin 1-star restaurant inside the Park Hyatt in Paris... this was a complete steal!  One can easily pay more in Asia without getting the same level of quality, or creativity.  I would definitely come back again.

And I think it's finally time for me to order the SousVide Supreme from Amazon and get it delivered...

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